Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre has condemned the use of live ammunition by the police on peaceful protesters in Abuja on Thursday.

RULAAC in a statement by its Executive Director, Okechukwu Nwanguma, kicked against the arrest of five unarmed Nigerians, including a journalist working with SaharaReporters, who was covering the protest.

It called on the Nigerian Government to take urgent steps to deal decisively with the underlying problem of persistent violations committed by the police.

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The statement reads, “Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has received troubling information that Police operatives shot live bullets at peaceful protesters this morning in front of the national assembly, Abuja and arrested five persons including a Sahara Reporters reporter who was covering the protest.

“If police officers will continue to use live bullets to disperse peaceful protests, it clearly shows that no lessons have been learnt from the #EndSARS protests and the events following it. The use of lethal force on peaceful and unarmed protesters is illegal,  disproportionate, unprofessional and a premeditation to kill and add to the growing number of unresolved extrajudicial killings by security forces in Nigeria.

“Police is a higher calling and officers should act with responsibility, with high standards, devoid of malice or vengeance. Is this the police officers' understanding of the Inspector-General of Police's recent directive to them to use their weapons to defend themselves when in danger?  What danger did those police officers face to warrant the use of live bullets? Could this also be a foretaste of what to expect from the warning by the Lagos State Police Command that it will not tolerate any further protests in Lagos State?

“Peaceful protests are legitimate means of exercise of freedom of expression, guaranteed by Nigeria's constitution and by regional and international human rights instruments that Nigeria subscribes to. By using state violence to repress freedoms, the Nigerian governmen is  violating its obligation to give vent to the exercise and enjoyment of  human rights by citizens and to respect and protect citizens' fundamental rights. Under no circumstances can government curtail human rights except as prescribed by law.

“Government will be perceived as paying only lip service to police reform if, while it has empanelled inquires across the states into past cases of police brutality, it still allows security agencies to use excessive force to commit more acts of brutality. This is why citizens can't trust government. What government should be doing at this juncture is confidence building rather than engage in or condone acts that lend credence to citizens attitude of cynicism and doubt about its sincerity to end police brutality and ensure accountability for past atrocities.”

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