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Don't Take Us Back To Military Rule, Lawyer Tells Buhari Over Clampdown On Peaceful Protest


He said the clampdown by security agents on protests in the country is worrisome and a clear violation of Section 36 of the Constitution, which guarantees the fundamental rights of Nigerian people to freedom of expression and the right to protest against policies of the government considered inimical to their interests.

 A constitutional lawyer, Kayode Ajulo has told President Muhammadu Buhari not to take the country back to the dark days of military rule with the criminalisation of peaceful protests and shrinking of the civic and media space.

 He said the clampdown by security agents on protests in the country is worrisome and a clear violation of Section 36 of the Constitution, which guarantees the fundamental rights of  Nigerian people to freedom of expression and the right to protest against policies of the government considered inimical to their interests.

 Ajulo stated this on Thursday in Abuja

while speaking to SaharaReporters on the state of the nation.

 He said any attempt to criminalise protests and muzzle freedom of expression would be resisted by Nigerians when pushed to the wall.

 He said, "The criminalisation of civil space for civil agitation and peaceful protest is not what is intended by our constitution.

 "Our laws are so clear on the freedom of expression and we have a plethora of judgements and rulings that allow Nigerians to protest against any government policies provided that it is peaceful.

 "Remember that there was a time when the police would be telling Nigerians that you can protest, you need a police permit. The court has on several times come out to say no,  you do not need a police permit before you can protest.

 "It is very wrong, particularly during a democratic government. Even during the military government, Nigerians were allowed to protest."

 Ajulo explained that the open ground (Arcade) located in front of the National Assembly building was constructed and designed for Nigerians to accommodate protesters who may want to express their feelings through protests and submit petitions to their representatives on policies of the government.

 He asked why security agents would continue to deny peaceful protesters access to the National Assembly building to ventilate their demands and anger against any government policies.

 He added that police must guide and provide security for protesters to avoid infiltration.

 "In a situation that 50 or 30 people want to protest, you will see 200 policemen beating the hell out of them. What for? Unfortunately, these things are being heard and seen all over the world, showing what Nigeria is turning to.

 "I can tell you that it will get to a stage where Nigerians will be pushed to the wall," he said.

 Speaking on the security challenges in the country, Ajulo blamed the situation on human rights violation, lopsided appointments, injustice, and impunity on the part of the President and his cabinet members.

 "We got into this mess through maladministration, and violation of people's rights; when some people want to lord it over you," Ajulo stated.

 On the burning of offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and police stations in the South-East region by gunmen, the constitutional lawyer charged the security agents to step up their game and protect the lives and property of Nigerians in all parts of the country.

 Ajulo said, "The President needs to stand and the policies of government need to remind and reassure people that they are part and parcel of this country. Even our constitution is clear that nobody should be discriminated against.  Everybody has equal rights and opportunities. A situation where society is based on justice, equity, and rule of law, everything will work well."

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