The use of water cannons, tear gas and other offensive means by the police to disperse peacefully protesting citizens against the absence of our President is condemnable. The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended). This right has been affirmed by the courts of the land.
What was expected of the police, who have relatively done well with regards to public protests in recent times, was to sit it out with these protesters.
The resort to violent dispersal is not only a violation of the rights of the protesters and norms of civilized behavior but a smirch on the record of IGP Ibrahim Idris who during his oath of office had assured Nigerians that the Police Force under his watch would police in line with democratic culture.
The unnecessary violence by the police has unwittingly put the discourse of the protesters demands in the public domain. Beyond this, it is a throw-back to the dark era of Police Force when they trampled on the rights of the citizenry considered to be in opposition to the government of the day.
Accordingly, we sincerely advise the police to respect this fundamental right of citizens to freely assemble and peacefully protest, irrespective of the subject matter of such actions.
It is important they respect the rights of the citizenry and not abridge them at will. It is important to note that poor handling of a small situation could degenerate. The police should do all that is necessary to avoid this in our national interest.
Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, General Secretary
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