Nigeria Police Force to should apologise to protesters who were arrested during June 12 protest on Saturday, says Human rights activist, Femi Fani-Kayode .
Falana, in a statement on Sunday said section 36 of the Constitution guaranteed the fundamental right of the Nigerian people to freedom of expression, including the right to protest against policies of the government considered inimical to their interests.
He said in utter violation of the constitutionally protected right, the Nigeria Police Force banned rallies and protests throughout the country on June 12, 2021.
“But the illegal order of the Police Authorities was rightly defied by thousands of citizens who took advantage of June 12 celebrations to participate in peaceful rallies held in many cities yesterday. For having the audacity to insist on their fundamental right to protest against unpopular policies of Governments teams of armed police personnel fired teargas to disperse the peaceful rallies.
“As if the unprovoked attack was not enough the Police brutalised and arrested scores of protesters in Lagos, Abuja and Calabar. Since the protesters who were arrested during the peaceful rallies did not commit any offence they have since regained their liberty.
“But the Police Authorities ought to apologise for violating the fundamental right of the protesters to freedom of expression. More so that the Police had deliberately contravened Section 83 (4) of the Police Establishment Act 2020 which provides that “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.”
“While commending the protesters for conducting the themselves in a matured and peaceful manner we condemn the official lie that the protesters were teargassed to prevent hoodlums and miscreants from hijacking the peaceful rallies,” he said.
The human rights activist asked: “since the Police admitted that protesters committed no offence whatsoever why were some of them arrested? Why were the so called hoodlums and miscreants who wanted to cause mayhem and unleash violence on the protesters not arrested?
“Or were they treated like sacred cows because they had been hired to disrupt the peaceful rallies of the protesters? Why were the scanty pro-government protesters who were reported to have fought openly in Abuja over their booty not arrested for breach of the peace in the Federal Capital Territory?”
He emphasized that all sides of the discussion on human freedom should learn from the June 12 tragedy, and that the nation should no longer be subjected to recurring assaults on civic space.
Falana went on to argue that the police should learn to respect protestors’ constitutional rights, calling it “uncivilized” for officers to chase and strike unarmed individuals on the streets as if they were criminals.
Future demonstrators should always notify the police ahead of time, as required by law, so that the police can protect them as well as maintain public order, he said.