FEMI Falana, a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says he has received instructions to charge the Nigeria Police Force to court over the arrest of some #ENDSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate last Saturday.
Falana said this during a virtual roundtable discussion organised by the International Centre for Investigative Centre (The ICIR) to discuss issues surrounding the #ENDSARS protests which occurred at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on February 13.
“I already have instructions, at least from a couple of #ENDSARS protesters, to approach the court for legal redress and we are going to do that next week,” said Falana.
He noted that another suit would also be filed with respect to #ENDSARS protesters whose bank accounts were frozen by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“These cases are meant to ask for reparation for the victims of injustice and human rights infringement in Nigeria so that those cases would serve as a deterrent and to help expand the democratic space– until we are able to win our rights, until we are able to get the government of Lagos State to compel and the police as well as others to appreciate the need for us to sit down and work out the mechanism for allowing people to enjoy their right to protest. That is the essence of the cases that we are going to file,” Falana stated.
Responding to questions over the arrest of ENDSARS protesters last Saturday, Falana maintained that it was against the provision of the Nigerian law, stressing that there was no need to obtain a police permit before holding a protest in the country.
Falana noted that the tradition of police permit before protests was merely a relic of colonialism, stressing that rather than stop protesters, the duty of the police was to protect them.
“Police permit was a relic of colonialism. In 2015, the National Assembly said we needed a law to compel the police to protect the protesters. Based on that, the Police Act of 2020, Section 83, Subsection 4 provides that during protests the police shall provide security for the protesters,” said Falana.
He noted that his son, Folarin Falana, who is a lawyer, told him that truly, COVID-19 regulations were violated, but it was violated by the police.
According to Falana, the Lagos State law on COVID-19 allowed the gathering of 50 persons once they maintained social distancing and wore facemasks, but all that was violated when they were arrested and kept in a Black Maria.
Speaking on the events that occurred during the second #ENDSARS protests on Saturday, Rinu Oduola, an ENDSARS campaigner, also faulted the arrest of her fellow protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate.
She said most of the protesters were arrested even before starting the protest either by the police or workers of the Lekki Concession Company (LCC).
She added that the action of the police was ‘shocking’ because it was against the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Are people not allowed to protests again? They were thrown into the Black Maria and transported to three police stations.
“They were beaten, brutalised and harassed. They were not even allowed to see their lawyers until the evening,” Rinu lamented.
She stated that the protesters were arraigned in a mobile court on bogus charges bordering on contravening COVID-19 rules and breach of public peace.
On whether the protest was necessary, she added that no one would dictate the necessity of a protest, whether necessary or not, because it was permitted according to the nation’s constitution.