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2 Introduction On December 11, 2007, the Court of Appeal declared the colonially inspired Nigerian Public Order Act unconstitutional. At the heart of the debate is the question: Should Nigerians who want to assemble or protest apply for license from the governor and police or simply invoke the constitution, which guarantees every person the right to peaceful assembly and association?

3 Presentation Outline Evolution of Public Order Policing in Nigeria Legal Framework Challenges of POP without Public Order Act Recommendations

4 Evolution of public Order Policing in Nigeria Analytical Framework POP under colonial Rule POP under Military Rule POP under civilian government Emerging concerns about military takeover of POP

5 Growing support for military involvement in POP

6 Legal Framework for POP in Nigeria The Public Order Act, 1979, is the overarching law regulating public order in in Nigeria. Powers to regulate assemblies, Section 1(1): “For the purpose of the proper and peaceful conduct of public assemblies, meetings and processions … the Governor of each state is hereby… empowered to direct the conduct of all assemblies, meetings and processions on public roads or places of public resort in the State and prescribe the route by which and the times at which any procession may pass. ” Procedure for permission of assemblies, Section 1(2): Any person who is desirous of convening or collecting any assembly … shall… first make application for a license to the Governor not less than 48 hours thereto, and if such Governor is satisfied that the assembly… is not likely to cause a breach of the peace, he shall direct any superior police officer to issue a licence, not less than 24 hours thereto, specifying the name of the licensee and defining the conditions on which the assembly … is permitted to take place; and if he is not so satisfied, he shall convey his refusal in like manner to the applicant within the time hereinbefore stipulated.

7 Legal Framework Ctd Powers to stop assembly, Section 2: –Any police officer of the rank of inspector or above may stop any assembly, meeting or procession for which no license has been issued or which violates any conditions of the license issued..., and may order any such assembly, meeting or procession which has been prohibited or which violates any such conditions as aforesaid to disperse immediately. Critical Evaluation of the Public Order Act: –The Public Order Act does not recognize the right to peaceful assembly as a fundamental right. –It vest governors unilateral powers, which can be abused during periods of political contestation. –The police are made to exercise delegated powers under the act instead of original powers provided by the constitution. –The act does not discriminate between peaceful and non-peaceful assemblies. Under the act, what makes an assembly lawful is granting of license. –The law does not encourage the development of Nig eria Police Force as a professional and independent organisation in the eye of opposition parties and civil society groups.

8 Challenges of POP Without Public Order Act The police no longer have powers to negotiate with the organizers of processions and protests. They have become dependent on stereotypes, previous experience, arbitrariness and hunches in responding to processions by groups perceived as troublesome rather the law. Public processions by youth groups affiliated to opposing parties and religious organizations are increasingly becoming very violent as protesters do not need police clearance and permission anymore to gather leading to clashes. Police are becoming easily overwhelmed by the slightest threat to law and order.

9 Challenges to POP CTD The situation has also exacerbated existing institutional challenges to public order in the Nigeria Police force: Absence of a dedicated unit or department within the Nigeria Police Force charged with managing protest marches/events and such other civil expression of mass discontent. No specialised in-service training or refresher courses on modern techniques in crowd management within the Nigerian Police. Lack of adequate equipment to carry out public order. functions. No stakeholder forums to discuss the challenges thrown up by the Appeal Court ruling on the Public Order Act and how to respond to it in law and public policy.

10 Conclusion and Recommendations Legal Reform The Public Order Act should be reviewed or amended to recognize the right to peaceful assembly as a fundamental right. The Act should provide for advance notification of the police by groups wishing to stage rallies, procession or protests for the purpose of ensuring adequate preparation and route protection and not for licensing of such gatherings by governors' as was the case before the Appeal Court judgment. The law should also provide for meetings and negotiations between the organizers of gatherings, the police and such other local authorities responsible for use of public places. There should enable the police to differentiate between gatherings that are peaceful and those that are not and provide a range of measures to take in responding to them in the event of notification not given to the police.

11 Recommendations CTD The law should also provide for the establishment of specialised unit within the Nigeria Police Force responsible for crowd management and other public order policing functions. Capacity Building: The police need to be reoriented to recognize that the right to assemble peacefully is a fundamental right of every Nigeria regardless of their political affiliations and provided with the right equipment, training and motivation to play their constitutional role of maintenance of law and order. The strategy of negotiated management in public order policing need to be mainstreamed in the Nigeria Police Force in responding to civil rallies, peaceful assemblies and protests through training. Civil society groups and political parties need to sensitize their members and other members of the public to realize that the fundamental right to assemble or associate imposes corresponding obligation on those that invoke it to act responsibly, orderly and peacefully.

12 Recommendation CTD Socio-economic Roots of Discontent should be tackled We should not be unmindful of the socio-economic root of rising social discontent, which has led to the rising militancy in public protests in parts of Nigeria in recent times. A situation where able-bodied young people, educated and willing to work without jobs creates room for outbreaks of youth led violence. Responsible Political Leadership Finally, Political leaders have an obligation to act responsibly at all times and fair to all. A situation where the police are directed in a partisan manner to disperse gatherings of opposition parties while privileging those of ruling parties will not augur well for our democracy and will continue to create instability in the society.

13 Thank You Questions?


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