Human rights and pro-democracy group, TakeItBack Movement, has tackled the Lagos State Police Command over its recent statement warning against the commemoration of #EndSARS in the state.
Last year, thousands of youths had stormed the streets to protest against police brutality and demand good governance.
But the demonstration, which lasted for days, came to an abrupt end after personnel of the Nigerian Army opened fire on some of the protesters on the night of October 20, 2020.
In honour of those who lost their lives during the protests and on the night of the attack on the demonstrators, youths in the country announced an anniversary to mark the occasion.
The anniversary is scheduled to hold on October 20.
In a recent statement, however, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, warned youths against the anniversary.
Reacting to the police statement, the TakeItBack Movement slammed the planned attempt to stifle peaceful demonstration, saying such is undemocratic.
In a statement by Festus Ogun, its legal adviser, the group said the protest is a fundamental right of Nigerians as contained in the constitution.
It also vowed to resist any attempt by the Lagos police to harass and intimidate peaceful protesters.
The group said, “The statement credited to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, warning citizens not to exercise their fundamental rights to protest during the commemoration of the #EndSars Massacre Anniversary is unconscionable, draconian and a reckless invitation to anarchy. Concerned Nigerians have taken his words like those of stand-up comedians.
“CP Hakeem Odumosu has no such power, right or authority to warn against, prohibit or outlaw protests. That will be acting the fragile limits of his powers and against the constitution. He cannot, under our extant laws, interfere with the hallowed right to protest under any guise. The only legal duty he has is to ensure the security and welfare of all protesters; which must be professionally done.
“#EndSars Memorial Demonstration is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Sections 39, 40 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered, safeguard and guarantee the right to protest as a human right that shall be enjoyed by all citizens without arbitrary restraint or careless warning. Articles 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Enforcement and Ratification) Act equally protect the right to protest. Additionally, Articles 18-21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 fully protect the constitutional liberty to protest.
“Emphasising the sacred nature of the right to protest in a constitutional democracy, the Court of Appeal in the case of IGP V. ANPP (2008) 12 WRN 65 held that “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 effect whatsoever.
“Rather than becoming restless about the looming inevitable revolution that will be witnessed in our country, in the fullness of time, the police chief is advised to ensure the right of protesters are fully protected.
“A police notorious for extrajudicial killing, torture, extortion and brutality lacks the legal and moral right to warn or caution victims on how to demand a better life. The audacity is provocative, scandalous and insulting.
“We shall not condone any form of harassment, intimidation, brutalisation or arrest. We shall resist any attempt to encroach on our constitutionally guaranteed rights. The police and other security agencies are hereby put on notice and they should be guided accordingly.”