A Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama, Abuja, on Thursday declared illegal and unconstitutional the police ban of #BringBackOurGirls peaceful protests.
Justice Sunday Aladetoyinbo made the ruling while delivering judgment in the suit filed by the #BringBackOurGirls protesters to challenge the ban on their rallies by the then FCT Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, on June 1, 2014.
Mbu, who is now an Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 7, Abuja, had banned the daily protests by the group, though the ban was subsequently reversed by the then Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, but the protesters insisted on proceeding with the suit.
Justice Aladetoyinbo in his judgment on Thursday upheld the argument of the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), and declared that the pronouncement by Mbu was a violation of the applicants’ “fundamental rights to freedom of conscience, expression, assembly and association as guaranteed by sections 38, 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution.”
He also held that the ban violated the provisions of Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, 2004.
The court declared that Mbu’s decision to ban protests and rallies in the FCT with effect from June 1 was illegal, unconstitutional, and null and void.
The judge, who described freedom of association and assembly as the pillar of any democratic governance, commended the former IG, Abubakar, for promptly over-ruling Mbu’s directive.
However, following the withdrawal of one of their prayers seeking N200m against Mbu as compensation for violating their rights, the court struck out the prayer in its judgment on Thursday.
The court therefore made “An order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondent, his agents and privies from further preventing the applicants or aggrieved Nigerians from taking part in protests and rallies in exercise of their freedom of expression, assembly and association as guaranteed by sections 38, 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, 2004.”
The court dismissed all the objections of the police as canvassed by the their lawyer, Mr. Samuel Lough, who had argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit on the grounds that only the Federal High Court could entertain the suit.
The lawyer had argued that the FCT High Court, an equivalent of a state High Court, lacked jurisdiction to entertain a suit in which the police, a federal agency, were sued as a party.
The plaintiffs in the suit included a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, who is the 10th plaintiff; Hadiza Bala Usman, Mr. Samuel Yaga, Mrs. Rebecca Yaga, Mrs. Sarah Ishaya, Mallam Dunama Mpur, Lawan Abana, Dr. Pogu Bitrus and Dauda Iliya.
Others are the Kibaku Area Development Association, Maryam Uwais, Bashir Yusuf, Jibrin Ibrahim, Jibrin Ibrahim, Saudatu Mahdi, Bukky Shonibare, Rotimi Olawale and Florence Ozor.
The applicants and their group had engaged in daily protests to demand more efforts by government to rescue the over 200 schoolgirls abducted from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, by members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, on April 14.