Amnesty International has urged Nigerian authorities to reform Nigeria’s police regulations in line with international standards, to prevent further loss of life in the ongoing protest rallies in the country.
The organization said Force Order 237 which enables the police to use fire arms on protesters should be scrapped and the police reformed to only use firearms when it is strictly necessary to protect life.
The organization made the call on Wednesday after at least thirteen have been killed and hundreds injured by police bullets since the beginning of protests against government’s withdrawal of subsidy on fuel.
The organization says it has repeatedly called on the authorities to repeal Police Force Order 237, which provides guidance in use of firearms by the police in Nigeria.
“It is so broad that it permits police officers to shoot protesters, whether or not they pose a threat to life,” the organization said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Amnesty International considers it unacceptable that force order 237 instructs police officers in “riot” situations to “single out” and fire at “ring-leaders in the forefront of the mob.”
“The definition of riot is so vague, that all protesters, however peaceful, are at risk. The force order also directs officers to fire “at the knees of the rioters” and explicitly prohibits firing in the air. Shooting at people, regardless of where an officer aims, is likely to result in death,” the statement added.
The New Year day announcement of cut on fuel subsidy by the government has sparked nationwide outrage resulting in protests in almost all cities in the country. A nationwide strike was declared by labour unions on Monday. The strike, accompanied by protest marches have led to the killing of at least 13 and injuring hundreds, labour leaders allege.
The battle seems protracted as the administration has insisted on removing subsidy against the advice of the National Assembly and the wish of Nigerians. More strikes are planned by the unions in the days ahead.
“We will not back down until the government reverts fuel price to N65,” Abdulwaheed Umar, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress told protesters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, at the end of Wednesday’s protest march.
“With more protests announced, President Goodluck Jonathan must demonstrate a commitment to protect the people,” Amnesty International said. “The President must repeal Force Order 237 and immediately announce that the use of lethal force is only allowed when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.The police must be provided with non-lethal equipment to properly manage public order situations, including protests even if they turn violent.”
The organization also insists that the President must also set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate all reports of use of force by the police against protesters.
“International standards require that any use of force or firearms resulting in death or injury is investigated to ensure that the use of force was not arbitrary or abusive,” the organization said.