Police and Rights of Protesters

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Except the Inspector General of Police has issued a sure-word to police officers to illegally misconduct themselves under his watch–in which case, lawlessness is let loose across board, it has become urgent for the IG to call his men to order.

On 5th August, 2019, unharmed Nigerians organized themselves into a very peaceful assembly to protest against government policies in many parts of Nigeria under the RevolutionNow. Indeed, the protest, which received widespread media coverage, went on smoothly without any fracas or violence until police officers stormed the scene to cause disorder.

As if in a war zone, police officers mobilized themselves into the scene of protest in their thousands; sprayed tear gas everywhere, greatly brutalized demonstrators and even went to the extreme of dragging harmless Nigerians on bare floor.

Records and reports of these awry scenes are there in the media archive of Nigeria as they remain facts which are incontrovertible. However, it is quite important that I draw the IG attention to specific particulars of illegality and gross misconduct which your officers have perpetrated in the following manner. A 70-year-old woman at Osogbo, Osun State, who also is a hawker and goes by the name Sariyu Akanmu, was inflicted with great physical harm by police officers for partaking in the lawful protest. The officers hit the old woman with the butt of gun; kicked her several times, dragged her on the floor and then threw her into a police van afterwards.

Already, part of the woman’s body has become swollen and the money which she had on her; tied to her waist before the attack got stolen during police brutality. In addition, one officer named Adebayo sprayed tear gas on journalists while 10 other protesters were arrested and hauled into police van all at Osogbo. Out of the 10 arrested, Mr. Olawale Adebayo (Comrade Mandate) is still in the detention of the State Security Services (SSS) at Osgobo.

In Lagos, three different journalists were mercilessly beaten while blood oozed out from their bodies. The clamp-down on journalists in Lagos was quite deliberate because, as soon as the victims were identified as journalists, the officers began the beating-party. The journalists were not only beaten; they were further detained at the Panti Police Station, where they spent the night and received their worst treatments. In addition, six other Nigerian citizens were arrested, brutalized and detained.

However, the most disappointing trend, similar to what happened at Osogbo, is the issue of illegally obtaining citizen properties by your officers. Two journalists in Lagos – Elias Ozikpuand Banwo Olagookun’s phones were collected by your officers upon arrest. After being granted bail, police officers are yet to return the journalists’ phones till date, nor has the elderly woman at Osogbo been able to find her money.

Under the 1999 Constitution (as amended), certain inalienable rights accrue to every Nigerian. Those rights which are guaranteed under Sections 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and 46 of the constitution are actually meant to be protected by police officers. During awful security conditions, citizens should expect your intervention.

However, the reverse has been the case. In recent times, some of the IG’s unguided officers have indiscriminately killed innocent Nigerians, battered citizens’ self-esteem, aided illegality and have exhibited behaviours unworthy of uniformed men.
Mind you, it is enough agony if the officers cannot fulfill the mandate for which the Force was created but they should actually desist from perpetrating further lawlessness.

Against the foregoing, it may be helpful to caution police officers never to assault or intimidate lawful protesters again. Further, I advise the IG to intervene and ensure the officers are dealt with and the valuables which they illegally collected are returned forthwith.

––Tope Akinyode,
Constitutional Lawyer and Human Right Activist