A human rights activist and Chairman of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), Mr. Femi Falana, has charged the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to provide security for protesters in line with the Nigerian Constitution.
In a statement issued yesterday, the senior lawyer disclosed that 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 ASCAB and other concerned citizens have resolved to participate in the public protests scheduled to take place throughout Nigeria with effect from September 28, 2020.
Falana disclosed that the peaceful protests would be conducted within the ambit of the COVID-19 regulations.
According to Falana, “However, we are compelled to call on the IG, Commissioners of Police in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to provide adequate security for the protesters.
“This call is anchored on the case of All Nigeria People Party and Ors (2006) CHR 181 wherein the Federal High Court struck down the provisions of the Public Order Act which requires permit 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.
“Completely dissatisfied with the epochal judgment of the Federal High Court, the police authorities appealed to the Court of Appeal. In dismissing the appeal in the case of IG vs All Nigeria People Party & Ors (2008) 12 WRN 65, the Court of Appeal upheld the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens to assemble freely and protest without any inhibition whatsoever. In the leading judgment of the court, Adekeye JCA (as she then was) held that the Public Order Act should be promulgated to compliment sections 39 and 40 of the constitution in context and not to stifle or cripple it.”
He said 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,” he added.
Falana, therefore, said: “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.”