By Godwin Edeh
Lawyers Alert, a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) in Benue State, has described constant harassment by security operatives and the hostile disposition of governments and authorities in Nigeria over peaceful assembly as unacceptable as it is against the African Charter on people’s rights which Nigeria is a signatory.
Speaking on Wednesday during a one-day meeting with media experts, a Senior Legal Advisor for Lawyers Alert, Barr Victor Eboh, stated that, freedom of association and to assemble are fundamental human rights that cannot be negotiated or contested for under any guise.
Barr Eboh called on the journalists to assist through their various medium of communication and as change agents by sensitizing members of the public and to educate both government, security agencies, particularly the police as they are the custodian and implementers of the laws.
Also speaking, Mr. Lazarus Mom of Lawyers Alert said the meeting was designed to develop communication messages such as flyers, stickers, pamphlets and short videos to sensitize members of the Benue public on their rights to assemble and hold peaceful and coordinated protests in the state.
Mr. Mom further stated that, in line with African charter on people’s rights article 40, the people have the right to peaceful assembly, to peaceful rally and peaceful protest but regretted that these rights have been truncated by government particularly in Africa under the guise of “police permits” unlike developed countries where human and people’s rights are strictly observed and respected as witnessed during the recent US presidential election between former President Triumph and President Bidden which led to massive protest.
He disclosed that Lawyers Alert is implementing a project, titled “Increasing Civic Rights and Freedom of Peaceful Assembly”, funded by CIVICUS, an American based Civil Society Organization, (CSO) in conjunction with other NGOs in Nigeria and other parts of the world aimed at strengthening the Freedom of people to assemble, (FOPA)
Mr Mom said Lawyers Alert is committed to engage government and security agencies in ensuring a peaceful assembly devoid of embarrassment and harassment as, according to him, “it is their rights to protest and assemble and when the public gather, they do not usually have the intension to cause violence or harm to any group or organization”.
He therefore, urged government and other security agencies to guarantee and protect the rights of the people to gather or assemble, any day, anywhere without fear of intimidation.
Mr Mom also cited the example of Benue State University Medical students, 200 to 600 level who were suspended for one month by the management of the university for carrying out a peaceful protest to government House, Makurdi, describing it as pure intimidation and a violation of their fundamental human right to expression and to assemble while urging protesters to exercise caution, to be properly guided and ensure that they follow due process before embarking on any peaceful protest to avoid creating opportunity for hoodlums who are out to hijack and disrupt protest on the slightest opportunity negating the genuine intentions behind their protest.