12 June 2014

Nigeria: Police Can't Stop Rallies Over Chibok Girls, Court Rules

Photo: Tami Hultman / AllAfrica
Where the campaign started, Nigerians plan next steps for #BringBackOurGirls movement during sit-down protest in Abuja (file photo).

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has held that the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) lacks the powers to prevent or stop rallies or processions being held in respect of the abducted 270 students of the Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, Borno State.

Justice Abubakar Talba in a judgment declared that the Public Order Act, Cap 382 Laws of Nigeria 1990, which the police purportedly relied on "does not authorise men of the NPF to disrupt rallies or procession on the issue of the abducted Chibok girls".

The judgment followed a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by rights activist and former House of Representatives member, Dino Melaye, challenging the disruption on May 9 of the rally he led in Abuja in relation to the girls abducted by Boko Haram.

The judge declared as unconstitutional the arrest of, and assault on Melaye by policemen during the rally.

The suit, marked, CV/1521/14 which has the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Commissioner of Police, FCT Command, was not defended by the respondents.

The court further held that threat to further arrest Melaye in respect of rallies or possession is unlawful.

The disruption of peaceful rallies and procession by agents of the 1st and 2nd respondents is illegal and unconstitutional, Justice Talba ruled.

The judge held that failure by the respondents to file any counter process to the one filed by Melaye was an admission of the allegations made against them by the applicant.

He consequently ordered the Inspector General (IG) of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and the Commissioner of Police (FCT), Mbu Joseph Mbu, to "tender a written apology to the applicant as provided for under Section 35(6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)".

The judge also granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents and their agents from further "harassing, molesting, intimidating, abducting, arresting, detaining and prosecuting the applicant in respect of peaceful rallies or procession in Abuja or any part of Nigeria".

Justice Talba awarded N150,000 in damages and cost against the respondents and in favour of the applicant.

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