Jan. 16, 2014
By Bassey Isoh
In December 2007, The Court of Appeal affirmed the inalienable right of Nigerians and associations to hold rallies without police permit. The court upheld the judgment of a Federal high court which had, in June 2005 declared the public order Act which requires individuals or group to obtain permit from the police before rallies as an infringement on the fundamental human rights of individuals and groups to associate as provided by section 40 of the 1999 constitution and article 7 of the African Charter on Human and people rights.
The court further held that “the provision for police permit was unnecessary as we are in a democracy and Nigeria has joined the league of civilized society”. The court also declared that the inspector General of Police had no right to make laws.
The then inspector General of Police Mike Okiro in his reaction said “The Police will appeal to the supreme court”. Till date no appeal has been filed either at the Supreme Court or to any other court anywhere in the world.
After this judgment Ex-president Yar’Adua of blessed memory insisted that all court orders must be respected and obeyed. The duties of the police thereafter were limited to providing security for genuine non-violent protesters.
Sadly, after the demise of Yar’Adua, salient gains under his regime for the promotion of the rule of law and decency in a democracy are systematically being reversed.
The police by insisting on the continuous enforcement of a law that has been abrogated by a superior court with inherent jurisdiction is, to say the least, infringing on our rights as a people to the tenets of democracy and the rule of law.
It is even more embarrassing that we have an Attorney General who is not saying anything about this lawlessness. If the usually conservative judiciary will not speak out, informed citizens owe this country a duty to speak up and defend our democratic norms and institutions.
THE PUBLIC ORDER ACT 1936
The public order Act had its origin from the United kingdom. The Act was passed to control extremist political movements in the 1930’s such as the British Union of fascists.
The Colonialists brought this obnoxious law to Nigeria in order to suppress the aggressive agitation for independence in the 1930’s and the 40’s. This law has since been repealed and has no place either in the statute books or the justice system of Britain and United Kingdom. Sadly, we copied this law ‘mutatis mutandis’ (word for word) and incorporated it into our laws of federation 1990 without considering local circumstances and its relevance to a democracy. The court of Appeal declared the law unconstitutional but the police, an enforcement agency, in their wisdom are insisting they must enforce a void law. What illegality?
I have said it over and over again, we have some of the best laws in this country but the executors of such laws are mostly ignorant, mischievous or lacked the capacity to hold such responsibilities. We as citizens need to rise up and say no to illegalities for the sake of posterity. We must reject this neo-colonial cum military mentality. We must resist anti- democratic practices. We must reject oppression, we must reject governance by whims and caprices, we must be governed by our laws properly interpreted not by the inclination of a few. We all are stakeholders in papa’s land.
God Bless Nigeria.