The Nigeria Police Force has said it will come down hard on those who engage in violent protests.
A statement by the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, on Wednesday said in the face of growing violent protests in some parts of the country, especially Rivers State, the police could no longer fold its arms and watch in silence.
Mba said despite the guarantee to right of assembly by the constitution, the right must be enjoyed within allowed limits.
He said the police will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law to bear on anyone engaged in violence protests again.
The statement reads in full: “The Nigeria Police Force, in the light of emerging security challenges in parts of the country, especially the unfolding saga in Rivers State, hereby warns all citizens against constituting themselves into or being part of an unlawful assembly in any part of the country. The Force has also observed with dismay, the attitudes of some Nigerians who have chosen the nation’s Airports as points of congregating their followers. These assemblies do not only constitute nuisance to the Air Port environment but are also a threat to the security of both genuine travelers and the Airport authority. Citizens are reminded that Airports all over the world are regarded as “restricted areas” and as such are traditionally shielded from unnecessary intrusion. The Force will not hesitate from the date of this statement, to bring the full weight of extant laws on persons found forming or being part of an unlawful assembly, especially riotous assemblies.
“The Force is very much aware and not unmindful of the fundamental rights of citizens particularly their rights to “freedom of expression” “peaceful assembly and association”, “freedom of movement” among others as provided for in chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended); and is duty bound to respect and protect them. However, citizens are reminded that these rights and freedom must be enjoyed within the bounds of the law. Therefore, all assemblies must be peaceful, lawful and must not be intentionally contrived to provoke or abridge the rights of other citizens. The Force will not fold its arms and watch some persons or group of persons tear-down the bond of the country’s unity. The Force wishes to remind Nigerians that the laws on Unlawful and Riotous Assembly as provided for in our Criminal and Penal Laws are still in Force.
“The Force further cautions against the unnecessary use of unguarded, inflammatory and provocative statements capable of promoting hatred and disunity among Nigerians. Citizens should at all times, in the exercise of their rights, be cautious of the likely consequences of their actions and avoid acts inimical to the well-being of the Nation.
The Nigeria Police Force has a constitutional responsibility of ensuring not just the security of citizens, but to promote the unity and indivisibility of our dear country. It will therefore do all within its ability to ensure that the country remains secure, peaceful and indivisible. Nigerians of all facets of life are advised to close ranks and unite to sustain the nation’s nascent and growing democracy. The Force enjoins citizens to shun all forms of violence and unlawful acts, eschew bitterness, hatred and rancor and go about their legitimate duties without fear of intimidation from any quarter.
“The Police High Command uses this medium to reassure Nigerians of the willingness of the Force to discharge its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, but appeals for the cooperation and understanding of the good people of Nigeria.”