African Scholars to US: Suspend Security Assistance, Military Sales to Nigeria till Buhari Accounts for EndSARS Rights Violations

A rainbow of some 90 African Studies scholars in the US is currently up against the Buhari administration on how it handled the EndSARS uprising in Nigeria.

They are lobbying Washington to urgently suspend security assistance and military sales to the security forces including the Nigeria Police implicated in or broadly culpable for violence utilised against EndSARS protesters until the Buhari administration fully complies with relevant laws and policies to ensure accountability for human rights violations.

Accordingly, they have written the Biden-Harris Transition Team, pressing for a more robust response to the EndSARS movement and voicing support for a foreign policy centered human rights and governance reform.

They are urging the US to use the authority granted under the ‘’Global Magnitsky Act to place targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, on politicians, officials and other Nigerians implicated in recent human rights abuses.

The Biden-Harris Transition Team has Ted Kaufman, as its chair, with Anita Dunn, Representative Cedric Richmond, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Jeffrey Zients, as co-chairs

In a letter dated November 13, 2020, the African scholars said: ‘’We are writing to condemn the violent crackdown on non-violent protests in Nigeria, and in support of US assistance for police reform and accountability. As longtime scholars of Nigeria, we have been appalled by the government’s reckless use of violence and disproportionate force against peaceful civilians.

‘’We believe these abuses demand unequivocal diplomatic condemnation from the United States. Moreover, such gross human rights violations require additional action by the United States to eliminate any complicity with official actions blatantly at odds with American foreign policy principles, to advance the work of democratic reform in Nigeria, and to reinforce our shared obligations to international human rights agreements.

‘’On October 8, demonstrations erupted across Nigeria when a video surfaced showing officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) shooting an unarmed man. Nigerian youths organized peaceful protests across the country, uniting around demands known as “5for5,” calling for: the release of protestors being held, justice for victims of violence and their families, the formation of an independent body to oversee investigation and prosecution of perpetrators, psychological evaluations and retraining of officers formerly in SARS, and increasing police salary.

‘’On October 20, 2020, in what has become known as the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre or Black Tuesday, the Nigerian army shot and killed at least 12 unarmed protesters singing the national anthem and holding the Nigerian flag while over 120,000 people worldwide witnessed this brutality on social media live streams.

‘’This pattern of violence by security forces, resulting in the deaths of at least 56 peaceful protestors in different incidents across Nigeria, obligates the international community to act. For years, SARS has committed systematic human rights violations.

‘’Even before the protests erupted in October, Amnesty International documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020. Such abuses continued despite the passage of Anti-Torture Legislation by Nigeria’s National Assembly in 2017.

‘’Recurring failures to reform the police over the last two decades have fostered an overall climate of impunity. President Muhammadu Buhari has neither responded to the 5for5 demands, nor taken adequate steps to stop the unwarranted killing of peaceful protesters. In a recent letter to President Buhari, the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus urged him to do so.

‘’The Nigerian government is obligated to uphold the right to non-violent protest and ensure the safety of protestors in accordance with Chapter IV, Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

‘’Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights also guarantees the right to peacefully assemble, and Article 5 prohibits torture and cruel and degrading treatment of persons.’’

‘’These incidents should include but not be limited to the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre, various attacks on protestors since October 8, and other abuses of Nigerians engaged in peaceful free speech activities. Consistent with the December 2017 Executive Order on “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,” the sanctions should apply to SARS and other special police units determined to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse.

‘’As scholars of Nigeria, we believe such steps would advance democratic reform efforts and hold abusive security services accountable. As the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States has poignantly reminded us, democracy and rule of law cannot flourish amidst impunity.

‘’Support the authorisation of a panel of experts under the United Nations Human Rights Council. The panel could investigate human rights violations by the Nigerian security services, identify alleged perpetrators and hold them accountable. Such a process could broadly engage Nigerian authorities alongside other stakeholders in order to achieve a public accounting that would promote truth, healing, and democratic reform.

‘’Support the International Criminal Court’s ongoing preliminary examination in Nigeria by offering assistance to a widened inquiry that includes the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre and SARS-related atrocities. A critical first step in providing such support is for the administration to immediately rescind the June 2020 Executive Order used to sanction the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensoudaand one of her senior officials. Thereafter, the U.S. should offer in-kind support to the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC in its efforts to gather evidence about individual perpetrators accused of atrocity crimes arising out of SARS abuses.

