A pro-democracy and civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, has said the police lack the powers to stop peaceful protests in a democracy.
It described the statement by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu that those planning nationwide street protests termed “Revolution” will be charged for treasonable felony, as a product of “crass hypocrisy.”
National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, who spoke on behalf of the group, said this in a telephone interview with our correspondent, in Abuja, on Sunday.
He said it was obvious that the police boss was yet to come to terms with the reality that Nigeria was now a democracy and that peaceful protest by citizens was an integral part of the democratic culture.
HURIWA accused the IGP of being “power drunk” and also behaving as if the country was still under the “Abacha type” military tyranny.
Onwubiko said, “This group has therefore told the police chief that civil protests can never be misconstrued as an attempt at change of government since there are a plethora of Constitutional provisions that recognise the people as the owners of the sovereignty of Nigeria, who donate to political office holders the authority and legitimacy through a democratic process and that the people have the inalienable right to also demand that good governance be institutionalised and to demand the resignation of a bad government.
“Demanding the resignation of a government that has no political will to stop the killings by armed Fulani herdsmen only because the President shares ethno- religious affiliations with the alleged killers; can never be termed as an attempt to unseat the government.
“Civil protests are essential elements of civil rule. Without the right to public protests then there is no constitutional democracy.”
The Rights group said neither the police boss nor officers or men acting on his behalf had the constitutional backing to infringe on the rights of citizens to express themselves in a civil and peaceful manner through demonstrations.
According to him, only a court of competent jurisdiction was empowered by the constitution to commit a citizen to imprisonment on lawful charges brought before it through a competent process over a crime for which such a person would have been afforded the right to legal representation and fair hearing in compliance with section 36(5) of the Nigerian Constitution.
Speaking on the arrest and detention of Omoyele Soweore by the Department of State Services, Onwubiko said, the planned protests of the coalition coordinated by the now incarcerated online publisher; political activist and civil rights campaigner, Mr. Omowore Sowore, does not in any way amount to any attempt at regime change.