Legal opinion on #Endsars Protest & Lekki Shooting, by Barr Sambo Muritala Esq

LEGAL OPINIONS

CONSTITUTIONAL ROLES OF GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT LIVES AND PROPERTIES OF NIGERIA CITIZENS.

The recent attack on lives and properties of citizens in several states of the federation and Federal Capital Territory calls for a legal opinion on what is expected of government in the circumstance.


It is the primary responsibility of government to protect lives and properties and it is obvious and clear enough that government has failed in such responsibility. May I refer to Section 14 (2)(b) of 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, As Amended thus: 14. (2) (b)
The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of Government;

I further refer to Section 4 of Police Act which reads thus:

The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.

FINDINGS
Government is responsible for the protection of lives and properties.
Government has failed and neglected its duties in this regard.
There must be remedy for the unprotected wrongs against citizen.

SANCTION OF AIT, CHANEL TV, ARISE TV BY NBC AND THREAT BY SERAP TO INSTITUTE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST NBC IF THE SANCTION IS NOT DROPED
Journalism is a profession regulated by National Broadcasting Commission hereinafter refers to as NBC. NBC has a regulatory Law called National Broadcasting Commission Code. It is in the public domain that most of the videos released by these topmost media Houses were lifted from social media. The law allows this to the extent of its verification and confirmation of the authenticity. May I refer the readers to Section 5.6.9;
The broadcaster shall be held liable for any breach of the code emanation from the use of material from User Generated Source.

Section 5.6.1, 5.6.2, and 5.6.3 direct the broadcaster on how the User Generated Source material should be screened to avoid violation of the laws.

SERAP: Social-Economic Rights & Accountability Project is a civil society who has capacity to sue and be sued. It can institute action on matter affecting it and the general public in which its scopes cover. However, SERAP lacks Locus Standi to institute action on matter which affects a specific person(s) who has capacity to respond to any form of wrong against it. may I refer the readers to this recent authority: Incorp. Trustees of CAN., v. Kwara StateGovt. [2020]13NWLR, page 99

The term standing to sue or “locus standi” is much more than a mere expression of interest in something, in the absence of any enforceable or recognizable right or claim to that thing. The term “locus standi” denotes legal capacity to institute proceedings in a court of law. It does not confer on every member of the public the right to sue except those persons whose vested legal rights are directly interfered with and who will suffer injury and pain if not allowed to pursue the case. Such is the justifiable interest the person whose standi was challenged is required to show or prove. A person who makes a claim which in actual fact belongs to someone else has no locus standi. Such is not a competent party to the suit and is not entitled to any of the reliefs claimed in the originating process even if he pretends to be so entitled. This is so because the action is not enforceable by him and he lacks the locus standi to sue.

FINDINGS:
NBC can reliably sanction any erred broadcaster for the purpose of deterrent.
The sanctioned Broadcaster can reliably take NBC up by instituting a law suit against NBC if it feels cheated for such sanction and they can equally justify those pictures, audios and videos they used during the ENDSARS activities…
SERAP lacks Locus Standi to take NBC to court for sanctioning broadcaster.

THE PROPRIETY OF BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA (SAN) INSPECTING LEKKI (SCENE OF CRIME) AND PICKING OF VIDEO RECORDER SIX DAYS AFTER THE OCCURRENCE.
It will be recalled that there a Judicial Enquiry Panel has been set up to investigate the Lekki Shooting since there are denial as to who ordered the shooting on the peaceful protesters. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and others visited the scene of crime after 6 days of the occurrence and picked up a video recorder at the scene of the crime. My legal opinion on the visitation of Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and his picking of video recorder at the scene of crime goes thus:

FINDINGS
There is no known law preventing people from visiting an unprotected scene of crime in this country. Thus, it is never a crime for anybody to visit an unprotected crime scene at any time.
Barr. Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN did not commit any crime for picking up Video Recorder at the scene of crime.
The video recorder picked by anybody at the scene of crime is admissible once it is a relevant material for the panel set up to investigate the activities of Lekki shooting. May I refer to the decided case of
NBCI v. Int. Gas (Nig.) Ltd. [1999] 8 NWLR Part (613) page 119.
Admissibility is based on relevance and not proper custody. Once a matter, be it a document or oral evidence is relevant, it is admissible. Proper custody only raises issue of presumption or the weight to be attached to the evidence, documentary or otherwise after admission. For evidence, documentary or otherwise, to be admissible, it is sufficient that proper ground of its relevance is laid.

IDENTIFICATION/MEDIA PARADE OF SUSPECTS
It will be noted that suspects of looting spree in Ilorin were paraded in the media. The issue was raise as to the propriety or otherwise of Identification Parade.


