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June 12: Police should apologise to protesters – Falana

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Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana on Sunday as asked the Nigeria Police Force to apologise to protesters who were arrested during the June 12 nationwide protest on Saturday.

Falana who is the interim chairman of the alliance on surviving COVID-19 and beyond accused the police of violating the fundamental right of expression of the protesters.

“The police should learn to respect the constitutional rights of protesters. It’s uncivilised for the police to be chasing and attacking unarmed protesters on the streets as if these citizens are criminals,” Falana noted in a communique.

He however commended the protesters for conducting themselves in a mature and peaceful manner.

Mr Falana also condemned the explanation of the police that the tear gas shot was to prevent hoodlums and miscreants from hijacking the peaceful rallies adding that there are lessons to take from that incident which he describes as unfortunate.

The rights activist urged future protesters to inform the police ahead of their action as demanded by law.

Meanwhile the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba says no protester was arrested on June 12.

In an interview with Channels Television on Saturday, the police spokesman justified the use of tear gas on protesters who took to the streets to mark Democracy Day by voicing their grievances against the government of the day.

According to Mr Mba, the actions of officers were in line with international best practices of dispersing violent protests.

The police shot teargas at protesters in Lagos and Abuja however, the Channels Television correspondents who covered the protest in Abuja did not observe any sign of violence from the protesters before the police disrupted their parade.

According to Mr. Mba, the use of teargas was an isolated case in Abuja where protesters turned violent.

“We had an isolated case in Abuja where some of the protesters became unruly and in line with international best practices, police fired teargas at them,” he said. “And that is an acceptable mode of engaging violent protesters anywhere in the world, whether it is in Abuja, Lagos, Paris, London, or New York or California. That is internationally accepted.

“We would have problems if we had fired live bullets at them, but when you fire teargas at protesters to disperse them, you are not in breach of any known code, either nationally or internationally.

“I also want to use this opportunity to state clearly that no citizen, either in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, or anywhere, is currently in detention as a result of this isolated incident.

“As long as protesters conduct themselves within the confines of the law; they do not constitute themselves into a nuisance, they do not breach the rights of other citizens, they do not obstruct traffic, they do not compel other citizens to join their protests, the police will largely work with them.

“When you protest in contravention of this set of conditions I have given, clearly you are coming in direct conflict with the laws of the land, and the police will never stand by idly and watch you create problems for the entire polity.”

Biodun Abimbola

NEWSVERGE, published by The Verge Communications is an online community of international news portal and social advocates dedicated to bringing you commentaries, features, news reports from a Nigerian-African perspective.The Verge Communications (NEWSVERGE) is fully registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a corporate organization.

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