Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana has asked the Nigeria Police Force to apologise to protesters who were arrested during the June 12 nationwide protest on Saturday.
Mr Falana who is the interim chair of the alliance on surviving COVID-19 and beyond accused the police of violating the fundamental right of expression of the protesters.
“The police should learn to respect the constitutional rights of protesters. It’s uncivilised for the police to be chasing and attacking unarmed protesters on the streets as if these citizens are criminals,” Falana noted in a communique on Sunday.
He however commended the protesters for conducting themselves in a mature and peaceful manner.
Mr Falana also condemned the explanation of the police that the tear gas shot was to prevent hoodlums and miscreants from hijacking the peaceful rallies adding that there are lessons to take from that incident which he describes as unfortunate.
The rights activist urged future protesters to inform the police ahead of their action as demanded by law.
Meanwhile the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba says no protester was arrested on June 12.
In an interview with Channels Television on Saturday, the police spokesman justified the use of tear gas on protesters who took to the streets to mark Democracy Day by voicing their grievances against the government of the day.
According to Mr Mba, the actions of officers were in line with international best practices of dispersing violent protests.
The police shot teargas at protesters in Lagos and Abuja however, the Channels Television correspondents who covered the protest in Abuja did not observe any sign of violence from the protesters before the police disrupted their parade.
‘An isolated case’
According to Mr. Mba, the use of teargas was an isolated case in Abuja where protesters turned violent.
“We had an isolated case in Abuja where some of the protesters became unruly and in line with international best practices, police fired teargas at them,” he said. “And that is an acceptable mode of engaging violent protesters anywhere in the world, whether it is in Abuja, Lagos, Paris, London, or New York or California. That is internationally accepted.
“We would have problems if we had fired live bullets at them, but when you fire teargas at protesters to disperse them, you are not in breach of any known code, either nationally or internationally.
“I also want to use this opportunity to state clearly that no citizen, either in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, or anywhere, is currently in detention as a result of this isolated incident.
“As long as protesters conduct themselves within the confines of the law; they do not constitute themselves into a nuisance, they do not breach the rights of other citizens, they do not obstruct traffic, they do not compel other citizens to join their protests, the police will largely work with them.
“When you protest in contravention of this set of conditions I have given, clearly you are coming in direct conflict with the laws of the land, and the police will never stand by idly and watch you create problems for the entire polity.”
Targeted at IMN
Meanwhile, in a statement released on Saturday, the police in Abuja said it had dispersed protesters in an attempt to foil attempts by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) to “incite a public disturbance.”
“The FCT Police Command on Saturday, 12th June 2021 successfully restored calm at Apo-Gudu axis after professionally dispersing a protest by some members of the proscribed Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN)-Shiites and others targeted at inciting public disturbance and breaching public peace,” the statement, signed by spokesperson Yusuf Mariam, said.
“Consequently, the action of the Command was necessitated by the concerns of some agitated residents. However, no arrest was made.
“In view of the above, the Command wishes to state that it is committed to ensuring that FCT residents enjoy a hitch-free Democracy Day Celebration and will not hesitate to bring to book every person or entity that attempts to breach the peace or cause a breakdown of law and order in the Federal Capital Territory.
“The Command implores residents to remain calm and law-abiding while reaffirming its unwavering commitment to the protection of lives and property within the FCT.”