HURIWA to Reps: It’s unconstitutional to criminalise protests

Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), yesterday, flayed the House of Representatives for passing for second reading, a bill seeking to criminalise protests in Nigeria and jail every protester for five years.

In a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group described the proposed legislation as unconstitutional, illegal and dictatorial.

While urging lovers of democracy to oppose the bill, HURIWA pleaded with the international community, especially United States, United Kingdom and European Union (EU), to slam travel ban on Speaker of the lower legislative chamber and sponsor of the piece of legislation.

Sponsored by Emeka Chinedu Martins (PDP-Imo), the bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code Act, Cap 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punish individuals, who participate in unlawful assembly.

Onwubiko observed: “Protests are internationally legal actions to press home civil demands and this right should not be taken away by any draconian government through legislative rascality.

“Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that every person shall be entitled to freedom of assembly as a political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of their mutual interests.

“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association is protected by Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The freedom of peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right articulated in Article 21 of the United Nations (UN) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has been ratified by 173 countries.”

Also, Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights legalises protests as an integral part of democracy.

“We call on the United Kingdom, United States, European Union and other international bodies and entities to resist the suppressors and oppressors of Nigeria’s burgeoning democracy by imposing travel ban on the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and sponsor of the draconian bill, Emeka Martins.

“This bill must be thrashed in the dustbin of history immediately.”



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