Posted by News Express | 4 February 2017 | 2,352 times
For some days now the most important news is the proposed National Civil Right Action Against Bad Economic Policies, scheduled for February 6, 2017, initiated by the irrepressible social crusader and musical icon, Innocent Tuface Idibia.
Already, Abuja’s political home-front has caught cold, and has activated well-oiled counter-narrative action – making use of some hirelings and never-do-wells masquerading as civil society practitioners – to attack the man behind the popular movement against the excruciating cost of living: TuFace Idibia.
Those paid to tarnish the credibility of the chief organiser of theFebruary Revolution have started unleashing unprecedented verbal attacks, characterised by argumentum ad hominem (fallacy of attacking the person and not the idea).
But most Nigerians who are endowed with enough intellect to be able to sift the difference between propaganda of the government of the day and the reality of the need to canvass for a change of leadership style to steer Nigeria away from imminent economic collapse, are in total support of the essence of the coming public marches, as contemplated by Tuface Idibia and his co-conveners.
For this category of Nigerians, the maxim by Immanuel Kant, that “I think therefore, I exist”, makes more meaning now more than ever before.
I think those young persons who collected peanuts from the corridors of power in Abuja to cast aspersions against Tuface Idibia are like the Epicureans, whose modus operandi and modus vivendi(mode of operation and speaking) are summed up thus: “Let us eat today for tomorrow we shall die.”
But most Nigerians are not believers in the Epicurean school of thought. So it is expected that like the 26-year-old Mr Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian – struggling, wheelbarrow-pushing fruit-seller - who got so righteously angered at being slapped needlessly by aPolice woman in the public, and ignited the Tunisian revolution, through self-sacrifice. The people of Nigeria won't be scared by the sabre-rattling of the incompetent and politically tainted Lagos Police Commissioner, to come out and add their voices to the national call for a paradigm shift in the way the nation’s economy is administered.
It’s a notorious fact that contrary to the constitutional directive which obliges the Nigerian government to discharge its primary duty of providing the security and welfare of the people, those holding public office in Nigeria are greedy, selfish and self-centred. An average Nigerian can no longer afford to buy kerosene for domestic consumption. Today the exchange rate of our national currency to the United States dollar is around N500 to $1.00. Unemployment and insecurity have become unbearable. There are now over 100 million absolutely impoverished Nigerians, out of the estimated 150 or so Nigerians.
Kidnapping for ransom payments has become a daily affair, and these noisy police have failed to check this evil trend. Jungle justice has become a national pastime. So, why wouldn’t a wise Nigerian join the public protest on February 6th?
I’m also in support of this protest. Like millions of other Nigerians, we are convinced beyond the shadows of doubts that these demonstrations are collectively an Idea whose time has come.
A philosopher once stated that there is no Army in the world that's strong enough to defeat an idea whose time is now.
Specifically, these demonstrations are ideal and totally non-political. Ahead of preparations for the planned nationwide march against the Federal Government, TuFace Idibia has released a full transcript of his live broadcast, which was shared on his social media platforms, recently.
An online medium reports that in the video, the musician highlighted some of the key reasons why it became necessary to embark on the intended protest. The reporter asserted that though the march has been criticised by some Nigerians, among who was his former band-mate, Blackface, it has also been praised by quite a number of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora. TuFace has, however, emphatically stated that the rally is not a platform for politicians of any party to manipulate.
His words: “Since the idea of a nationwide march was first mentioned, the need for urgent solutions to the challenges facing Nigerians has become very clear. The people have hoped for a better Nigeria since 1999, but things are not getting any better for the majority. We are still where we are – poor and desperate. I will no longer be quiet.”
The musician championing the proposed march also affirmed: “I have dedicated my time and resources to peace-building, voter education towards peaceful elections, and youth engagement in governance in Nigeria. This time around, my partners, colleagues and I have come together to present a platform for real Nigerians to communicate their real pains to government at all levels in a peaceful and articulate manner, with a view to getting lasting solutions to our problems. “This march is about demanding that our leaders connect with all the people of Nigeria.
“This march is about demanding that all saboteurs of good government policies should hands off. This march is about encouraging positive-minded Nigerians to continue to work without intimidation. We have a system that is clearly designed not to work for the majority.”
Aware of the counter-narrative being bandied in a section of the uncritical media – that the protest is funded by a former governor of Akwa Ibom State – TuFace rubbished this illogical conspiracy theory by stating emphatically:
“It is not a platform for politicians of any party to manipulate. I know you will still spin it, but for one second, leave your battles aside and just listen to people without trying to score cheap political points against one another. It is not a point scoring exercise. It is certainly not personal. It is not an organised labour platform. With all due respect to our comrades who have done much for Nigeria, this march is for the unrepresented. It is not a ‘my religion or tribe is better than yours’ matter. All our blood is red.
“I, Innocent Idibia, am a living example of a Nigerian who owes their success to Nigerians of every tribe and religion. None ask ‘what religion or tribe I am before supporting me.’ I am grateful.”
Some of the basic demands of the organisers are for security of lives and property of Nigerians; a demand for qualitative education; a demand for functional healthcare, to check health tourism; a demand for regular electricity power supply; a demand for creation of the enabling environment for employment generations for the millions of the unemployed youth.
The protest is to demand for good governance and the reduction in the high cost of governance. These are constitutional demands. These demands are democratically sound.
