Saturday, 4 July, 2020

PROTEST RESTRICTION: ACCESS TO JUSTICE CARPETS POLICE

*Says restriction is ‘unconstitutional’

Leading human rights group, Access to Justice (A2J) has berated the Nigeria Police for restricting protests to the Unity Fountain, Abuja.

Describing the restriction as “unconstitutional,” A2J said it “amounts to an unwarranted interference with, and infringement of the fundamental rights of citizens to assemble peacefully and to express themselves as enshrined in Sections 40 and 41 of the Constitution and Article 7 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER, A2J said such restriction “has been ruled unlawful and unconstitutional by a decision of the Court of Appeal in Inspector General of Police v. All Nigeria Peoples Party and 11 others (2007) where the court held that the procurement of a police permit before a protest could hold was inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and therefore an illegality.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

RESTRICTION OF CIVIL PROTESTS IN FCT ABUJA TO SPECIFIC SITE BY THE NIGERIAN POLICE IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND INFRINGES ON RIGHT TO ASSEMBLY, MOVEMENT AND EXPRESSION

On July 17th 2018, the Nigeria Police announced the restriction of protests in the Federal Capital Territory to the Unity Fountain, Central Business District, Abuja. The Police force said the restrictions were informed by the need to avert an occurrence of incidences similar to those which trailed the protests of October 30th 2018. It would be recalled that on October 30th 2018, officers of the Nigerian Army encountered and opened fire on a procession organized by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) to protest the unlawful (and protracted) incarceration of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, by the Nigerian Government as well as the killing of several members of the sect by officers of the Nigerian Army on October 27th 2018.

The Police Force said it was aware of the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens to peaceful assembly and movement as enshrined in Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights but however said that that these rights could be restricted or limited on grounds specified in the constitution.

The decision of the Police Force to restrict protesters from venues other than the Unity Fountain amounts to an unwarranted interference with, and infringement of the fundamental rights of citizens to assemble peacefully and to express themselves as enshrined in Sections 40 and 41 of the Constitution and Article 7 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Police restrictions on this right by specifying conditions of its exercise has been ruled unlawful and unconstitutional by a decision of the Court of Appeal in Inspector General of Police v. All Nigeria Peoples Party and 11 others (2007) where the court held that the procurement of a police permit before a protest could hold was inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and therefore an illegality.

The reference by the Police to the need to avert the re-occurrence of the experience of the “protests of October” 2018 involving members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) is fear-mongering rattle, and a clearly unjustifiable blackmail to crackdown on politically unpopular assemblies. The shooting and killing of unarmed Shiite members by operatives of the Nigerian Army is a brutal testament of the military’s lawlessness, but it was not the exercise of the right of peaceful protest that caused it. It was simply caused by the rash, violent and repressive reaction of the military, under-pinned by the culture of impunity rooted in its psyche.

Nigeria expects its police force to act with responsibility, accountability and respect for democratic rights and not to follow in the footsteps of, or replicate the impunity characteristic of Nigeria’s military forces. In fact, had the police exercised its responsibilities diligently, it would have avoided the October 2018 calamities. Had it asserted its rights to manage the protests of October 2018, the military would not have inserted themselves into the course of those catastrophic events, since the management of civil protests is essentially the responsibility of a civilian police. Allowing the military to supplant it and take over its functions in controlling the exercise of a democratic right of civil dissent represents a massive failure on the part of the police force. Furthermore, the police force has grievously failed in the duty to bring the soldiers who horrendously killed unarmed protesters during the October 2018 protests to account, but have rather moved quickly to charge to court, again, IMN protesters over their recent protests a few days ago at the premises of the National Assembly.

By restricting the movements of protesters on the grounds it claims, the Nigerian Police fails to objectively assess and address the chain of events and factors which turn peaceful protests into violent actions; the police’ new policies stigmatize protesters rather than challenge and confront those who authorize inflammatory and brutal actions that escalate tensions during a civil protest, mismanage protest situations and kill scores of unarmed protesters.

The right to protest or assemble cannot be reduced to the right to assemble at only a specific place or time. The right is an aspect of political participation recognized by human rights treaties, and accommodates the freedom to assemble or protest in public spaces, accessible by members of the public. If law enforcement authorities are allowed the right to stipulate places where protests can be held, they would likely do so in a manner that effectively takes away the right, or denude it of meaningful content. The new policy limiting the place where protests can hold to only one place is just as unconstitutional as requiring a police permit before a protest can hold. While fundamental rights can be restricted on established grounds, only a legislation can establish the scope of the restriction, and courts must be satisfied that the purposes of such legislation are rationally related to the restriction. The Nigeria Police Force has not identified a law that authorizes it to limit the places where protests can hold. And it does not have legislative powers to make powers in that respect.

