Describing as absolutely unconstitutional, unlawful, despicable, primitive and reprehensible the actions of the Lagos State’s Police Command for disrupting some protests and illegally clamping down of peaceful civil Protesters, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called for the unconditional release from detention of all the protesters arrested by police for marking the one year anniversary of the October 20th 2020 massacre of protesters by armed forces of Nigeria in Lekki Tollgate.
HURIWA described those who participated in the anniversary protests as heroes of constitutionalism who rather than being victimised, humiliated, harassed or tortured should be awarded National honours of bravery and courageous defence of Constitutional democracy and the Rule of law which constitute collectively the bedrock of the human rights provisions enshrined on chapter 4.
Besides, HURIWA has asked the National Assembly to create the NATIONAL BOARD FOR THE PROTECTION OF CIVIL PROTESTERS to be governed just like an independent and totally autonomous body of few experts and civil society leaders to provide advocacy platforms supported by corporate Nigeria to promote, advance, canvass and teach younger Nigerians on the essence of peaceful Assembly and protests and to monitor violations of the fundamental rights to civil protests by state security agencies and the Nigerian police Force. HURIWA upbraided the National Human Rights commission for spectacularly selling out to reactionary elements in government.
HURIWA said the call for a creation of an independent, autonomous but strong national agency to focus on Promotion of attitudes of positive, democratic and peaceful protests has become increasingly necessary as a way of mainstreaming the democratic virtue of civil protests which are critical elements for the sustenance and survival of Constitutional democracy in the Country. It said the body shouldn’t be another avenue to create jobs for the boys but should be a body to be constituted by less than 36 staff and hierarchy with offices in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
HURIWA condemned the medieval mindset of the Nigerian Police and other security agencies towards organisers and participants in civil protests just as HURIWA said that the continuous attacks by police and security agencies of protesters are weakening Constitutional democracy and turning Nigeria into a brutal tyranny and dictatorship which it insists must be resisted because dictatorship isn’t different from slavery.
The Rights group called for the legal sanctions of Police operatives fingered in the multiple extrajudicial killings by SPECIAL ANTI-ROBBERY SQUAD of the Nigerian Police which was reportedly disbanded on paper as a consequence of the demands of protesters at last year’s #ENDSARS PROTESTS nationwide. HURIWA condemned the slow progress at the various judicial panels investigating the #ENDSARS PROTESTS just as it asked state governments to enforce the decisions reached by the panels.
HURIWA said the so called disbandment of the notorious SARS was a smokescreen and a charade because the Nigerian Police are still protecting their operatives with blood of the innocent in their hands just as extralegal killings of suspects are still going on in most police detention centres. It called for the passage of a legislation to open up all detention centres to the visitation of civil society leaders and private members of the public so as to ensure that the use of physical torture and forced disappearances are curbed.
In a media statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said: “HUMAN and CIVIL RIGHTS to protests are safeguarded under sections 38, 39, 40 and 41 of the Constitution. It is a fundamental human right of the people to voice out their displeasures, disappointments and frustrations.
The right to protest is the manifestation of first, the right to freedom of thought and conscience and religion (Sec. 38) which precedes rights to freedom of expression (Sec. 39) followed by the right to peaceful assembly and association (Sec. 40) and accompanied by right to freedom of movement (Sec. 41). Right to protest also “embodies the exercise of a number of indivisible, interdependent and interconnected human rights” like right to life (Sec. 33), right to dignity of human person (Sec. 34), right to personal liberty (35), right to fair hearing (36), right to private and family life (37), and right to freedom from discrimination (42).
The Court of Appeal upheld the right to protest in the case of IGP V. ANPP (2008) 12 WRN 65 that “certainly in a democracy, 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 effect.”
Under the International Law, the right to protest is equally protected. Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right and the UN Human Rights Council’s Resolution at its 38th Session on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the context of Peaceful Protests are quite apposite.
Principle 1 of the Resolution on Promotion and Protection of Human Right in the context of Protest recognizes that a protest can engage in actions targeting any audience, including public authorities, private entities or individuals, or the general public and may annoy or give offence to people who are opposed to the ideas. It also recognizes that protest may temporarily hinder or obstruct the activities of third parties.
Principle 2 then imposes obligations on States/countries to respect the right to protest. States should not prevent, hinder or restrict the right to protest; States should protect the right to protest and should undertake reasonable steps to protect protesters by adopting measures necessary to prevent violations by third parties; States should fulfil the right to protest by establishing an enabling environment for the full enjoyment of right to protest.”
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has therefore called for the arrest and prosecution of the police operatives seen mistreating and physically attacking peaceful protesters because even under the recently signed Anti Torture law, nobody is permitted to inflict physical, emotional or psychological torture on citizens.