Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to abide by his oath of office by calling on the police not to disrupt the upcoming #EndSARS protests.
Falana, who is the Interim Chairman, Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond said this in a statement on Thursday titled, ‘Nigeria Police Force Lacks Power to Ban Public Protests in Nigeria’. The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, had said the police would not allow anyone to stage another #EndSARS protest ahead of the one-year anniversary of the protests of last year.
However, Falana said Buhari who himself took part in protests while he was running for office, should call on the police to respect the rights of citizens. He added, “It is public knowledge that Buhari and other leaders of the ruling All Progressive Congress took part in public rallies against fuel hike in January 2012 and protests against insecurity in November 2014.
“To that extent, the Buhari administration ought to restrain the Police from banning peaceful rallies against police brutality on October 20, 2021 in any manner whatsoever and however.”
Falana noted that the law guarantees Nigerians the right to hold public meetings, rallies and processions in the country. “The threats against peaceful rallies oozing out of the police headquarters and state commands are illegal as they constitute a gross infringement of the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly guaranteed by Sections 38 and 40 of the Nigerian Constitution as well as Articles 9 and 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act,” the activist added.
He recalled that in the case of the All Nigeria People’s Party v Inspector-General of Police 2006, Justice Anwuli Chikere declared that police permit as a precondition for holding rallies in Nigeria was illegal and unconstitutional. The judge consequently granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Inspector-General of Police and other police officers from preventing Nigerian citizens from convening and participating in rallies.
“The appeal of the police against the judgment was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in December 2007. In the unanimous decision of the court, their lordships described police permit as ‘a relic of colonialism’ which is anomalous in a democratic society,” Falana said.
He added that based on the landmark judgment of the Court of Appeal, the National Assembly amended the Electoral Act 2010 in March 2015 to impose a duty on the police to provide security for participants in public meetings and rallies.