By Bartholomew Madukwe
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome and human rights activists, Jiti Ogunye and Femi Aborisade, on Wednesday condemned the invasion of Ekiti State Government House by armed Policemen and other security agents, which led to the state’s governor, Ayodele Fayose, to be teargassed, shot at, brutalised and injured.
Governor Fayose, who is covered by immunity under section 308 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, was rushed to the government clinic in Ado Ekiti, after he was assaulted by policemen deployed in the state for the Saturday governorship election.
On Wednesday, policemen stormed the pavilion where the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was holding their rally and harassed the Governor of Ekiti State, as he asked supporters of the party to vote for his deputy, who is also the governorship candidate of the PDP, Prof. Olusola Kolapo.
Reacting on Governor Fayose’s assault by the policemen, Ozekhome said the conduct of the Police was at the instructions and guidance of the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The beastly conduct of the Police and the obviously acquiescing role of the federal government today, is, to say the least, most despotic, autocratic, barbaric and treasonable. What happened today was a clear attempt to overthrow a sitting governor in Nigeria, and if possible, assassinate him,” he asserted.
The senior lawyer explained that the provisions of sections 39 and 40, of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered, the people of Ekiti state have the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.
“The PDP in Ekiti State and its teeming supporters needed no permit from the Police before holding their peaceful rally, just like the APC led by President Muhammadu Bahuri held its on Tuesday,” Ozekhome added.
According to him, the Governor of Ekiti State is the Chief Security Officer of the state and consequently, barricading the government house and meting out physical assault, inhuman and degrading treatment on the person of the governor, constitute a dangerous reminder of the gory hey days of ruthless military dictatorships in the sad history of Nigeria.
“Power, it is said, belongs to God. It is only the Almighty God that can determine who becomes the next governor of Ekiti State, as desired by the people. It cannot be forced by the power of the gun or teargas. A government that wantonly tramples on the fundamental rights of its helpless citizenry can never be trusted by the same citizens,” he stated.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND ASSEMBLY
Citing the case of INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE V. ALL NIGERIA PEOPLES PARTY (2007) 18 NWLR, Court of Appeal, on whether the Police have powers to stop or restrict the fundamental rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and assembly, Ozekhome said the court had famously held that the police have no powers to stop or restrict the fundamental rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and assembly once those rights are exercised within the ambit of the law.
He noted that, “If the demonstrators or marchers breach any law in the course of exercising their freedom of expression and assembly, the Criminal Code is there to take care of such infraction.”Per ADEKEYE, J.C.A.(P.28, Paras.F-G).
“It is therefore not the law that Nigerian citizens should first obtain Police permit before exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
“What we are witnessing today, under President Muhammadu Buhari, is that Nigeria is gradually drifting to a despotic and fascist state, a situation that is most dangerous for our hard-earned democracy.”
Ozekhome maintained that Nigerians today live in morbid fear and are no longer free to express their opinions. He added: “The executive arm of government is now harassing, invading, intimidating and subduing every other arm of government to submission. Judgments and orders of courts are disregarded with impunity under President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We have witnessed increased killings of innocent Nigerians on a daily basis by herdsmen, turning Nigeria into a theatre of blood. Nothing whatsoever is being done by the government to address these ugly developments.”
The senior advocate further said it is the duty of the government to provide security at political rallies, adding that it was the reason why Section 94 of the Electoral Act, provides as follows:
“For the purpose of the proper and peaceful conduct of political rallies and processions, the Commissioner of Police in each state of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, shall provide adequate security for processions at political rallies in the States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”.
Ozekhome stressed that Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act provides as follows:
“For the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.”
He further said it is therefore clear that the people of Ekiti State, including Governor Fayose and his party, were still legally within the permitted period of campaigns as provided for in section 99 of the Electoral Act.
“The crude conducts and actions of the Police today (Wednesday) cannot be justified, whether morally, constitutionally, legally, or otherwise. With 2019 elections around the corner, there is palpable and justifiable fear in the minds of Nigerians, given the current dangerous trend of events in the polity,” he lamented.
The senior lawyer wondered that if 30,000 Policemen can be deployed to Ekiti State, for a mere governship election, and put the entire state in mental and pysical seige, why was such number not deployed to areas where Nigerians are being massared on a daily basis.
“How many Policemen, soldiers and fighter jets would we require for the 2019 Presidential and NASS elections? Let this government gurantee Nigerians’ rights to freely elect their leaders. Ekiti state is a good point to start with. The whole world is watching and listening,” he stated.
Also speaking on the repression of PDP rally by Governor Fayose, Aborisade, on his part, said if Governor Fayose’s claim is true, he condemned the suppression of the PDP rally by the Police in the same way in which he condemned the undemocratic attack on the right of freedom of movement of some APC Governors who wanted to attend the APC rally in support of former Governor Fayemi in 2014.
“I have just listened to the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr Habila Joshak (on Channels TV NEWS about 6pm today, 11th July 2018) who glibly stated that the Police stopped the rally being led by Governor Fayose because no police permit was obtained and that no rally would be allowed without police permit.
“With all the veins in me, with all my being, i cry ‘foul’ and ‘No’.
Our courts have pronounced that Nigerians have the right to protest and embark on rallies peacefully without police permit. While the police have the right to arrest any protester who infringes on the law in the course of rallies, the police have no right to decree that protesters must first obtain police permit.
“The APC government should not take us back to the dark days of the military. We reject that statement and the repression of the PDP rally in Ekiti state as undemocratic, barbaric, totalitarian, backward, illegal and unconstitutional.
If the police can prevent peaceful rallies led by a Governor, ordinary people, students and workers would be more viciously repressed. No to attacks on democratic rights without justifiable cause.”
Ogunye, who is popularly known in Nigeria for fighting against human rights abuses, explained that the inhalation of poisonous chemico-gaseous substances in smoke doses disrupts the respiratory system and can cause, not only suffocation or asphyxiation, which may result in dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness, heart attack, and in extreme cases, heart failure and death, but may also lead to the unhinging of the rhythmic cycle of oxygen intake and carbon dioxide emission, resulting in a meteoric drop of oxygen to the brain and the blood circulatory system.
He pointed out that, “this sudden physiological change could in turn occassion partial immobility or stroke in the neck area, and in the thoracic region in general which houses the respiratory chamber (lungs). The tear gland could also be affected, causing uncontrollable tearing or cascade of tear drops. This Gomina is not feigning sudden illness. Based on ‘our experience’ we can diagnose TEARGASOMYELITIS”.
Calling for a free and fair gubernatorial election in Ekiti State on Saturday, Ogunye urged all the political parties to stop such rehearsals for an electoral apocalypse.