We view the recent announcement from the Rivers State Government purporting to ban all forms of protests in Rivers State, as illegal, mindboggling, completely lacking in empathy for murdered Nigerian citizens and frankly an act of criminal conspiracy to continue to oppress and murder innocent Nigerians.
The constitution of the FRN guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and a right to protest – so long as it is peaceful. Therefore no one can take those rights away under any circumstances except those provided in the constitution.
Nigerians are sceptical because similar pronouncements, proscribing SARS and banning check points on our roads, have been made in the past and yet we are here today. While it is fair to give a 4th chance to the government we also call for:
- Bringing justice to the families of Nigerians that were killed by members of the NPF.
- Engaging professional mental health experts to mandatorily certify every member of the current NPF and require such certification for every new prospective recruit going forward in line with the new Police Reform Act.
- To immediately review the recruitment and salary structure of the NPF.
- To immediately withdraw all NPF personnel from bodyguard duties to VIPs and politicians except where mandated by law. To make it illegal for such practices to continue.
- To immediately gazette and implement in its entirety the new Police Reform Act.
It is our considered opinion that the pronouncement by the Rivers State Government, a government headed by an acclaimed legal practitioner and member of the revered Bar is not only an absurdity but also a dent on the image of the Nigerian Bar Association. How is it that Nigerians are been killed by those mandated by law to protect and guarantee their fundamental human rights and an officer of the state calls for the abrogation of their rights and their legal protest aimed at restoring justice?
The Rivers State Government and indeed all state governments and the Federal Government, must release immediately all those arrested in the course of these protests and immediately arrest and arraign all police officers involved in the killing of protesters.
To the Nigerian Police, it is sad that you would prefer to fight protesters instead of surrendering the evil ones amongst you. It is beyond understanding that protesters who are calling for reforms that will see you better paid and your families cared for, are the ones you shoot at. However, you protect those who stash millions in their houses, you will even protect those given contracts to make your uniforms to give to you free but they keep the money and you have to buy your uniforms. Worse, you protect those who misappropriate your allowances and salaries.
Choose your battle wisely, the people appreciate the need for a trusted and people-oriented police force and so the enemies are not the people.
We do not believe that there is any moral, physical or legal incapacitation on the part of the Federal Government to implement these 5 point demands.
13th October, 2020