A foremost human rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN has said that the presidency lacks the power to stop any peaceful protest against insecurity.
He said this on Sunday while reacting to a presidential statement condemning purported plot to protest against growing insecurity in the land.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu said in a Saturday statement that opposition politicians were plotting to instigate Nigerians into protesting against the nation’s security chiefs.
He disclosed that the protest was scheduled for Monday, and warned Nigerians and the media against allowing themselves to be hoodwinked by the instigators.
In his reaction, Falana said that the Muhammadu Buhari administration lacks the moral right to harass any protester.
He recalled how Buhari and other leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), including the immediate-past National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun and the incumbent Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, protested against insecurity on November 14, 2014.
The respected lawyer said, “The authorities of the Nigeria Police Force are urged not to harass aggrieved Nigerians for protesting against perceived injustice in the country.
“After all, a group of citizens were allowed to demonstrate in Abuja last week in support of the prosecution of the counter-insurgency operations by the service chiefs.
“On that occasion, the group called on the Federal Government to expel Amnesty International from Nigeria for criticising the service chiefs.
“Without any evidence whatsoever the Presidency has alleged that those who are calling for the replacement of the service chiefs are working for the Boko Haram sect!
“However, since Nigerians have the fundamental right to demonstrate for or against the Federal Government without official fiat the Presidency has no power to stop any peaceful protest in the country.”
According to the senior lawyer, the court affirmed Nigerians’ right to assemble and protest peacefully in the case of All Nigerian Peoples Party V. Inspector-General of Police (2008).
“It was in the exercise of the right of freedom of expression that APC leaders including General Muhammadu Buhari, Chief John Oyegun, Dr. Sylvester Onu and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi had participated in the protest held at Abuja on November 20, 2014, against insecurity under the erstwhile Jonathan administration,” Falana added.