FINDINGS
Identification parade is a step in administration of criminal justice and it is allowed. May I refer the reader to the decided case of AYINDE VS. THE STATE (2018) NWLR PART (1647)

The aim of identification parade is to make sure that the actual offender is the person arrested. Its essence is to enable an eye-witness who did not previously know the person accused of the crime, but had some degree of encounter with the person during the commission of the crime or at the scene of the crime, to pick him out from amongst other people in the “line up”. [Adebayo v. State (2014) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1422) 613;  Alufohai v. State (2015) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1445) 172 

Identification Parade should not be mistaken for Media Parade as the latter is not known to any law. It is a violation of the right of the accused person. There are plethora of case frowning against inhuman and degraded media parade of suspect. However, it is not the media reporting of the allegation against suspect that is frown at in the media parade, law is only frowning at inhuman projection of suspect in a degrading manner which swept away the presumption of innocent enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended, the line must be drawn between media reporting of occurrence as enshrine in chapter 2, section 22 of 1999 constitution As Amended.  Suspects could be paraded before the media but under discreet caution, which will not unravel their identity, character and nature of the suspects. Prof. Mamman, Fari  postulated thus:
If somebody is arrested based on reasonable suspicion, the Police can parade such persons based on fact. And to parade somebody not based on fact, may constitute infringement of his right and the implication is that the suspect can sue the police. Secondly, the media must be conscious in reporting crime and avoid tagging suspects in criminal identity. The proper way to handle cases of that nature is to allow the suspect to voice his side of the story and not to allow the Police to dominate the show. If, at the end of trial, court discharge and acquaint the accused, the person can sue for defamation of character,” Fari suggested. He also suggested that the media that publish such parades are equally guilty.
Contrarily, a specialist in Media Laws and Ethics, Dr. Abubakar Alhassan insisted that the media has not crossed the legal right of suspects for reporting incidences already in public domain. The senior lecturer at the Bayero university, Kano, wondered why the media would be held responsible for prejudice and reporting what the constitution had already certified it to do? Media should only try as much as practicable to report every activity as the way it is. Police should use their actions, reactions and positions while treating the accused person in observing the presumption of innocent sanctioned by Section 36 (5) of 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria As Amended.

CONSTITUTIONALITY OF PEACEFUL CONTEST.
It is the constitutional right of citizens of this country to engage in a peaceful contest to express their interest and such right shouldn’t be denied. The ENDSARS protest is a peaceful contest and the citizens of this country are entitled to such right. May I refer to Section 40 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria As Amended:
Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests…
May I further refer to the decided case of INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE V ALL NIGERIA PEOPLE’S PARTY,  (2007) 18 N.W.L.R (PT 1066), PAGE 457 AT 499, PARAS C. where the erudite Honourable Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Adekeye, held inter alia:
The right to demonstrate and the right to protest on matters of public concern are rights which are in the public interest and that which individuals must possess, and which they should exercise without impediment as long as no wrongful act is done
It is pertinent to also know that citizens are not bound to take permission from anybody whatsoever including security agents before embarking on such protest. Section 1 (2&3) of Public Order Act which stated that permission must be taken from government before embarking on such protest has been declared inconsistence with the provision of the constitution. Obtaining permission from police or any other authority whatsoever is an attempt to stifle the free exercise of citizens’ fundamental rights in the course of maintaining law and order.  The Court of Appeal in the case of INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE V ALL NIGERIA PEOPLE’S PARTY (2007) 18 N.W.L.R (PT 1066), PAGE 457 AT 499, PARAS C., has outlawed the requirement of obtaining a police permit before a peaceful protest can be demonstrated when it held that:
The police have no powers to stop the fundamental rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and assembly once those rights are exercised within the ambit of the law. If the demonstrates or marchers breach any law, the Criminal Code is there to take care of such a fraction. The appellant has failed to appreciate the trend in all democratic countries whereby the right to hold meetings and assemblies is no longer subject to the whims of the and caprices of the government or security agents…

FINDINGS
Peaceful contest is a Constitutional Rights of every citizens of the country.
There is no requirement of permission before peaceful contest can be embarked on by the citizens of Nigeria.

CONSTITUTIONALITY OF INVOLVEMENT OF MILITARY MEN IN A PEACEFUL CONTEST.
Army and other military men of whatsoever nomenclature are prevented from playing roles in any peaceful contest as there was no insurrection to be contained by the army as envisaged by section 217(2)(c) of the Constitution. The deployment of the armed troops was roundly condemned and uncalled for.
Coupled with this, the Lekki Shooting at the protesters is actionable against the shooters and whosoever established to have given such irrational behaviors.

FINDINGS
Military men have no constitutional obligation to stop or guide peace protesters.
The roles played by military men in the Lekki shootings are actionable against military men and government who give directive if it is established.

Prepared By:

Sambo Muritala (ESQ)
Sambo Muritala & Co.
Activist Chamber.
Suite 7, Legislative Office Arcade,
Yidi Road, Irewolede Area.
Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *