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Protesters entitled to police protection - Falana writes IGP

Femi-Falana

Femi Falana (SAN)

By Taiwo Okanlawon

Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria has written a letter to Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun, calling on the police authorities to give protesters adequate protection.

The human rights activist warned the Nigeria Police Force against clamping down on members of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and individuals protesting against the hardship in the country.

NLC had, on February 16, declared a nationwide protest for February 27 and 28 in reaction to the economic hardship confronting the nation, following the expiration of a 14-day ultimatum given to the federal government to address the issue.

In a statement, Falana said that according to Section 83(4) of the Police Act, the protesters have the right to be protected during their demonstrations.

“In view of the threat of some police officers to clamp down on members of the Nigeria Labour Congress who have resolved to protest against hardship in the country from February 27 to 28, 2024, it is pertinent to point out that protesters are entitled to police protection. Specifically, Section 83(4) of the Police Establishment Act 2020 provides as follows:

“Where a person or organisation notifies the police of his or its intention to hold a public meeting, rally or procession on a public highway or such meetings in a place where the public has access to, the police officer responsible for the area where the meeting, rally or procession will take place shall mobilise personnel to provide security to provide security cover for the meeting, rally or the procession. We are compelled to call on the Inspector-General of Police to ensure that the protesters are given adequate security by the various police commands in the country,” Falana wrote.

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Earlier, Femi Falana, wrote a letter to Lateef Fagbemi, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Federal Ministry of Justice, arguing that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) “is not in contempt of court”.

It would be recalled that following the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on May 29, 2023, the Federal Government, as Falana argued, commenced negotiations with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) as the subsidy removal policy had brought untold hardship to Nigerians.

He continued: “While the negotiations were in progress, the Federal Ministry of Justice rushed to the National Industrial Court to file Suit No NICN/ABJ/158/2023 between Federal Government of Nigeria & Anor. v Nigeria Labour Congress & Anor in respect of the same issues. On June 5, 2023 the Honourable Justice Yemi Anuwe granted the application of the Federal Government for an ex parte order to restrain the NLC and TUC from embarking on strike against the removal of fuel subsidy.

Although both the NLC and TUC complied with the ex parte order, they promptly filed an application to set aside same for want of jurisdiction. They equally asked for a stay of execution of the order ex parte pending the determination of the motion. The application to set aside the ex parte order filed by the Defendants and the motion for interlocutory injunction filed by the Claimants have not been considered as parties resolved to settle the case out of court.

Even though the parties signed a 16-point memorandum of understanding, the Federal Government did not implement all the terms of the Agreement. Hence, on August 2, 2023, both NLC and TUC held a peaceful protest throughout the country.

Instead of implementing the Agreement, the Federal Government initiated contempt proceedings against the NLC and TUC at the National Industrial Court. We challenged the competence of the contempt proceedings. However, the Federal Government turned round to withdraw the application for contempt.”

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