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Police affairs minister says Lekki Toll Gate not a place for protests


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MOHAMMED Dingyadi, Nigeria’s minister of police affairs, has said that Lekki Toll Gate is not a place for protests, noting that there are designated places for peaceful protests across the country.

He justified the use of force on #OccupyLekkiTollGate protesters.

“Lekki is not a place for protest. There are specific areas that are assigned or designated as areas for protests,” said Dingyadi, while appearing on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on Tuesday.

“We agree that protests should be conducted when the need arises, but we cannot be protesting everywhere at all times. We have to have specific locations where these protests are conducted and they have to be orderly, they have to be reasonable and they have to be with level of minimum sense of nationality so that we don’t just allow every protest to take place without any course,” he noted.

The social media was awash on Saturday with footages of protesters being forcefully hauled by security men into a waiting Black Maria ready to convey them to unknown destinations.

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The protesters had gone to the toll gate to express discontentment with the decision of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to allow the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) to reopen the Lekki Toll Gate without granting justice to those that were killed there by security operatives during the #ENDSARS protest on October 20th, 2020.

Debo Adebayo, a popular Nigerian comedian, who is also known as Mr Macaroni, was seen with other arrested protesters half-naked and cranked together in a van, while sweating profusely.

The scenes have drawn the irk of Nigerians and civil society organisations like the Amnesty International and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), who called for their unconditional release and prosecution of the officers responsible for such dastardly and inhumane acts.

Hakeem Odumosu, state commissioner of police, while reacting to the outrage, condemned the conduct of his men, saying the conduct was not in line with the standard operating procedure of the police.

According to him, he had ordered Adegoke Fayoade, deputy commissioner of police in charge of the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Panti, to analyse the video and bring to book whoever must have been responsible for the act.

But the minister, who expressed his admiration for the way the policemen were deployed to the venue of the protest well-kitted, justified the use of force deployed against some of the protesters.

He said the use of minimum force was needed by the police to arrest the protesters.

“This is the kind of things that we want to take place in any situation that we find ourselves. Like what you saw in Lekki, this is how it is supposed to be. They were fully equipped, well-uniformed and they were ready for the #EndSARS protesters. That was why we were able to contain the situation.

“Minimum force was used. People always say that the police use force but you forget the fact that for you to ask somebody to please move this side, please be orderly, you have to use some level of force, you have to use some minimum level of force to ensure that people comply with what you are saying. I am not talking about shooting, I am not talking about teargas, you have seen some people ask some people to go into (Black) Maria,” he said.

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Reacting to reports that some of the arrested persons were just passersby but indiscriminately picked up by the police, Dingyadi said, “How will the police arrest you if you are not part of a situation? How will they see you to arrest you? If you are not in Lekki, why will they arrest you? They cannot pursue people on the street to arrest them.”

What does Nigeria Constitution and International Law say?

Although Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that every person is entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, the Nigerian Constitution does not specifically state where protests can be held or not.

Internationally, the right of assembly is guaranteed.

Nigeria is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966.

Article 21 of ICCPR, which governs the right to peaceful assembly, provides thus: “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognised. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.“

Nigeria is also party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Article 11 of the Charter provides that: “Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided by law, in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics, and rights and freedoms of others.“

 

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