Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights activist, Femi Falana, has said that in line with the provisions of the constitution, President Muhammadu Buhari should ban military deployments from internal operations, including protests and rallies.
He added that such civilian demonstrations and protests as well as political rallies fall under activities meant for the police.
Falana stated these at a convocation lecture he delivered at the Ekiti State University convocation ceremony, noting that to prevent hoodlums from hijacking peaceful protests, rallies and marches, the police must provide adequate security.
He said, “A few days ago, President Muhammadu Buhari publicly acknowledged that aggrieved citizens have the fundamental right to exercise their freedom of expression through peaceful rallies, marches and protests. The position of the President is backed by the provisions of Section 39 of the Constitution and article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act. However, the President warned hoodlums not to hijack such protests.
“But to the utter embarrassment of the Federal Government, some Commissioners of Police announced a ban on protests and any other form of public meetings in many states.
“It is high time the attention of such police authorities was drawn to the case of the All Nigeria Peoples Party v. Inspector General of Police (2006) CHR 181. In that case, the Presiding Judge, Chickere J., declared police permit for rallies illegal and unconstitutional and proceeded to grant an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant (Inspector-General of Police) whether by himself, his agent and privies from preventing the plaintiffs and other aggrieved citizens from organising or convening peaceful assemblies, meetings and rallies.”
“In affirming the epochal judgment of the Federal High Court in the case of Inspector General of Police vs. All Nigeria Peoples Party (2008) 12 WRN 65 the Court of Appeal per Adekeye JCA (as she then was) held inter alia:
“The right to demonstrate and the right to protest on matters of public concern are rights which are in the public interest and that which individuals must possess, and which they should exercise without impediment as long as no wrongful act is done.
“If as speculated by law enforcement agents that breach of the peace would occur, our criminal code has made adequate provisions for sanctions against breakdown of law and order so that the requirement of permit as a conditionality to holding meetings and rallies can no longer be justified in a democratic society.
“In view of the clear state of the law, the President should, without any further delay, prohibit armed soldiers from usurping the powers of the police by getting involved in the maintenance of internal security in any manner whatsoever and however.
“However, to prevent hoodlums from hijacking peaceful protests, rallies and marches, we call on the President to direct the Inspector-General of Police and Commissioners of Police in all the states of the federation to comply with section 94 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended which provides as follows: Notwithstanding any provision in the Police Act, the Public Order Act and any regulation made there under 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.”