Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has called on Governor Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa State to probe the circumstances that led to the killing of students of the Nasarawa State University on Monday.
Students of the university were protesting the lack of water and electricity on their campus. The police have confirmed the death of two of the students from gunshot wounds, but said its officers were not responsible for the shootings. Other reports said four students were killed.
Mr. Falana faulted the explanation given by military authorities who, denying that soldiers were responsible for the killing, admitted that a military patrol team helped the police to put down the protest.
In a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday in Abuja, Mr. Falana said, “Nasarawa State Government should set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe the murderous attacks by a combined team of armed soldiers and mobile police personnel. Those who are found culpable should be prosecuted without any delay,”.
Mr. Falana also faulted the decision to send the military to quell a peaceful demonstration by students, saying such an action violates the constitution.
“Under Section 217 of the Constitution it is only the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces who is empowered to deploy members of the armed forces in any part of the Federation in aid of the Police to restore law and order if there is insurrection or mutiny,” he said.
The Human Rights lawyer also quoted the denial by the spokesperson of the Army who said “the soldiers that intervened in the crisis were just on patrol along the Keffi-Akwanga Expressway, which was part of the 177 Guards Battalion patrol routes, before the incident broke out and they waded in to restore normalcy.”
According to Mr. Falana, the official statement of the Army Headquarters is a confirmation of the fact that the armed soldiers who attacked the students took the law into their hands by deploying themselves in violation of the Constitution.
“It is a shame that the Army Authorities have come out openly to justify such brazen impunity on the part of armed troops that ought to have been called to order.
“All the troops involved in the criminal action should be rounded up and tried in a martial court for conspiracy and murder of the innocent students,” he declared.
The Lagos lawyer also admonished the Federal government to stop what he described as the “the increasing militarisation of the country”.
“ Even under the defunct military rule in Nigeria, armed soldiers were never involved in curbing students’ protests in any part of the country. The excessive use of armed soldiers for routine police duties including the monitoring of elections in a democratic society is a threat to law and order,” he added.
Instead, Mr. Falana said, the police should be equipped and trained to maintain law and order while the armed forces are limited to the defence of the country from external aggression and peace keeping operations.
“They must never again be involved in curbing protests by students and other unarmed Nigerians,” he said.