POLICE THREAT TO BAN #ENDSARS PROTEST IN LAGOS IS TANTAMOUNT TO EXCISING CITIZENS’ RIGHTS TO FREELY ASSEMBLE
POLICE THREAT NOT TO ALLOW PLANNED #ENDSARS PROTEST IN LAGOS IS TANTAMOUNT TO EXCISING CITIZENS’ CONSTITIONALLY-GRANTED RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY
YRC WARNS THE LAGOS STATE CP ODUMOSU NOT TO INFLAME TENSION IN A STATE ALREADY TRAUMATIZED BY THE STATE-MOTIVATED VIOLENCE OF THE PAST FEW WEEKS BY CLAMPING DOWN ON PEACEFUL PROTESTERS
The Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) condemns threat from the Lagos state police command not to allow any planned #EndSARS protest to take place in Lagos. This threat in a so-called democratic dispensation goes to show that even though SARS may be gone, the Nigerian police are still trapped in SARS mentality of absolute and thuggish disregard for the most basic democratic and constitutional rights of Nigerians.
As far as we are concerned, by taking this position, the Lagos Commissioner Hakeem Odumosu, is trying to flagrantly excise the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all Nigerian citizens to lawful assembly – a power he clearly does not possess.
The police command, vide a statement, has based its illegal position on the preposterous argument that “the state was yet to recover from the damage that followed the last protest” (Premium Times 5/11/2020). Everyone knows that the #EndSARS protest was peaceful and carnival-like for the 13 days it lasted. Apart from the state deployment of thugs to attack the peaceful protests, the violence, riots and arson that eventually occurred were a direct consequence of the actions of the police in Surulere, Mushin, Ajeromi Ifelodun and other Lagos communities who shot indiscriminately at protesters thereby maiming and killing some of them, and also the Tuesday 20 October 2020 opening of fire on peaceful protesters at Lekki toll gate by the army on the invitation of Governor Sanwo-olu of Lagos State and the orders of President Muhamadu Buhari. This statement of the Lagos CP shows the police have still not learnt any lesson from the role they and the army played in setting Lagos and other parts of the country on fire following Black Tuesday.
To make matters worse, the state command warned “any individuals, group of students or any groups who might want to stage any form of protest, either “peaceful” or violent, or gathering whatsoever, to desist” (Premium Times). We will like to educate the Police CP that peaceful and lawful assemblies are constitutionally guaranteed rights. It is one of the benefits of citizenship. Clearly the looters in power fear popular anger and that is why they want to suppress any display of opposition. Besides, the curfew declared in Lagos state since October 20 has now been relaxed and Lagosians are now going about their legitimate businesses without any hindrance. In this kind of situation, citizens ought to have their right to peaceful assembly respected if they have any grievance against the state or their employers.
What the police ought to do is to invite the organizers for a chat to know the route of the protest and then deploy personnel to provide protection for the protest and help ensure it is not hijacked, that is if there is any credible intelligence of the existence of such a threat. But we know from experience that the threat of hijack is always an omnibus pretext used by police to justify their premeditated thuggish attacks on peaceful assembly.
In our opinion, this thuggish threat of clampdown by the police against a lawful assembly and the crackdown on protest organizers through seizure of passport and freezing of bank accounts reinforce why #EndSARS protesters passionately feel that the government is not sincere about meeting the objective of the 13-day protests which is to end all forms of state repression despite assurances by government.
The YRC challenges the Nigerian police to reassure the Nigerian people and youth that SARS and police brutality is truly a thing of the past by not behaving like the defunct SARS in flagrantly disregarding citizens’ constitutional rights. The starting point of this is to allow peaceful and lawful assemblies to hold without attacks either by security agencies or state-sponsored thugs.