Human rights lawyer Femi Falana has given Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris a 24-hour ultimatum to order his officers to vacate the headquarters of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN). The police have laid siege on the premises, making it impossible for the organization to carry out its operations.
Speaking to reporters earlier today, Mr. Falana stated that he had communicated the ultimatum to Mr. Idris, adding that the police must vacate the besieged offices to enable the Peace Corps of Nigeria to resume its operations. He said the police would face legal action if they failed to comply with the ultimatum.
According to Mr. Falana, the IGP had received a letter containing the ultimatum to order police officers to retreat both from the PCN’s headquarters and various state offices across Nigeria or face a lawsuit.
“The combined team of police officers and security agents who claimed that they are on a surveillance mission on the official headquarters and other offices of our client across the federation should be withdrawn therefrom immediately,” said Mr. Falana. He added that “a directive be made to those officers who sealed up the premises of our client without a court order to unseal same immediately. If the foregoing demands are not complied with within a duration of 24 hours of receiving this letter, we shall institute a legal action against the Nigeria Police and other security agencies involved in the perpetration of this unconstitutional act.”
He noted that Nigerian courts had made it clear that the police or any other government institutions lack jurisdiction to proscribe any organization without a court order. Mr. Falana explained that the Peace Corps of Nigeria organization was not illegal, contrary to claims by the police. He further disclosed that the group was duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, adding that two Federal High Court judgments had restrained the police from harassing and intimidating members of the group.
The human rights lawyer remarked that the Civil Defense Corps (CDC) had faced a similar opposition to the one against the PCN, noting that, today, the CDC has been recognized by the National Assembly and its members now work with hand in hand with the police.
Noting that Nigeria “is under-policed,” Mr. Falana stated that there was “need for volunteers, young men, and women who should be organized by the state to handle those duties that do not require the intervention of the police. There are several organizations who are using weapon secretly without the knowledge of police but this one that has nothing to do with a weapon instead of the police to embrace it they are now attacking them.”
The lawyer condemned the police for parading officers of the corps before press cameras as if the corps members were criminal elements. He deplored the police action, describing it as unconstitutional and illegal, adding that every criminal suspect was presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.