The government of Nigeria will not investigate allegations of abuse and extrajudicial killings by security forces during the recent #EndSARS protests because that could “distract the troops from fighting insurgents in the country”.
The government’s intention was made known by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at a press conference on Monday in Lagos. The minister was speaking to what he termed “harassment” by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as by the human rights non-profit Amnesty International.
“While our security agencies continue to battle these bandits and terrorists, the ICC and some international human rights organizations, especially Amnesty International, have constituted themselves to another ‘fighting force’ against Nigeria, constantly harassing our security forces and threatening them with investigation and possible prosecution over alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Mohammed told journalists.
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He then proceeded to describe the shooting of protesters at Lekki in Lagos on October 20, 2020, an incident that forced global condemnation, as a “massacre without bodies”. This is in spite of several eye witness accounts that security forces at the tollbooth in Lekki did open fire on unarmed protesters.
Mohammed also reserved for the ICC, Nigeria’s warnings, saying:
“Nigeria did not join the ICC so it can become a pawn on the court’s chessboard. It beggars belief to see that a nation that is fighting an existential war against bandits and terrorists is constantly being held down by an international body which it willingly joined. Nigeria is a sovereign state and will not surrender its sovereignty to any organization.”
The defensive posturing of the Nigerian government goes back to last October when hundreds of thousands of the country’s young people marched in major cities calling for police reforms among other sociopolitical changes.
Last November, Mohammed, on behalf of the government, called for CNN to be sanctioned for what he described as a reinforcement of “the disinformation that is going around” following CNN’s investigations which claimed that Nigerian protesters were shot at by security forces in Lagos.