Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has called on the Nigeria Police Force to always provide protection for citizens whenever they are embarking on peaceful protests anywhere in the country.
According to Falana in a statement, it was within the people’s right to protest against policies that they find unfavourable.
He said, “In exercise of their fundamental rights of freedom of expression and assembly guaranteed by sections 39 and 40 of the Nigerian constitution, the members of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) and other concerned citizens have resolved to participate in the public protests.
“However, we are compelled to call on the Inspector-General of Police, Commissioners of Police in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory to provide adequate security for the protesters. This call is anchored on the case of All Nigeria People Party & Ors (2006) CHR 181 wherein the Federal High Court struck down the provisions of the Public Order Act which required permits for public meetings and rallies. Consequently, the court proceeded to grant an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the defendant (the Inspector-General of Police) whether by himself, his agents, privies and servants from further preventing the plaintiffs and other aggrieved citizens of Nigeria from organising or convening peaceful assemblies, meetings and rallies against unpopular government measures and policies.
“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 tread recognised and deeply entrenched in the system of governance in civilized countries – it will not only be primitive but also retrogressive if Nigeria continues to require a pass to hold a rally. 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 view of the clear and unambiguous provision of section 94 (4) of the Electoral Amendment Act 2015 we urge the Inspector-General of Police and other police authorities in the country to maintain neutrality and ensure that the role of police personnel is limited to the provision of adequate security during the peaceful rallies, processions and marches. In particular, police personnel should be instructed not to attack citizens who may wish to protest against economic programmes considered inimical to their interests.”