Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says state governors — not the police — are in charge of rallies.
Falana said this on Tuesday at the commemorative lecture and public presentation titled, ‘One year after Endsars, 35 years after Dele Giwa and the quest to remake Nigeria’.
Ahead of the #EndSARS anniversary, the police have warned against protests planned in different states.
Commenting on the development, Falana said it is the right of Nigerians to protest without a license or permit issued by the police.
He said state governors are vested with the power to “manage public meetings, rallies and processions” under the Public Order Act.
Last year, some lawyers questioned the legal validity of the decision of 28 out of the 36 state governors in the country to institute judicial commissions of inquiry to investigate serious allegations of police brutality after the #endsars protests in October 2021,” he said.
I was compelled to draw the attention of such lawyers to the case of Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Ibrahim Babangida (2003) 12 WRN 1 where the Supreme Court held that the power to set a tribunal of Inquiry is vested in state governors and that the power of the President to institute a commission of inquiry under the Tribunal of Enquiry Act is limited to the federal capital territory.
Consequently, while the state governors set up the judicial commissions for each of the states the panel instituted by the President was limited to the federal capital territory.
In view of the foregoing, governors should take control of the security situation in all states of the federation. In particular, state governors should henceforth exercise the exclusive powers conferred on them to manage public meetings, rallies, and processions in line with the provisions of the Public Order Act and the relevant judicial authorities.
The Inspector-General of police and commissioners of police should stop usurping the powers of state governors to infringe on the fundamental right of the Nigerian people to protest peacefully against public policies considered inimical to their interests.
State attorneys-general are enjoined to ensure that police officers are prosecuted whenever they refuse to provide adequate security for participants in public meetings, rallies, and processions in contravention of section 83 (4) of the Police Establishment Act, 2020 which provides as follows:
“Where a person or organization notifies the police of his or its intention to hold a public meeting, rally or procession on a public highway or such meetings in a place where the public has access to, the police officer responsible for the area where the meeting rally or procession will take place shall mobilize personnel to provide security cover for the meeting, rally or the procession.”