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The Rivers State Government late Monday banned “all forms of proposed protests” under #EndSars Campaign.
Thousands of Nigerians marched in Lagos and other cities Monday to demand an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, a police unit accused of extrajudicial killings and abuses.
The government announced Sunday the unit will be disbanded, but many Nigerians are skeptical, because this is not the first the government is announcing a ban .
Interestingly, across Nigerian cites, long after the ban was announced, citizens have witnessed crackdown, in Abuja protesters were flogged with sticks and their mobile phones smashed, police ramming into cars and destroying vehicles..
Announcing the decision by the state government, “Parents and Guardians” were advised “to ensure that their children or wards do not violate this order”. – the statement signed by Mr Paulinus Nsirim, Commissioner for Information, Rivers State Government reads in parts.
However, a lawyer, an activist and a member of the same party with the governor, have all condemned attempts by the state government in stifling voices and cracking down on dissents.
But the statement failed to acknowledge that, “the right to protest is underscored by the right to freedom of assembly and of association enshrined in sections 39 and 40 of Nigeria’s constitution, the highest law in the land”. – Ms Nana Nwachukwu, a lawyer and Public Policy Expert tells NewsWireNGR.
Ms Nwachukwu said Tuesday, “What Mr. Wike is demanding is a suspension of fundamental rights – This is beyond his powers”.
She said the only time the constitution has been suspended is during the military dictatorship.
What Wike is asking for is dictatorial and as an elected official, he has no such rights under any law. “Rivers State is not under a state of emergency,” she concluded.
In an address on Monday, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said SARS officers responsible for wrongful acts would be brought to justice – again, this is not the first time the government is promising to prosecute erring officers.
Even state governors are unable to control these notorious police officers known for killings, kidnappings and armed robbery according to the River Governor Nyesom Wike who is today denying Nigerians the rights to a peaceful protest against these officers.
Ms Nwachukwu and an activist, Fakhriyyah Hashim, Wike has no right to ban constitutionally guaranteed freedom to protest.
“He is bent on exhibiting his traits of tyranny and Nigerians must not stand it. He has no right whatsoever or the powers to put a ban on protesting in Port Harcourt”, Ms Hashim tells NewsWireNGR Tuesday,
The implication of the order by the state government gives the security agencies the Leah way to crack down on dissents without recourse to their rights of assembly. Over 10 people have been reportedly shot across the country, from Ogbomoso to Lagos, Police officers shooting live ammunitions at unarmed protesters.
Ms Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International’s office in Nigeria, said the human rights organisation told Voice of America, that the organisation found a trend of young people being profiled and targeted by SARS officers.
Amnesty has recorded cases of extortion and torture, and failure by the Nigerian authorities to bring perpetrators to justice.
For Amnesty International, the Governor must be held accountable for any violation of protests.
States governments in Nigeria, over the years, rely on the Public Order Act in making such declarations but the same act was quashed in 2007 by the Court of Appeal.
The Appeal Court insisted that the Act should be promulgated to complement Sections 39 and 40 of the Constitution. According to the law, Wike’s only power is to suggest to protesters on routes to take for safety and public order.
Wike, a frontline member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is the only governor in Nigeria to have issued such directives in his state and he is also a lawyer but has continued to act as a dictator and an abuser of the rights to peaceful assembly.
Mr Ose Anenih, a member of the PDP, same as the governor, in an interview with NewsWireNGR, noted that, “Wike’s misguided statement banning protests and directing law enforcement to enforce this ban is condemnable”.
“The right to peaceful protest is enshrined in the constitution and is settled case law. No president, much less a governor can suspend that right outside the declaration of a state of emergency”.
Mr Anenih added that, It is unfortunate that Gov. Wike, allegedly a lawyer, would be the one to trample on the law.
“This does not represent the position of the PDP on the right of citizens to protest, and I hope they and the NBA under the leadership of Olumide Akpata (SAN) will be courageous enough to call Gov. Wike to order”.
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