A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has warned the Presidency, police and security agencies not to harras or molest Nigerians who the presidency says are planning to protest against the nation’s service chiefs.
Falana insisted that Nigerians deserve the right to protest against the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) over the increasing rate of insecurity in the country.
The human rights lawyer made the call while reacting to a statement by the Presidency said the current government does not have the power to stop Nigerians from protesting alleged poor handling of security by the military.
The Presidency in a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had accused some opposition politicians of inciting Nigerians to hold protests against the service chiefs
However, Falana warned that Nigerians do not need permission from the Presidency to protest.
He further recalled how Buhari, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and other leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led a protest protested against insecurity on November 14, 2014 during Goodluck Jonathan administration.
“The operatives of the Nigeria Police Force must not harass Nigerians who seek to protest in the country.
“A group of citizens were allowed sometime last week to demonstrate in Abuja in support of the prosecution of the counter-insurgency operations by the service chiefs.
“The group told the Federal Government to expel Amnesty International from Nigeria for criticising the service chiefs.
“Now Without any evidence whatsoever the Presidency has alleged that those who are calling for the replacement of the service chiefs are working for the Boko Haram sect
“But, since Nigerians have the fundamental right to demonstrate for or against the Federal Government without official fiat the Presidency has no power to stop any peaceful protest in the country.
“The court had earlier affirmed Nigerians have the right to assemble and protest peacefully in the case of All Nigerian People’s Party V. Inspector-General of Police (2008).
“It was in the exercise of the right of freedom of expression that APC leaders including General Muhammadu Buhari, Chief John Oyegun, and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi had participated in the protest held at Abuja on November 20, 2014, against insecurity under the erstwhile Jonathan administration.”