Nigerians condemn use of soldiers to quell peaceful protests

Occupy Nigeria

Two students of Nassarawa State University were killed during a protest.

More Nigerians have condemned the continuous use of soldiers to suppress peaceful protests across Nigeria.

At least two students of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, were killed on Monday when soldiers allegedly shot at protesting students. The police have confirmed the death of two students but witnesses say four died.

The Nigerian Army has denied its officers were responsible for killings and claims its men only intervened to help the police quell the protest.

The House of Representatives has called for a probe of the killings.

Prior to the Nassarawa killings, soldiers were, late last year, invited to the University of Abuja to chase students out of their hostels after the university ordered the closure of the school. Several students of the institution complained of being whipped by soldiers from their hostels.

President Goodluck Jonathan, in January 2012, also deployed soldiers on Lagos streets to prevent protesters from continuing their week-long protest against the increment in fuel price.

Lawyers and civil society organisations have condemned the continuous deployment of soldiers for internal functions.

Soldiers not necessary for internal issues

A legal practitioner, Charles Musa, said the government acts wrongly anytime it deploys soldiers for internal or student matters.

“Soldiers are not for internal use or for use within the country. The decision by institutions to use them on students is totally barbaric and must be condemned,” Mr. Musa said.

Another lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, said the soldiers involved must be brought to book, adding that whoever ordered their deployment should also be charged with conspiracy for the murder.

“It is sad that whereas we claim to be running a democratic government, soldiers are constantly used to kill innocent and unarmed protesting students fighting for their rights particularly their academic rights, it is condemnable,” he said.

Mr. Ogunye also charged the law enforcement agencies to move beyond condemnation and carry out a thorough investigation into the use of soldiers in Nasarawa protest. He said it will be completely wrong to expect the military to conduct a credible investigation in the matter.

“In this case, I expect the Police that think they are the junior partner to the military to come out and conduct a thorough investigation because we don’t expect a credible one from the military in this case.”

A former president of the Students Union Government of the Nasarawa University, Kassim Mohammed, also called for the prosecution of the soldiers involved in the killing.

He sympathized with the families of the deceased and said stakeholders of the institution are not happy with the development.

“We have appealed to the state governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, to tell us who ordered the deployment of soldiers to tame the protest in NSUK; we also appeal to students everywhere to stay calm. And to the families of the deceased, we sympathize with them and also this is to let them know we are not sleeping over the matter,” Mr. Kassim said.

Way forward

Mr. Ogunye advised that security officials should use means other than guns with life bullets to quell protests.

“If you want to tame a protest in an acceptable manner; water cannons, tear gas canisters, rubber bullets at the extreme should be used not life bullets, and the security personnel know this.

“But in a situation where the deployed agents are not given the rights tools but life bullets that simply means you expect them to go and kill the protesters. And this is the reason why culpability at the higher level is very important,” he said.


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