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#EndSARS anniversary: Threats by police against peaceful rallies illegal, says Falana

#EndSARS anniversary: Threats by police against peaceful rallies illegal, says Falana
October 14
22:43 2021

Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says it is illegal for the police to kick against peaceful protests.

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The Lagos police command had said it will not tolerate any demonstration to commemorate the first anniversary of the #EndSARS protests.

Nigerians had, in October 2020, protested against the now-disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police Force.

The protest, tagged #EndSARS, was later hijacked by hoodlums, leading to killings and destruction of public buildings.

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Falana, in a statement on Thursday, said freedom of expression and assembly are guaranteed under the law and the police need not threaten peaceful protesters.

“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 statement reads.

“In the case of the All Nigeria People’s Party v Inspector-General of Police (2006) the Honourable Justice Anwuri Chikere declared that police permit as a precondition for holding rallies in Nigeria was illegal and unconstitutional. Consequently, her ladyship 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.

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“Based on the epochal 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. For the avoidance of doubt, section 94 (4) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides:

“‘Notwithstanding any provision in the Police Act, the Public Order Act and any regulation made thereunder or any other law to the contrary, the role of the Nigeria Police Force in political rallies, processions and meetings shall be limited to the provision of adequate security as provided in subsection (1) of this section.’ Furthermore, Section 83 (4) of the Police Establishment Act 2020 provides as follows:

“’Where a person or organisation notifies the police of his or its intention to hold a public meeting, rally or procession on a public highway or such meetings in a place where the public has access to, the police officer responsible for the area where the meeting rally or procession will take place shall mobilise personnel to provide security cover for the meeting, rally or the procession.’”

The senior lawyer said the police authorities have been notified of the public rallies scheduled to hold on October 20, 2021 to mark the first anniversary of the #EndSARS protests.

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He added that the police are required to make arrangements for the provision of adequate security for participants at the venues of the rallies.

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