‘’We, the undersigned scholars, stand in solidarity with the people of Nigeria in their quest to strengthen rule of law and advance democratic reform. We hope your incoming foreign policy administration will fully commit to the above requests, which we believe will both strengthen Nigerian democracy and America’s enduring friendship with a critical African ally and friend. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not indicate an organisational endorsement.’’

Signatories to the letter are: A. Carl LeVan, American University; Chiedo Nwankwor, Johns Hopkins-SAIS
Patrick Ukata, Halsik Group; Rita “Kiki” Edozie, University of Massachusetts – Boston; Olufemi Vaughan, Amherst College; John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations; Steve Feldstein, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, Brooklyn College – CUNY; and Onwubiko Agozino, Virginia Tech.

Others are, Matthias Chika Mordi, Johns Hopkins – SAIS; Brandon Kendhammer, Ohio University; Omolade Adunbi, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor; Shobana Shankhar, Stony Brook, SUNY; Hilary Matfess, Yale University; Cajetan Iheka, Yale University; Adrienne LeBas, American University; David Laitin, Stanford University; Judy Byfield, Cornell University; Richard Joseph, Northwestern University; Matthew T. Page, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Amina Mama, University of California, University of Ghana, Feminist Africa; and Deborah Brautigam, Johns Hopkins University – SAIS.

Among them also are, Cheryl O’Brien, San Diego State University; Larry Diamond, Stanford University
Daniel Jordan Smith, Brown University; Nathan Hosler, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, Church of the Brethren; Faith I. Okpotor, Moravian College; Abosede George, Barnard College – Columbia University
Farooq Kperogi, Kennesaw State University; Hannane Ferdjani, former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University; Bobby Digi Olisa, Nigerians In Diaspora Organization NewYork /Canvas Institute INC; Kara Roop Miheretu, Pennsylvania State University; Rebecca Rwakabukoza, Northwestern University; Beth Evans, Brooklyn College, City University of New York; and Jacqueline Copeland, Black Philanthropy Month and The WISE Fund.

Others include, Chenise Calhoun, Tulane University; Gretchen Bauer, University of Delaware; Oyeronke Oyewumi, Stony Brook University; Funmilayo Agbaje, University of Ibadan, Nigeria; Ousseina Alidou, Rutgers University; Peyi S Soyinka-Airewele, Ithaca College, Ithaca NY; Modupe Oshikoya, Virginia Wesleyan University; Namulundah, Brooklyn College, CUNY; Mònica Cejas, Universidad Autónoma; Metropolitana-Xochimilco (Mexico City); Carolina Bank Muñoz, Brooklyn College; Elias Bongmba, Rice University; Rose Ndengue, Université de Rouen; Zola Makosana, University of the Western Cape; and Kathleen Barker, City University of New York: Medgar Evers College.

The other signatories are, Chika Okoye, Rutgers University; Prudence Cumberbatch, Brooklyn College; Jill M. Humphries, University of Toledo; Mark Ungar, Brooklyn College; Mobina Hashmi, City University of New York; Zachariah Mampilly, City University of New York; Therese McGinn, Self-employed; Amy Kraizman, CUNY The Graduate Center; Anita Plummer, Howard University; Anene Ejikeme, Trinity University; Adryan Wallace, Stony Brook University; Jean Eddy Saint Paul, City University of New York: Brooklyn College; Nasim Almuntaser, City University Of New York: Brooklyn College; Saheed Aderinto, Western Carolina University; Emmanuel Balogun, Skidmore College; Gabriel Bámgbóṣé, Rutgers University-New Brunswick; Naluwembe Binaisa, University College London; Ifeoluwa M. Olawole, American University; Aderonke Adesola Adesanya, James Madison University; and T.D. Harper-Shipman, Davidson College.

The rest are, Oceane Jasor, Concordia University; Zandi Sherman, Rutgers University; Rose Ndengue, Université de Rouen; Jacob Olupona, Harvard University; Judith Van Allen, Cornell University; Aderonke Adesola Adesanya, James Madison University; Professor Stella M. Nkomo, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Omowumi Olufunbi Elemo, James Madison College, Michigan State University; Candy Dato, Retired; Laurel Lesio; Kevin Mcgirr, UCSF; Pauline Halpern Baker, The Fund for Peace; Darren Kew, University of Massachusetts, Boston; Barbara M. Cooper, Rutgers; Meredeth Turshen, Rutgers University; Clovis Bergere, University of Pennsylvania; Justin Mullikin, Rutgers University; Oghenetoja Okoh, Loyola University Maryland; Faith Adogame, Rutgers University – Newark; and Paul M. Lubeck, Johns Hopkins University – SAIS.

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