Why is the Police Commissioner threatening fire and brimstone against the people of Nigeria who are the real owners of the sovereignty of Nigeria, from where political office-holders draw legitimacy to exercise their authority?
Now listen to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Owoseni Fayemi, as he rehashes those same infantile excuses the military era police have always used to commit atrocities against peaceful demonstrators in Nigeria.
His words: “Information reaching us revealed that some hoodlums are planning to hijack the peaceful protest. And, as such, we won’t allow it to hold in Lagos.
We know that TuFace do not have the capacity to contain such a crowd, and we will not fold our hands and watch while things go out of hand.
“The civil society had said that they do not need police permission to carry out any peaceful protest, but they should also be aware that there might be those who share an opposing view. This set of persons may want to disrupt the peaceful demonstration and would want to attack demonstrators.
“This is why we advise individuals or group of persons who may wish to embark on civil demonstration to inform the police so that adequate security arrangement would be provided.”
This Police Commissioner is dead wrong. Courts of competent jurisdiction have ruled that a Nigerian does not need police permit to exercise his/her constitutional rights to freedoms of speech or peaceful assembly.
In the year 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 (Cap 382), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, which requires Nigerians to obtain police permit before holding public rallies is unconstitutional.
The now nullified Public order Act, made it mandatory for individuals or groups to apply for and obtain police permit or approval to hold rallies and peaceful assemblies. In its judgment, the appellate court, presided over by Justice Danladi Mohammad, held that such police approval infringed on the fundamental human rights of individuals and groups provided for in the 1999 Constitution.
“The provisions of the Act are unnecessary. We are in a democracy and Nigeria has joined the league of civilised society,” Justice Olufunmilayo Adekeye, who read the lead judgment, said.
The other member of the panel who gave a concurring judgment was Justice O.F. Omoleye. The panel gave the judgment in an appeal by the Federal Government against the decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
It would be recalled that the high court had, on June 26, 2005, voided the Act while giving judgment in a suit initiated by 12 political parties under the aegis of the Conference of All Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP).
Justice Anwuli Chikere also issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Inspector-General of Police from preventing aggrieved citizens of Nigeria, including the plaintiffs, from organising or convening peaceful assemblies, meetings and rallies against unpopular government policies.
According to her, the court held that the provisions of the Public Order Act (Cap382) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (1990) were in conflict with the provision of Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution.
Incidentally, the current President, then Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd), was a direct beneficiary of this landmark court Judgment, which came after his then running mate, Dr Chuba Okadigbo, died after inhaling police teargas thrown at them while they were demonstrating, to call for electoral reforms.
The parties who bagged this historical victory for the people of Nigeria had through their lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, filed the suit on February 9, 2004 at the Federal High Court, Abuja, asking the court to restrain the FG from preventing their members and any aggrieved citizens from holding rallies in any part of Nigeria.
They asked the court to declare that the requirement of police permit for the holding of rallies was illegal and unconstitutional. The litigants posed the following questions for the court to determine:
*Whether police permit or any authority was required for holding rally or procession in any part of the Federal Republic;
*Second, the parties wanted to know whether the provisions of the Public Order Act, which prohibit the holding of rallies or processions without a police permit are not illegal and unconstitutional by virtue of Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
Consequently, the plaintiffs then urged the court to declare that the provisions of the Act, which require police permit or any other authority for the holding of rallies or processions in any part of Nigeria, were illegal and unconstitutional.
As God would have it, the court said the provisions of the draconian public order Act contravene section 40 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act.).
The plaintiffs also sought a declaration that the Inspector-General of Police was not competent under the Public Order Act, or under any law whatsoever, to issue or grant permit for the holding of rallies in any part of Nigeria. The plaintiffs came by way of writ of summons endorsed by their lawyer, Mr Femi Falana who, today, is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
Besides, in the affidavit attached to the writ, which was sworn to by Maxi Okwu, the general secretary of the CNPP, the parties stated that the IGP prevented them from staging a peaceful rally on May 29, 2003. He averred that the solidarity rally organised by the All Nigeria Peoples Party in Kano, Kano State, on September 22, 2003, was disrupted by the police, on the grounds that no police permit was obtained.
“That in the course of disrupting the rally, the police tear gassed the crowd and the ANPP leaders, including (former Senate president), Dr Chuba Okadigbo, who died barely 24 hours later,” Okwu said.
Government, in defending the suit, filed no counter-affidavit, as its representatives came to court asking that the entire suit be dismissed. The high court judge had refused, and heard the matter.
The Rivers State-born jurist did not only answer the two fundamental questions in favour of the political parties, she also granted all the prayers they sought.
The plaintiff-political parties in the case included; ANPP, National Conscience Party, Peoples Redemption Party, National Democratic Party, Democratic Alternative, APGA, PAC, Peoples Salvation Party, United Nigeria Peoples Party, MDJ and Community Party of Nigeria.
Why is President Muhammadu Buhari, who benefitted immensely from the aforementioned landmark judgment attempting to use the police to stop Nigerians from asking him peacefully, to do the needful to ameliorate the costs of living?
He is the same person who, as an opposition politician, went to court to score a constitutional victory for Nigerians.
Haba! Our dear President, please, warn these police goons to respect the rule of law and provide security for the February 6th protesters.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via firstname.lastname@example.org
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