In an exclusive interview with LIB, Lagos state police commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, has said that the command has the constitutional right to “hack” the right to freedom of expression, and the right to peaceful assembly, when they are going to affect public safety and the right and freedom of other persons.
Owoseni said this in reaction to the backlash that followed after the command said it will not allow a protest against government “at all levels” to be led by musician 2Baba, to hold because an intelligence report says hoodlums are planning to hijack the protest and carry out their criminal activities.
According to Owoseni:
“What the police in the command has done is to bring attention of the organizers of the protest to the provision of the constitution. The constitution does allow right to freedom of expression and right to peaceful assembly and the same constitution in section 45 also puts what is called restriction to the fundamental rights. The implication of that is that the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly are not absolute. The constitution has given us that authority to hack when those two rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are going to affect the right and freedom of other persons and of course if they are going to affect safety, public order and security.
We have met with the organizers of the 2Baba rally. The other group that also want to do pro-government rally, we have brought their attention to the provisions of the constitution and its on (that basis) that we are advising them to shelve whatever rallies as a respect to the constitution. It is not power or the take of the police commissioner to say he is banning a rally. I am not the law. Everything the police do is within the confines of the law. We only brought their attention to those provisions of the law and advised them to abide with the constitution.
After seeing all the controversies surrounding what they want to do, we also have a duty to protect the rights and freedom of other persons. Since it’s going to affect public safety and order, it is a mandate that where every other persons want to go to work, so we have advised them on the basis of what the constitution says and that is our position”
Owoseni said that the police has communicated to the organisers of both rallies that their right to protest is not absolute and that “the constitution has put a restriction on those rights and in furtherance, advised them to shelve the rally”.
When asked if the command will stop the protest if the agitators decide to carry on with the action, Owoseni said: “We believe that they are very responsible people and they will abide by the provision of that constitution that makes their rights not to be absolute to respect the rights of other citizens. We are assuring the members of the public that we would do the needful to ensure everybody goes about his or her lawful business without any injuries”.