#EndSARS protesters, human rights organisations and lawyers on Thursday took a swipe at the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Mohammed Bello, over the ban on street protests in the FCT.
Leaders of the movement campaigning for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, dared the FCT administration, saying they would continue the protests despite the ban.
Also, human rights groups and lawyers condemned the ban and described it as unconstitutional, null and void.
But the Northern Governors’ Forum on Thursday said northern states were not opposed to SARS. The Plateau State Governor and Chairman of the forum, Simon Lalong, in an interview with State House correspondents in Abuja, said the squad had been useful in tackling insecurity in the North.
On its part, the Nigeria Governors Forum, in a communiqué issued after its meeting on Wednesday, supported the plan by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to reform the police.
It, however, asked the police to fish out operatives of the disbanded SARS whose actions caused injuries or death of innocent citizens.
A few hours after the governors met, the FCT Administration, in a statement by the minister’s Chief Press Secretary, Anthony Ogunleye, announced the ban on #EndSARS protests in Abuja for alleged violation of COVID-19 protocols.
The administration said it was concerned that despite the scrapping of SARS by the IG on Sunday, the demonstrations had continued, causing inconveniences to law-abiding citizens.
According to the statement titled, ‘COVID-19: FCT Security Committee prohibits street demonstrations,’ the decision was reached at a meeting of the FCT Security Committee on Tuesday, chaired by the minister.
The administration said while it recognised the rights of citizens to freedom of association and movement as enshrined in the constitution, it had observed that “the unruly conduct of the crowd and manner of demonstrations are in complete violation of the COVID-19 safety protocols which were put in place to safeguard the lives of citizens.”
It added that the COVID-19 guidelines included physical distancing, temperature checks and the use of face masks.
“All these guidelines were flouted by the protesters. Consequently, the committee directs that due to the dangers posed by COVID-19, all street demonstrations, protests and processions will not be allowed anywhere within the FCT,” the FCTA stated.
But the protesters said they would continue with the street rallies.
Speaking to The PUNCH, a leader of the #EndSARS protesters, Raphael Adebayo, described the directive banning protests as insensitive.
He queried the rationale for the decision, noting that the FCT minister would not have issued the order if he had the interest of the nation at heart.
Stating that youths were fighting for their survival, he noted that the protesters were not worried about the COVID-19 infections just as he pointed out that political parties had organised campaign rallies amidst the pandemic without the government stopping them for violating the COVID-19 protocols.
He said, “Their statement speaks more to the culture of impunity that we are talking about that has permeated our system. It makes no sense that in the last couple of months, we have seen a number of political parties holding rallies and campaigns and inviting people in their thousands to their campaign grounds and rallies without adhering to the COVID-19 protocols.”
When asked if the protests would continue in the FCT, the activist replied, “Absolutely; Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. The Nigerian youths have decided that their time for liberation is now and in the words of Che Guevara, ‘there is no liberator anywhere, only the people can liberate themselves.’ So, the Nigerian people have decided to liberate themselves.”