A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, declared on Thursday that the Nigerian Police Force lacks the power to ban public protests in the country, as Nigerians prepare to mark #EndSARS anniversary.
Falana’s declaration over the ban on protest to mark #EndSARS anniversary, came a day after the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, warned that the police would not allow anyone to stage another #EndSARS anniversary/rally to mark the first anniversary of the protests that rocked different parts of the country last year.
In a statement he personally signed, the lawyer dismissed the police threats on the protest as illegal and totally against the fundamental rights of the citizens to freedom of expression and association.
He urged the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, to direct all Commissioners of Police across the country to give adequate security to people who may wish to embark on the protest.
The statement read: “In view of the threat of the police authorities to ban Nigerians from exercising their fundamental rights to assemble and hold peaceful rallies to mark the first year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests, it has become pertinent to draw attention to the current state of the law on 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.
“In the case of the All Nigeria People’s Party v Inspector-General of Police (2006) the Honourable Justice Anwuri Chiyere 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.
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 organization 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 mobilize personnel to provide security cover for the meeting, rally or the procession.”