Rep Bill To Criminalise Protests Scales Through First Reading

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The House of Representatives bill prescribing a five-year jail term to unlawful protesters in Nigeria has been approved for a second reading.

The bill proposes to punish individuals who participate in unlawful assembly, riot, and mob action.

The bill which was sponsored by Rep. Emeka Chinedu Martins (PDP-Imo), seeks to amend the Criminal Code Act, Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 “to further preserve the sanctity of human life and property, and to provide specifically for the crime of mob action, prescribe punishment and other matters.”

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It explains that “An assembly of three or more persons who assemble for the purpose of protecting any house against persons threatening to break and enter the house in order to commit a felony or misdemeanor therein is not an unlawful assembly.

“When an unlawful assembly has begun to act in so tumultuous a manner as to disturb the peace, the assembly is called a riot, and the persons assembled are said to be riotously assembled.

“When an unlawful assembly becomes violent as to commit unlawful acts against any person or property, the assembly is called a mob and their violent act is referred to as mob action”.

It also stated that whoever participates in a riot is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years, while mob action is five years imprisonment.

According to Mr. Chinedu in his lead debate, mob justice is on the increase as the law enforcement agencies do not punish those who participate in it and the amendment to the Act will encourage them to punish persons involved in mob action.

“The failure of our law enforcement agents to prevent mob justice or punish those who participate in it has lent an air of acceptability to this vile practice. How often people resort to jungle justice as a form of punishment to alleged offenders is also a testament to the fact that people have lost faith in the criminal justice system. Every too often the participants in mob actions go unpunished.

“The Criminal Code Act in section 69 defines a riot as when an unlawful assembly turns tumultuous as to disturb the peace but did not provide for when the unlawful assembly turns violent against persons and property.

“This amendment to the Bill seeks to remedy that by providing for specific amendments to sections 69, 71, and 76 of the Criminal Code Act dealing with mob action and further prescribing punishment for the crime.

“The amendment to the Act will encourage our law enforcement agencies to go after persons involved in mob action and give impetus to the criminal justice system to bring such offenders to book.”, he added.

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