Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) said on Sunday, the Presidency lacked the power to stop people from protesting alleged poor handling of the country’s security challenges by the military.
The Presidency had on Saturday accused some opposition politicians of mobilising Nigerians to hold protests against the service chiefs over growing insecurity in the land.
The protest, according to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, will take place today (Monday).
However, Falana has cautioned the police authorities against harassing any protester, recalling how Buhari and other leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), including Chief John Oyegun, and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, protested against insecurity on November 14, 2014.
He added that a group of protesters last week staged a procession in Abuja in support of the prosecution of the counter-insurgency operations by the service chiefs and demanded the expulsion of Amnesty International from Nigeria without any hindrance.
According to him, Nigerians have the right to protest for and against the Federal Government without requiring permission from the Presidency.
He said: “The authorities of the Nigeria Police Force are urged not to harass aggrieved Nigerians for protesting against perceived injustice in the country.
“After all, a group of citizens were allowed to demonstrate in Abuja last week in support of the prosecution of the counter-insurgency operations by the service chiefs.
“On that occasion, the group called on the Federal Government to expel Amnesty International from Nigeria for criticising the service chiefs.
“Without any evidence whatsoever the Presidency has alleged that those who are calling for the replacement of the service chiefs are working for the Boko Haram sect!
“However, since Nigerians have the fundamental right to demonstrate for or against the Federal Government without official fiat the Presidency has no power to stop any peaceful protest in the country.”
Falana recalled that the court had affirmed Nigerians’ right to assemble and protest peacefully in the case of All Nigerian Peoples Party versus the inspector-general of police (2008).
He added further that “it was in the exercise of the right of freedom of expression that APC leaders including General Muhammadu Buhari, Chief John Oyegun, Dr. Sylvester Onu and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi had participated in the protest held at Abuja on November 20, 2014, against insecurity under the erstwhile Jonathan administration.”