The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, has faulted the decision of the Lagos State Police Command to stop a protest spearheaded by foremost musician, Tuface Idibia, to protest the harsh living conditions in the country.
The nationwide protest, facilitated by Enough is Enough Nigeria, a coalition of individuals and youth-led organizations committed to good governance and public accountability, is scheduled for Monday.
In Lagos, protesters would march from the National Stadium to the National Theatre, a four-kilometre distance, to call for urgent attention to the economic downturn across the country.
On Wednesday, Fatai Owoseni, the Lagos State Police Commissioner, was quoted as saying that the police had received intelligence reports that criminals were planning to hijack the protest and unleash mayhem in the state.
“We know that Tuface does not have the capacity to contain such a crowd and we will not fold our hands and watch while things go out of hand,” Mr. Owoseni was quoted as saying.
PREMIUM TIMES reached out to Dolapo Badmus, the Lagos police spokesperson, to confirm if Mr. Owoseni actually made the comments.
“Please confirm from CP (Commissioner of Police),” she said in a text message response.
On Thursday, Mr. Fayose described the Lagos police boss statement as “puerile.”
“Apart from Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, which provided that ‘Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons…,’, the Court of Appeal already affirmed that protest or gathering do not require police permit or interference,” Mr. Fayose said in a statement issued by Lere Olayinka, his media aide.
“Court of Appeal affirmed in its judgement in Inspector General of Police Vs All Nigerians Peoples Party that protest or gathering do not require police permit or interference as obtainable in advanced democracy,” said Mr. Fayose, who had earlier indicated interest to participate in the protest.
“Most importantly, the protest is said to be for and about good governance. So who is afraid of the protest? Who does the police represent or is representing in this issue?”
“Nigerians are hungry and angry, our currency is now above N500 to $1. If Nigerians want to show their anger, no one should prevent them. Nepotism, extrajudicial killings, disobedience to court order and human rights abuses must stop.
“The conscience is an open wound and the guilty is afraid. If the APC-led Federal Government is now acting as if the protest is against it, it means the federal government has accepted to be guilty as charged.”
Similarly, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said it is illegal for the police to seek to ban a lawful assembly.
“For the information of the police commissioner, Nigeria is a democratic country governed strictly in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution,” Mr. Adegboruwa said.
“Section 39 of the Constitution grants freedom of expression, including the right to be heard and to disseminate information and ideas.
“Section 40 grants the right to associate and gather together.
“Section 38 grants the right to freedom of movement and peaceful assembly.
“I believe that Mr Fatai Owoseni has a copy of the Constitution, to guide his actions and utterances on this matter, instead of threatening innocent and law abiding citizens, who are responsible for his salary.”
Mr. Adegboruwa said the issue of police permit for citizens to gather freely expired with the coming into force of the 1999 Constitution “and we cannot now go back to the military era of shutting up citizens from legitimate expressions.”
“I therefore urge the good people of Nigeria, especially those who reside in Lagos, to join us en mass at Ikeja, for the rally on February 6, 2017,” he said.
“We cannot be intimidated in our own country, by the same people who are paid to protect us.
“This is not a rally by miscreants or thugs as to warrant the fears being expressed by the police commissioner. The statutory duty of the police is to offer us protection on Monday and help to maintain orderliness, throughout the period of the rally.”