Prosecute or free detained #EndSARS protesters, group tasks Lagos govt

A civil rights group, the New Nigeria Network (NNN), has urged Lagos State Government to charge those arrested for alleged violence that erupted in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests in 2020 to a court or release them immediately.

The group said over 300 of such victims, who are presumed innocent, are languishing in Lagos prisons without being tried, almost a year after they were apprehended.

Co-convener of the NNN and former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, at a press briefing in Lagos, yesterday, said as, at the first week of August 2021, when he and his team visited the prison, there were 3,664 pre-trial inmates in a facility meant for 1,910 persons.

According to him, after muscling down on the post-#EndSARS protesters, the Lagos State government clamped hundreds of persons into custody and “literally went to sleep, while their captives languished in jails.”

He said: “Since October 2020, the Lagos State Government and the Lagos State police have consistently, stridently and vociferously employed blackmail and scaremongering tactics against all those who care to exercise their rights of expression and freedom of movement via peaceful protests and demonstrations against perceived injustices.

“Standard practice now in Lagos State is to demonise and criminalise protests as an invitation to chaos and anarchy. Both the state government and the Lagos police would be outdoing themselves in making troubling broadcasts against the protest by stating that protests would be hijacked, whereas it is their job to provide security for protesters.

“Information at our disposal does not indicate any arraignment at all of those already slated for trial at the high court, courtesy of the legal advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Lagos State, acting on behalf of the attorney-general of the state since October 2020.”

Ogunlana lamented that there has not been any significant progress in the prosecution of those slated for trial at the Magistrate Courts, describing the purported attempt to try them as mere “window-dressing.”

He wondered why those suspects have not been arraigned since the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has filed an information against them, adding that the state has no evidence or proof of offense against the captives.

According to him, the DPP had always used COVID-19 pandemic, destruction of the state high court, #EndSARS protesters, and JUSUN strike as excuses, adding that the same DPP curiously opposes prayers sought by any of the detainees at the high court for bail.

Calling for a mass movement to join in the struggle to obtain liberty for those incarcerated, the group called for solidarity action on days of court appearances.

Other speakers at the conference include Mr. Ayo Ademiluyi of the NNN secretariat; General Secretary, Federation of Informed Workers’ Organisations of Nigeria (FIWON), and Co-convener, Coalition for Revolution (CORE), Gbenga Komolafe, among others.

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