Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has warned members of the National Assembly about their move against Civil Rights and democratic protests just as the group said the legislators will create a Frankenstein monster in the Presidential villa soon.
The Rights group said it is illogical for the House of Representatives to even contemplate making a law that will directly attack a Constitutionally protected human right to freedom of peaceful assembly under the mistaken and fraudulent guise of trying to check what they called illegal protests just as the Rights group said there was nothing like an illegal protests. The group said the police ought to provide security to protesters to check any infiltration from violent hoodlums.
HURIWA was reacting to the presentation of the House of Representatives for consideration a bill seeking to jail what they termed unlawful protesters in Nigeria just as the proposal is known as The Bill entitled: ‘AN ACT TO AMEND THE CRIMINAL CODE ACT, CAP 38, LAWS OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA, 2004 TO FURTHER PRESERVE THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE AND PROPERTY, AND TO PROVIDE SPECIFICALLY FOR MOB ACTION, PRESCRIBE PUNISHMENT AND OTHER MATTERS’, is sponsored by Rep. Emeka Chinedu Martins(PDP-Imo).
HURIWA recalled that the provisions of the proposed Act, are as follows: (1) The provisions of the Criminal Code Act, (in this Bill referred to as the “Principal Act”) is amended as set out in this Bill (2) Substitute for section 69 of the Principal Act, a new section 69.
HURIWA recalled that the house provided explanation as follows: “Definitions: Unlawful assembly, Riot, Mob action (a) When three or more persons, with intent to carry out some common purpose, assemble in such a manner or, being assembled, conduct themselves in such a manner as to cause persons in the neighbourhood to fear on reasonable grounds that the persons so assembled will tumultuously disturb the peace, or will by such assembly needlessly and without any reasonable occasion provoke other persons tumultuously to disturb the peace, they are an unlawful assembly. It is immaterial that the original assembling was lawful if, being assembled; they conduct themselves with a common purpose in such a manner as aforesaid”.
It also states that (b) “An assembly of three or more persons who assemble for the purpose of protecting any house against persons threatening to break and enter the house in order to commit a felony or misdemeanour therein is not an unlawful assembly.
But in the considered view of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA,the move to jail protesters as contemplated by the proposed legislation is undemocratic, unconstitutional and retrogressive.
The Rights group has therefore asked the Federal House of Representatives to be weary of passing an unconstitutional legislation that would install a dictator as the President in which case they too would be like preys who are riding on the back of the tiger that will devour them soon.
‘The attempt to put Nigerians in tyrannical chains through this viciously evil legislation aimed at crippling civil Rights of protesters must never be allowed to see the light of the day. Nigerians must defend the democracy that we faught so hard to achieve and stop the anti- democratic forces in the National Assembly from destroying democracy and inhibit the citizens’ exercise of their Universally recognized unalienable Human Rights to civil protests”.
HURIWA cited the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Section 39 stated thus: 39. (1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, and section 40 thus: “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests: Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition.”
The Rights group said democratic and peaceful protests are the very engine that sustains constitutional democracy without which the Country will inevitably slide into tyranny. The plot by the Federal House of Representatives to make a legislation against protests by citizens is a blueprint for autocracy and warned the legislators that they will be victimised soon because when the dictator is tired of confronting the people, he will face his attention to his footsoldiers to satisfy his insatiable quest for maximum and absolute power.