CIVIL rights activists who participated in last year’s #EndSARS movement in Nigeria have win a significant high court battle after an Abuja federal high court told the government to halt proceedings and stay action in a criminal complaints against them.
Following a month-long nationwide protest against the brutality of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) police unit last year, the Nigerian government came under intense criticism. After being forced to scrap Sars, the government decided to end the protests forcefully, sending soldiers to shoot innocent protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, leading to international condemnation and sparking nationwide riots.
Reeling from the bloody nose it got during the protests, the federal government has since ordered a clampdown on protesters and announced plans to restrict the use of social media across Nigeria. Government officials have stepped up the persecution of organisers of the protests, including freezing their bank accounts as part of a general clampdown.
Several of the high profile protesters then filed a lawsuit against the government asking that the court halt their persecution. Some of those joined in the suit include David Adeleke, popularly known as Davido, Damini Ogulu, also known as Burna Boy, Folarin Falana (Falz), and Senior Pastor Sam Adeyemi of the Daystar Christian Centre.
Yesterday, a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) high court ruled in their favour, with Justice Bello Kawu restraining the Nigeria Police Force from arresting or taking any action against them. They have been recently hounded after a complaint filed by one Kenechukwu Okeke led to a Magistrate, Omolola Akindele ordering the FCT police commissioner to launch an investigation into those mentioned.
Mr Okeke had alleged that the protest which was supported by those joined in the suit led to him losing properties and creating fear among FCT residents. One of those also joined in the suit, Deji Adeyanju in an application before the FCT high court asked for a judicial review of the substantive matter before the magistrate.
Justice Kawu ruled: “An order of this honourable court granting leave to the application to issue and serve on the defendant an application for judicial review against the proceedings/direct criminal complaint of Hon Omolola Tolulope Akindele sitting at the Chief Magistrate’s Court II, Wuse Zone Six in the suit of Kenechukwu Okeke Vs Deji Adeyanju and 49 others. An order of this honourable court, that on the grant of the above orders herein, serve as stay of all proceedings on the direct criminal complaint Omolola Tolulope Akindele sitting at Chief Magistrate Court II, Wuse Zone 6 in the suit of Kenechukwu Okeke Vs Deji Adeyanju and 49 others.
“An order of this honourable court, that on the grant of the above orders herein, same order as granted by the honourable court shall restrain the Nigeria Police Force, the second and third defendants from taking any further steps, arresting and or taking any unconstitutional/illegal steps in the form of any guise as it concerns the subject matters whatsoever before this court herein as it concerns all parties in the proceedings.”