09 January 2012, Sweetcrude, ENUGU—THE anti-fuel subsidy removal strike in Enugu State was partially observed by civil servants and those in the private sector following the State Government’s ban on public assemblies, meetings and procession anywhere in the state until further notice.
Governor Sullivan Chime had in the exercise of powers conferred on him as the Chief Security Officer of the state made a proclamation on Sunday night banning public assemblies, meetings and procession saying they were capable of leading to the breakdown of law and order.
The proclamation: “PROHIBITION OF PUBLIC ASSEMBLIES, MEETINGS OR PUBLIC PROCESSION IN THE ENUGU STATE OF NIGERIA
“I, Sullivan Iheanacho Chime, Governor of Enugu State of Nigeria; BEING OF THE OPINION that the holding of any public assemblies, meetings or public procession in any part of Enugu State of Nigeria would lead to the breakdown of law and order;
AND THAT it is therefore expedient to prohibit the holding of any public assemblies, meetings or public procession; ACCORDINGLY, in the exercises of the powers conferred on me by law and all other powers enabling me in that behalf;
HEREBY ISSUE THE FOLLOWING PROCLAMATION: The holding of any public assemblies, meetings or public procession in Enugu State of Nigeria is hereby prohibited until further notice.”
The government backed up the proclamation with a press statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Chuks Ugwoke, urging the residents and, indeed all her citizens to go about their lawful duties without fear of molestation.
“Government, hereby, assures that appropriate security measures have been put in place to ensure the security of lives and property of the people. However, Government warns that any person or group of persons who attempts to cause any breach of peace will be severely dealt with.
Government, therefore, wishes to advise parents and guardians to warn their wards against being used to foment trouble. In the same vein, Government also reassures residents from other parts of the country not to leave the state as their security is guaranteed,” the government said.
In compliance with the government’s directive, officials of the state chapter of NLC, stopped their planned protest and rather converged at their secretariat at New Market area of Enugu where they were still holding a marathon meeting by press time yesterday.
Apart from a handful of lawyers under the aegis of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA led by the sate chairman, Barrister Mrs. Nnenna Uko, who staged a peaceful procession condemning the removal of the fuel subsidy by the federal government, the entire state was very peaceful on the first day of the nationwide protest.
While some civil servants refused to show up in their offices, some banks were opened to customers while others admitted customers through the back doors. Most federal government owned offices including the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN were shut.
However, the Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, South East zone condemned the state government’s ban of public assemblies, meetings and procession saying the government had no right to make such a proclamation.
In a statement issued in Enugu yesterday, the Zonal Director of CLO, Barrister Olu Omotayo, said the state government’s action was wrong insisting that “Nigerians have the Constitutional right to protest by virtue of Section 40 of the Constitution of Nigeria, which provides for the Right to peaceful assembly and association.”
He also cited the decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja in the case of All Nigeria Peoples Party and 11 others vs. Inspector General of Police in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/54/2004 in which case “Justice Chikelue held among other things that: the requirement of Police permit or other authority for the holding of rallies or procession is illegal and unconstitutional as it violates Section 40 of the Constitution of Nigeria.”
“Furthermore, the Public Order Act under which the police and governors always act is a federal enactment which cannot take away the right provided for by Section 40 of the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the country,” he added.
Omotayo, therefore, urged all protesters to disregard the threat by the state government and the police and come out en-mass to say no to the act of the oppressors against the good people of Nigeria.