#EndPoliceBrutality: Do You Need A Police Permit To Protest?

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#EndPoliceBrutality: Do You Need A Police Permit To Protest? Daily Law Tips (Tip 677) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

 Introduction: 

Some people argue that there cannot be a lawful protest without a permission from the Nigeria Police Force or the Governor of a state. While relying on a federal law (the Public Order Act of 1979), the Nigeria Police Force has also arrested persons for protesting without a permission from the Inspector General of Police. Recently, a Governor of a state in Nigeria, ordered Nigerians not to protest in his state. This work answers the question on whether a person needs any permission to protest in Nigeria, having in mind the fundamental human rights of persons in Nigeria. 

Protest and the Right to Protest: 

Protest is simply the expression of disapproval and objection. It can come in different forms, verbal, written, physical, gesture, social media and others. Both under the constitution of Nigeria and under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, persons in any part of Nigeria have the fundamental human right to privately or publicly protest over any issue, any time and any day. 

Fundamental human rights are the entitlement of persons, they are legally provided by law and cannot be ordinarily denied by any person or government. Fundamental human rights are basic, elementary, mandatory, compulsory and unshakable entitlements of persons, just because the persons are persons. Fundamental human rights are never purchased rather acquired by being a person (human being or corporate being). 

A protest can be physical and even remote (social media). Looking at the nature of a protest (physical protest), there will be physical meeting/assembly, songs, chanting, walks and expression of idea/view. All these are protected by several fundamental human rights in Nigeria. A combination of several fundamental human rights, makes up the Right to Protest. 

Permission to Protest: 

First of all, there is no need or requirement for any permission to protest in any part of Nigeria. Protest is free and lawful, it is protected by the constitution of Nigeria. It is a fundamental human right of person in Nigeria to be expressive and propagate their views and ideas. Like any lawful event, protesters must ensure that their protest and actions are peaceful. 

The Public Order Act of 1979 is rather an undemocratic federal law (now declared invalid) made since 1979 that requires protesters to seek license/permission from the Governor of the state where protest is to be held at least within 48 hours before the protest. By that law, if the Governor of a state believes that public peace will not be violated, then the Governor may direct a superior police officer to grant permission to the protesters. The federal law (the Public Order Act) is contrary to the constitution of Nigeria since it sets a barrier to the enjoyment of fundamental human rights of protesters in Nigeria. It seeks to contradict the Constitution of Nigeria by violating the fundamental human rights and any law that attempts to do so, becomes invalid immediately. 

In a 2006 judgment of the Federal High Court, the Public Order Act was declared invalid sequel to the argument of Mr. Femi Falana, SAN. The same judgment was also affirmed (supported) on appeal by the Judges of the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal stated that: “In present day Nigeria, clearly police permit has outlived its usefulness. Certainly in a democracy, it is the right of citizens to conduct peaceful processions, rallies or demonstrations without seeking and obtaining permission from anybody. It is a right guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and any law that attempts to curtail such right is null and void and of no consequence.”

In declaring the Public Order Act invalid, the Court of Appeal of Nigeria also relied on the decision of the Supreme Court of Ghana, where the Justices in Ghana, stated that; “Statutes requiring such permits for peaceful demonstrations, processions and rallies are things of the past. Police permit is the brain child of the colonial era and ought not to remain in our statute books.” 

Conclusion: 

In all, protester in Nigeria do not need any permit or license from any person, government, governor or police before they can protest on any issue, any time, any day and in any part of Nigeria. No person needs any permission, permit, clearance, notice or signal for him/her to protest and exercise his/her fundamental human rights in Nigeria. Any law or order that suggest that there is need for such permission is contrary to the constitution of Nigeria and as such invalid. The Public Order Act is invalid and unconstitutional, especially the part that limits the right of Nigerians to protest. All persons in Nigeria have right to peacefully protest in any part of Nigeria. 

My authorities, are:

  1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 33 to 46, 214, 215 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
  2. Sections 1, 2, 3, 12 and 13 of the Public Order Act, 1979.
  3. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on meaning and nature of fundamental human rights) in the case of RANSOME-KUTI & ORS v. AG FEDERATION & ORS (1985) LPELR-2940(SC)
  4. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on meaning and nature of fundamental human rights) in the case of AGBAI & ORS v. OKOGBUE (1991) LPELR-225(SC)
  5. The Judgement of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria (on the Unconstitutionality of the Public Order Act) in the case of Inspector-General of Police v. All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (2008) WRN 65
  6. The Judgement of the Federal High Court of Nigeria (on the Unconstitutionality of the Public Order Act) in the case of All Nigeria Peoples Party & Ors. v. Inspector General of Police (2006) CHR 181
  7. Judgment of the Supreme Court of Ghana (on that no permit or license is needed for protests) in the case of of New Patriotic Party v. Inspector-General of Police, Accra (1992-1995) GBR 585.
  8. Femi Falana, “Police Permit Not Required For Rallies in Nigeria” (Premium Times, 23 January 2014) <https://www.premiumtimesng.com/opinion/153860-police-permit-required-rallies-nigeria.html> accessed 14 October 2020. 
  9. “Human Rights” (Stanford, 14 October 2020) <https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights-human/> accessed 14 October 2020.
  10. Aisha Salaudeen, “Kanye West and other stars join global protests over police brutality in Nigeria” (CNN, 13 October 2020) <https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/13/africa/global-end-sars-protests-nigeria-intl/index.html > accessed 14 October 2020. 
  11. Lemmy Ughegbe,Nigeria: Public Order Act Unconstitutional, Says Law Reform Commission” (All Africa, 14 October 2020) <https://allafrica.com/stories/201411140986.html> accessed 14 October 2020.
  12. Temilade Adelaja, “Thousands of Nigerians Demand Police Overhaul for Sixth Day” (Aljazeera, 13 October 2020) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/13/thousands-of-nigerians-demand-police-reforms-for-sixth-day> accessed 14 October 2020.
  13. Onyekachi Umah, “#EndSarsNow: Nigeria Police Lacks Power To Punish” (Daily Law Tip [Tip 670]) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/endsarsnow-nigeria-police-lacks-power-to-punish/ > accessed 13 October 2020
  14. Victor Azubuike, “Wike bans End SARS protests in Rivers State” (Daily Post, 13 October 2020) <https://dailypost.ng/2020/10/13/wike-bans-end-sars-protests-in-rivers-state/> accessed 15 October 2020. 

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