Are the police right to deny Tuface, others right to protest?

The police were not right. The duty of the police is to provide security and ensure that the protest is not hijacked.

This is a protest to express the feelings of Nigerians because, whether we like it or not, there is freedom of association, expression and we can express our feelings in any way as far as it does not breach the peace or go contrary to the law. As far as we are concerned, there is no law stating that Nigerians should not embark on a peaceful protest.

So, I think the protest being championed by Tuface is in order. If the police have security concerns, as they claim that they do, that is why they are the police.

They have been entrusted with that mandate to protect lives and property. So, what they should do is to ensure maximum security during and after the protest.

We watch the United States; we watch the UK, where the citizens protest and are given maximum security. They are not coerced to put a stop to their protest. So, the Nigeria Police Force should be thinking like a 21st century security agency.

The protest bothers on welfare of the people; we need improved welfare in this country. We cannot continue like this.

If the people in government continue like this, Nigerians will have no other option than to send them packing in 2019. Theophilus Ibodeme (A human rights activist)

It is not right for the police to deny Mr. Innocent Idibia, popularly known as Tuface, and other organisers, the right to protest. In fact, it is bad for the  police to stop the protest.

Protest is an integral part of democracy. Even in advanced democracies, people are allowed freedom of expression and assembly. People show their grievances and disapproval of events in their countries and even government policies and programmes, through peaceful protests. During the inauguration of the President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump, many people protested against him and the police did not stop them.

Peaceful protest is part of democracy and people should not be denied that. If people have any resentment against government’s policies and programmes or even with the situation in the country, if you do not allow them to protest, you allow their anger to be bottled up which is dangerous for the development of the society.

I believe that the police action of stopping aggrieved citizens the right to peacefully protest and preventing them from participating in such a peaceful protest, is antithetical to democracy. Not only that, there should not be any excuse that the people who are organising the protest should not be able to control it. What is the role of the police if we are not saying that the organisers of the protest would  control it? It is the work of the police to make sure that the protesters are well managed and controlled. You cannot stop a protest on the anticipation of violence. I believe that it is a very wrong position.

It is advisable for the police not to cow the people. They should be allowed their right to peaceful demonstration.   Mr. Iyiola Oyedepo (A factional Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, Kwara State chapter)

The police have the right to stop demonstrations if security reports or intelligence reveals that it may disrupt public peace and order. You remember the ‘Ali must go’ protest; the police warned against it. You know the number of people that died in the riot and also during the M.K.O. Abiola June 12 protests. We should always listen to the security agencies.

But where I differ is when the police start dancing to government tunes, reading the body language of the government and using that to stop such a rally if it is going to be peaceful.

When you look at Tuface Idibia, he may be peaceful, but majority of those who listen to his music may do something that may disrupt the peace.

I think the Lagos State Commissioner of Police was right; he had studied the security situation. I learnt he carried out the security assessment with the Department of State Services. From what I gathered, they are stopping it because they know that the protest could be hijacked.

As a security expert, I understand that there is hunger in the land and when people are hungry, they will be angry and because of that, there is no way they will not unleash their anger on innocent people who don’t want to join. There is no way you won’t see disruption of public peace.

If they say they will go to a stadium, and hold all their activities there, invite the media to help them broadcast it for those in government to hear it, that is better. But to allow them to hold the protest on the streets of Lagos, I don’t think that is wise. •Ben Okezie ( A security analyst)

The problem is that we operate as if there is no law in Nigeria. In the USA, people protest every day. People there obey laws; they know they have rights and the law is applicable.

Even on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, people protested and we saw how the police reacted. They did not harass, beat up or kill anybody. If you destroy or loot property under the guise of protest, you should be arrested. But if you stay in front of a building or you move on the streets peacefully, there is nothing wrong with it and nobody should harass you. All you need do is to advise the protesters to remain law abiding.

Those that protested on the day of Trump’s swearing in did not give him or the police any notice. Why would you give notice that you are protesting on a particular day?

Successful protests in this country were not planned. If you remember the protest of Otokoto in Imo State that caused riot in Owerri in 1997 and led to destruction of some hotels, it was not planned. This is why I am saying you don’t plan protests. This Tuface protest was ab initio planned to fail. How would you give the police notice that you are protesting? I have led protests in the past and we don’t give the police notice. • Mr. Higher Kings (A legal practitioner)

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), guarantees Nigerians the following fundamental rights viz: the rights to personal liberty, freedoms of movement and expression, and the right to hold and disseminate opinions.

These rights were not enshrined in the constitution through the benevolence of any dictator or any leviathan under any guise. They were the products of the struggles of the Nigerian people who through their sweat and blood paid the price of the liberty we enjoy today.

Thus, it is not a power at large to any law enforcement agency to derogate from fundamental rights at its whim, passions and indiscretions.

These officers of state are paid to protect the rights and liberties of citizens as their servants; not their masters.

The second issue is that it is a good development that the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, has security reports and his task is to prevent such a hijack from happening. •Eze Onyepere (Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice)

The right to protest is part of citizens rights in a democracy. Institutions of government, such as the police, owe citizens a duty to ensure that this right is protected within the confines of the law. It is not for the police to stop peaceful protests from taking place.

In civilised societies where democracy is the norm, the police provide security cover for peaceful protests; we cannot afford to be different. I expect the police to behave like their counterparts in such societies.

I think we should train our policemen and other security agencies on how to handle such matters in a democracy while they carry out the functions of law enforcement. Protesters also have a civic duty to be peaceful as they make their views known. • Auwul Rafsanjani  (Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre)

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Author: Femi Erinle
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