Human rights lawyer, Adeola Oyinlade has condemned the Nigeria Police Force for its continued refusal to allow peaceful protests, including End SARS gatherings.
The activist referred to the argument of the security agencies that there cannot be a lawful protest without permission.
Oyinlade said they are relying on the Public Order Act of 1979, thereby justifying clamping down on demonstrators across the country.
“This position is an unlawful and flagrant breach of the fundamental human rights of persons in Nigeria”, he declared in a statement.
The expert explained that protest is the expression of disapproval and objection by persons, insisting such objections can be verbal, written, physical or expressed on social media.
“By virtue of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Nigerians can protest over any issue either privately or publicly,” he added.
The legal practitioner said rights enshrined in the constitution and other laws in force in Nigeria cannot be ordinarily denied by any person or government or be activated at the dictate of the police.
He reminded the police that its function is to protect those exercising their right to protest and make sure that hoodlums do not hijack the process.
“The purported Public Order Act of 1979 relied upon by the police that requires protesters to seek permission from the Governor at least within 48 hours before the protest has been declared invalid in a 2006 judgment of the Federal High Court.
“The same judgment was also affirmed on appeal and the Act quashed by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal stated that: In present-day Nigeria, clearly police permit has outlived its usefulness.
“It is the right of citizens to conduct peaceful processions, rallies or demonstrations without seeking and obtaining permission from anybody. It is a right guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and any law that attempts to curtail such right is null and void and of no consequence,” Oyinlade said.
“The rationale for police refusal to implement the 2007 court ruling on the Public Order Act suggests that the police in Nigeria focus largely on what they perceive law to be against what the law truly is.”
Oyinlade told the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, to alert the police hierarchy nationwide on the position of law on the subject matter and order total compliance.
The lawyer demanded that innocent Nigerians arrested and/or detained for exercising their right to protest should be freed immediately.
Oyinlade recently won the 2021 American Bar Association (ABA) International Human Rights Laureate. He was named International Bar Association (IBA) Human Rights Lawyer of the Year in 2018.