Democracy is not just about elections and rigging culture. In all civilised parts of the world, public rallies and nonviolent protests are part and parcel of democracy.
In the case of ANPP v IGP (2008) 12 WRN 65, decided by the Court of Appeal on the 12th of December 12, 2007, Adekeye JCA (as she then was) held inter alia: “Democracy admits of dissent, protest, marches, rallies and demonstrations. A rally or placard carrying demonstration has become a form of expression of views on current issues affecting government and the governed in a sovereign State. It is a trend recognized and deeply entrenched in the system of governance in civilised countries. We must borrow a leaf from those who have trekked the rugged path of democracy and are now reaping the dividend of their experience.”
In the same case, Muhammad JCA said, “In a democracy, it is the right of citizens to conduct peaceful processions, rallies or demonstrations without seeking and obtaining permission from anybody. It is a right guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and any law that attempts to curtail such rights is null and void and of no consequence.”
I consider it as part of my own civic responsibility today to draw the attention of the government, both at the federal and the state levels, the army, the police and other security agencies to the position of the law on this matter, which has endlessly led to fatal encounters between the police and other security agencies on one hand and peaceful protesters on the other, recording unnecessary casualties, in the name of enforcing the law and order, just because the security agents are not enlightened enough on what the law says on peaceful protests.
I therefore urge the police and all the security outfits in Nigeria, who might be sent out tomorrow to fight fellow citizens in the course of their peaceful demonstrations to know that the law does not support the use of force on peaceful protesters and the only duty you have our brethren the police and comrades in the army and the other security outfits is to protect the protesters in the course of their civic duties and ensure we remain non-violent and safe. You must desist from wanton killing, harassing or intimidating of fellow citizens. We are all fighting for a better Nigeria brethren! If Nigeria better, you go chop, I go chop, we go all be-happy!
Why the shooting brethren? Why the killing? Let’s reason together! And demand a better country!
Tope Temokun is a lawyer and human rights activist!