Security Forces Arrest and Intimidate Protesters in Gross Violation of Freedom of Assembly Rights

Nigeria’s security agents perpetrated a gross violation of the right to peaceful assembly on August 19, 2019, as they deployed in full force to harass people who were assembling at the Lagos Centre, Ikeja, Lagos for a rally called by the Coalition for Revolution (CORE).

The strong contingent of police and military officers sealed off the venue and turned away people to prevent them from gathering for the protest.

The event was, however, held later in the day, following the intervention of leading CORE members, including human rights lawyer and activist Femi Falana, who met with the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Zubairu Muazu, who gave the clearance.

“The law in Nigeria is that the NPF [Nigeria Police Force] has a duty as officers to protect us when we want to have a rally or a political meeting so that no other person prevents us from achieving our aim of peaceful assembly. I was informed that about three people have been arrested this morning and I will make sure I go for their unconditional release,” Falana later said in an interview with the press.

The human rights lawyer added that the initial disruption by the police reminded him of the dark days of Sani Abacha where protests were often violently disrupted.

The MFWA condemns the violent dispersal of protesters to prevent them from exercising their democratic right. Section 40 of Nigeria’s Constitution stipulates that ” every citizen shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.” The initial hostility against demonstrators is therefore unlawful and the authorities must act to prevent a recurrence.

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