Consequently, Access to Justice calls on the Inspector General of Police to:
a. Immediately reverse the decision restricting public protests by persons or groups to the Unity Fountain, Abuja.
b. Order an immediate investigation into the October 30th 2018 killing of IMN protesters and bring to justice all persons who arbitrarily shot and killed scores of protesters and other civilians during the clashes.
c. Establish more constitutional guidelines for managing public protests that do not interfere with the free exercise of the right to peaceful assembly, movement and expression and instate safeguards to avoid the breakdown of law and order during future protests.
Joseph Otteh Daniel A. Igiekhumhe

Convener Programme Officer

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EXCLUSIVE: LPPC TO UNVEIL 37 NEW SANs TODAY

  • Solicitor-General, Rhodes-Vivour, Others Make List

Barring any last-minute hitches, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) will today unveil a list of 37 lawyers who successfully scaled its screening exercise for award of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

The release of the long-awaited list is the climax of the sifting process which saw the LPPC issuing a final shortlist of 80 lawyers last May. In an advertorial heralding the list and signed by the LPPC Secretary/Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Hadizatu Mustapha, the committee said the shortlisted lawyers had scaled the “first and second advocates’ filtration, academic pre-qualification exercise and the appeal process, preparatory to the award of SAN for the year 2019.” Among those shortlisted were leading human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and 13 professors.

The committee had also invited complaints against any of the shortlisted candidates, saying: “Any complaint(s) presented to the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee must be accompanied with verifying affidavit deposed to

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that only 37 candidates made the cut this year, with 43 others falling by the way side. This is however higher than the 31 candidates awarded last year. While 20 applicants out of 124 received the rank in 2015, 22 SANs were appointed in 2016 out of 50 applicants. The number shot up to 29 in 2017 from 91 applicants, and peaked at 31 in 2018 from 106 applicants. 64 applicants were finally shortlisted for the rank in 2018 as against 80 this year.

Sources who are familiar with the process told CITY LAWYER that among those who made the sought-after list are Messrs Dayo Apata, Solicitor-General & Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Adedokun Matthew Makinde Esq; Daniel Chukwudi Enwelum Esq; Tuduru Uchendu Ede Esq, and John Onuegbulam Asoluka Esq; Others are Abiodun Adediran Olatunji Esq; Olusegun Omoniyi Jolaawo Esq; Olusegun Oyediran Fowowe Esq; Abdul Olajide Ajana Esq; Safiya Umar Badamasi, Katsina State Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, and Adedoyin Oyinkan Rhodes-Vivour Esq, wife of Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

According to the committee, the rank is a privilege “awarded as a mark of excellence to members of the legal profession who are in full time legal practice, have distinguished themselves as advocates and have made significant contribution to the development of the legal profession.”

The process for the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria was approved by the body of benchers, the highest judicial body in Nigeria statutorily responsible for the regulation of the legal profession and for admitting persons who desire to become legal practitioners. The guidelines for the award of the rank were first made in 2007 “and have since been reviewed 4 times in a bid to further improve and straighten the process in the light of experience of past exercises. The current guideline is the one of 17th December, 2013.” The committee is headed by the Chairman who is also the Chief Justice of Nigeria with 15 other members, one of whom is the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Secretary of the Committee.

The committee states that “The guidelines provides for the identification of the very best applicants rigorously and objectively and promotes fairness, excellence and diversity and every effort shall be made to ensure that the conferment of the rank of senior advocate of Nigeria an (sic) applicants who have met the criteria reflect national character by achieving as much geographical spread and gender representation as possible. The exercise is an annual event and we will update the site from time to time to ensure implement (sic) in service delivery.” CITY LAWYER investigations however showed that the website was perhaps last updated in 2017.

Although the committee on one part states that the “current guideline” is the one of 17th December, 2013 it in another post states that “New LPPC Guidelines have been signed into effect by His Lordship, the Hon Chief Justice of Nigeria/Chairman Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee on 12th day of October, 2017. This new set of guidelines now determine the process of receiving applications, screening and selection of new Senior Advocates of Nigeria.”

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.