Notes for File
The decision by the Commissioner in charge of the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom, Sir Mark Rowley not to ban a pro-Palestinian rally and demonstration in London is a worthy lesson for President Bola Tinubu, the Inspector General of Police and all the state Commissioners of Police in Nigeria.
A coalition of groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War and the Muslim Association of Britain, had insisted that they would use yesterday to press ahead with the demonstration calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
But the English Defence League founder, Tommy Robinson, said they would also organise a counter rally to disrupt it.
This instantly raised concerns that breakaway groups from the main march could look for trouble, while counter-demonstrations may add to policing difficulties.
Based on this, political leaders, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tried to block the gathering. Speaking through his spokesman, the Prime Minister said the operational decisions on whether to ban the planned march were for the Metropolitan Police, but added that the government would “carefully consider” any application to prevent it.
“The prime minister himself does not think it’s right for these sorts of protests to be scheduled on Armistice Day. He believes that is provocative and disrespectful,” he said.
But Rowley resisted pressure heaped on the force by political leaders to block the gathering. He said he would not bow to ‘political pressure’ and would allow a pro-Palestinian march to go ahead on Armistice Day.
In a statement on Tuesday, he said intelligence surrounding the potential for serious disorder this weekend does not meet the threshold to apply to prohibit the march.
“The laws created by Parliament are clear. There is no absolute power to ban protest, therefore there will be a protest this weekend. The law provides no mechanism to ban a static gathering of people. It contains legislation which allows us to impose conditions to reduce disruption and the risk of violence, and in the most extreme cases when no other tactics can work, for marches or moving protests to be banned,” Rowley said.
This many believe is a lesson for President Tinubu, state governors, the Nigeria Police Force and its leaders to learn on how to run the police if they truly want constitutional order and progress in Nigeria. For too long, the police in the country are a ready tool in their political leaders, who use them for personal and selfish purposes.
A case in point was the recent arrest and blatant physical assault of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Joe Ajaero by the Imo State government.
There is certainly no chance of making progress in a society where police paid with taxpayer money are willing tools to be used by state officials against her innocent citizens.