Tope Temokun, a renowned human rights lawyer, has asked the security agencies, mostly the Nigeria police and State Security Service (SSS) to allow Nigerians hit the streets to vent their anger at the hardship in the country.
This came as the acting Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, ordered watertight security nationwide ahead of planned protests by the organised labour leaders in the country.
Mr Temokun said it is within people’s rights to be on the streets to protest against the policies of the government rather than the security agents stifling their voice.
“If the people choose to be in the street peacefully to protest against the policies of the government they believe are not in their best interest, it is democracy.
“The only role the government and all the security agents of the government, such as the police, the SSS, the Civil Defence et cetra, can play, is to allow the people to express their anger or frustration not to stifle the people or intimidate them or judicially arrest the people’s voice,” he said in a statement obtained by Peoples Gazette on Tuesday.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had asked Nigerians to prepare for a nationwide showdown with the government by Wednesday following some anti-poor policies occasioned by the increment in the price of petrol without providing immediate palliative.
The government had, however, asked the labour unions to shelve its strike with the promise to address the issues raised.
Mr Temokun has also kicked against the government’s decision to halt the planned strike of the labour unions by seeking a court order.
He said that the government might run ahead to court to get an “interim order to restrain” the labour union from embarking on industrial action or strike but added that no court can restrain the masses from crying out when their lives are threatened by government policies.
The legal practitioner explained that the court takes its source from the same “constitution” which protects the people’s rights to protest.
“No court can restrain the people of Nigeria from protesting peacefully, it is a constitutional right given by the constitution.
“Both are constitutional creations. Both are messengers of the constitution and constitutionalism, without which there is no democracy. One messenger will not disturb another messenger. Each one has its own duty and role,” he said.
While observing ways Nigeria could progress to the comity of civilised democracy, Mr Temokun stressed that the federal government must stop the culture of running ahead of the organised labour to court each time to obtain an order that has the capacity of eroding the constitutional rights to strike or to protest.
He said, “It is a mere postponement of the evil day. The only antidote to perennial protest or strike action is good governance. Buhari government was run as a dictatorship. Court orders were flouted every day but the same government found it convenient to run to the same court to rely on the potency of court order whenever there was an impending strike or protest.
“Nigerians cannot be proud of any government that cannot do things differently. This present government has started off badly in the same direction, nursing the thoughts of using the instrumentality of court to stop legitimate voices of dissent.
“It does not pretend to bear any semblance to any form of civil rule. It’s a mere judicial militarisation of the polity. It must be discouraged by anyone who genuinely seeks a better Nigeria.”
Ahead of the planned protest on Wednesday, the IGP has ordered the Commissioners of Police and the supervisory Assistant Inspectors-General of Police, to engage in fruitful discussions with the NLC/TUC Picshitz to foster understanding and reach common grounds on the planned protests.
He also warned against violence, saying the police will not tolerate any act that threatens the peace and well-being of the country.