n African Human Rights Law Journal - The right to demonstrate in a democracy : an evaluation of public order policing in Nigeria

Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



Demonstrations or civil protests personify the popular right to freedom of expression as well as the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, all guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, regional instruments on human rights as well as the constitutions of many states. It is widely accepted that the expression of dissent through demonstrations or public processions is an acceptable democratic practice; provided that it is exercised in accordance with the law. In Nigeria, however, the predominance of military regimes in the country's political history has produced a culture of intolerance to any exertion of this democratic right. The country's return to civil rule in 1999, however, witnessed a resurgence of civil protests which were expectedly met with state repression. This article examines the legality of the right to demonstrations and civil protests in Nigeria, the nature of the police's response to the exercise of this right as well as the factors that underpin the nature of state response. It argues that the right of demonstrations and civil protests is a genuine democratic right guaranteed under international law as well as Nigeria's municipal law. It is further contended that derogations or restrictions to the exercise of this right must be in tandem with fundamental rights and freedoms which allow democracy to run its course while enforcing law and order and protecting the rights of others. The article concludes by proffering recommendations for the effective and harmonious policing of demonstrations in a democratic Nigeria.

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