SPN CONDEMNS THE UNLAWFUL AND VIOLENT DISRUPTION OF OUR PEACEFUL PROTEST BY THE POLICE AND THE BUHAR-LED REGIME
WE CONDEMN INFILTRATION OF OUR PARTY MEETING BY THE DSS
SPN COMMENDS THE MEDIA, LAWYERS AND ORGANISATIONS WHO INTERVENED TO SECURE PROTESTERS’ RELEASE
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) led a protest on Thursday, September 10, 2020 in Lagos, against the wicked increase in petrol price from N148 to N162 and the hike in electricity tariff by over 100%. SPN was also protesting the deregistration of the SPN and 21 other political parties, especially in view of the disobedience of the Court of Appeal judgement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The protest procession, which started peacefully at the NLC Labour House at Yaba, was violently and unlawfully disrupted at Ojuelegba by the police who also arrested 14 of the protesters and 4 journalists. The police officers who were acting on the instructions of the Buhari-led repressive regime also molested protesters and while press gadgets of journalists were seized. The following persons were arrested: Chinedu Bosah (SPN National Secretary), Hassan Taiwo Soweto (SPN National Youth Leader), Dagga Tolar (SPN NEC Member), Moshood Oshunfurewa (Lagos SPN Secretary), Ayo Ademiluyi (Lagos SPN Legal Adviser), Christopher Harry, Abisoye Kosoko, Tunde Yusuf, Akande Abiola, Ifeanyi Onwunalu, Davy Fidel, Adetunji Gbenga, Usman Khadijat, and Taiwo Alao. The arrested and detained journalists were Ifeoluwa Adediran (Premium Times), Abiodun Ayeoba (Sahara Reporters), Awoniyi Oluwatosin (Objectv Media) and Daniel Tanimu (Galaxy TV).
The protesters and journalists were first taken to Lagos Police Command, Ikeja and, after several hours of detention, the journalists were released while the 14 protesters were taken to the Lagos State Special Offences Court at the Task Force Oshodi and arraigned on a one-count charge of conduct likely to cause breach of peace but were eventually released following the withdrawal of charges by the prosecutors. This nebulous charge is usually used by the police to stifle democratic rights.
We were not surprised when the Lagos Police Public Relation officer, SP Muyiwa Adejobi, was reported by Punch Newspaper to have stated that the protesters did not inform the police of the protest and that protest should follow due process. We beg to differ from this colonial mentality of the police that suggests that protesters ought to inform the police or get police permit before a peaceful protest would be allowed to hold. Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference” while Section 40 states that “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.”
It was on the strength of Section 39 and 40 of 1999 Constitution that Justice Anwuli Chikere, of the Federal High Court, gave a judgement in 2004 in a matter between All Nigeria Peoples Party & Ors Vs Inspector General Police that declared the Public Order Act as illegal and unconstitutional and that peaceful protesters do not need to secure police permit before embarking on protest. The Court of Appeal in 2007 by its Lordships (Rabiu Danlami Mohammed JSC, Olufunlola Oyelola Adekeye JSC and Abdu Aboki JSC) upheld the judgement of the Federal High court and stated that “the Police Order Act, relating to the issuance of police permit cannot be used as a camouflage to stifle citizens’ fundamental rights in the course of maintaining law and order”.
Hence, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, and Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, SP Muyiwa Adejobi, should not pretend to have done their legitimate duty by arresting SPN members, rather they have violated the law by demanding that people can only lawfully assemble when the police permits it. As far as we are concerned, nothing can justify the action of the police; they are simply implementing orders of the Buhari capitalist regime to oppress and repress Nigerians who are opposed to anti-poor policies.
We are fully convinced that the police was set up as one of the key armed wings of the repressive capitalist state apparatus to sustain the exploitation and looting of the bourgeois ruling elite unchallenged and there should be no pretence about it. Indeed a meeting of the Lagos State chapter of the SPN which held on Saturday August 29, 2020 to plan the September 10 protest was infiltrated by the personnel of the Department of State Services (DSS). We had to send the DSS operative out when we discovered her presence, but it is difficult to know if there are others. Also, we do not yet know to what extent the state may have gone in spying on the SPN and its leadership, but even this example already shows how the security agencies work using legal and illegal means to muzzle opposition.
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) commends the intervention of the media, Barrister Tesleem Adewuyi and Barrister Chijioke Ugwuonka and the CitiPoint Chambers, Barrister Adeshina Ogunlana, Falana & Falana Chambers, Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Coalition of United Political Parties, Joint Action Front (JAF), Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Movement for Socialist Alternative (MSA), National Conscience Party (NCP) etc., that eventually pressured the police and government to back down.
We remain undaunted and committed to the struggle to resist all anti-poor capitalist policies; however, we demand that the police and other security agencies desist from attacking protests and lawful procession. We also condemn the attempted infiltration of our party meetings by DSS personnel and warn the agency to desist from spying on activists. We demand the reversal of petrol price to N87 per litre and electricity tariff to N13 kwh; we also demand that INEC should obey the Court of Appeal judgement which declares void its undemocratic and unlawful deregistration of the SPN and other political parties. We reiterate our earlier call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to mobilize for a 48-hour warning general strike as part of sustained mass actions to resist the hike in electricity tariff, increase in petrol price and other neo-liberal policies.
Acting National Chairperson