The Nigeria Police Force does not learn anything. Otherwise it should know by now that it does not have the powers to stop Nigerians from protesting peacefully, and it has nothing to do with whether their cause is popular or not.
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command has warned against plans by a group of Nigerians to #OccupyCBN in protest against the monetary policies of the nation’s central bank which it has criticised.
In a statement on Thursday, the FCT Command Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Assistant Superintendent of Police Anjuguri Manzah, said the group has “neither written to inform or notify the FCT Police Command of its intention, nor has it secured any approval from the commissioner of police authorising it to do so.”
It therefore warned the #OccupyCBN group to shun its plan and “explore legitimate avenue to channel their grievances and misgiving to the appropriate authorities. Any gathering in contravention of this advice will amount to an unlawful assembly and those arrested in the act will be prosecuted in accordance with the appropriate sections of the law.”
Nigerian courts have ruled several times that peaceful protest is a legitimate tool for citizens, so Manzah’s advise that the protesters explore “legitimate avenue” is superfluous.
In a 2012 ruling, the court of appeal said, “In present day Nigeria, clearly police permit has outlived its usefulness. Certainly in a democracy, it is the right of citizens to conduct peaceful processions, rallies or demonstrations without seeking and obtaining permission from anybody. It is a right guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and any law that attempts to curtail such right is null and void and of no consequence.”
In fact in 2014, when the notorious former commissioner of police in the FCT, Joseph Mbu, tried to stop members of the BBOG movement from protesting over the kidnap of the Chibok girls, Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court declared his attempt as “illegal, null and void.”
Meanwhile, the #OccupyCBN group in a counter statement said it had even reached out to the police in a letter addressed to the Commissioner of the FCT Police Command, asking for the deployment of policemen to ensure a peaceful procession and to avoid any incidents.
Signed by the conveners of the protest, Deji Adeyanju and Adeoye Adelaja, the group said its “letter was delivered to Inspector Maigari who informed us that the Commissioner was not in the office at that time. He refused to sign an acknowledgment copy and requested that our representative returned to see the Commissioner.
“When our representative returned he was informed that the Commissioner had not yet returned. Our representative then took Inspector Maigari’s mobile phone number –******– to enable him call and confirm whether the Commissioner had returned coming back to the FCT Police Command.
“Our representative was still at the FCT Police Command when we discovered that the ASP Manzah had issued a statement saying the police had not been informed of the procession and threatening to arrest participants.”
The Acting Director of Corporate Communication of CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, had earlier alleged that the anti-CBN procession was sponsored by desperate forces to sabotage the economy. Okorafor and the CBN have rights to believe that. But their rights do not supersede the rights of other Nigerians to lawfully and peacefully protest.
The group berated the CBN spokesman who “completely failed, refused and/or neglected to offer any economically viable explanation for the current loss of jobs, closure of factories and spiking prices of vital products required for everyday living.”
The group vowed to go ahead with its peaceful protest on Friday.