The Federal Government on Wednesday described a protest staged by members of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) on Tuesday, blocking the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, as a violation of the law.
Persecondnews recalls that the leadership of NANS in the Southwest had on Tuesday disrupted vehicular movement along the busy Lagos-Ibadan expressway, while protesting the seven-month strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The students, led by NANS Vice- President, External Affairs, Akinteye Babatunde; public relations officer, Giwa Temitope; Zone D coordinator, Adegboye Olatunji; Deputy Senate President, Ekundina Elvis, as well as Ondo, Lagos, Ogun, and Oyo Joint Council Coordinator, messrs Omotosho; Olusesi Samson; Kehinde Simeon and Adeleke Abidemi, demanded an immediate end to the lingering strike and urged the federal government to find a meeting point with the lecturers.
The students, who gathered in hundreds at the Sagamu interchange as early as 9:00 a.m., blocked both sides of the highway, preventing traffic flow both inward and outwards Lagos, thereby leaving many travellers stranded and commercial activities grounded.
Responding to questions from State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by the President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, noted that the Nigerian Constitution recognises and protects citizens’ right to public protests but does not empower any Nigerian to “inflict pain and inconvenience on other people.”
He said: “I heard that some aggrieved students under the aegis of NANS are going to the road to protest. My respectful view is that is not helpful at all to the citizens.
“The right to protest is a very well-protected right in our Constitution, but it does not include the right to inflict pain and inconvenience on other people. And so, while the protests can go on, they should refrain from blocking the road in order to do their protests. That in itself is a violation of law.”
But in response to the minister’s statement, NANS called for the withdrawal of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria title of Fashola.
NANS, in a statement issued on Wednesday, signed by its National Public Relations Officer, Giwa Temitope, asked the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee in Nigeria to withdraw Fashola’s SAN title.
“We have been informed that the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, openly said that: ‘The right to protest is a very well-protected right in our Constitution, but it does not include the right to inflict pain and inconvenience on other people. And so, whilst the protests can go on, they should refrain from blocking the road in order to do their protests. That in itself is a violation of law.”
“The statement above shows that the Minister is enmeshed in a big contradiction in terms of what the law says. He tries to trivialise a very important issue by watering down the law.
“Asides from the clear nature of the letters of Section 2 of the Constitution on Fundamental Human Rights, Fashola should tell us how a protest is stated to ‘inflict pain and inconvenience on other people?’
“As far as NANS is concerned, Fashola has long shown that he does not understand the laws of Nigeria. Same person, who has a SAN title to his name, went ahead to attempt to destroy evidences on the very crucial Lekki massacre.
“Nigerian youths do not respect Fashola and his fake ideals anymore. The best is for the Minister to go and make restitutions with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari(retd.)’s government to pay ASUU now rather than appeal for a suspension of the protest we have begun.
“If Fashola continues to tongue-attack our protests, we would start preparing to prevent another attack on our movement,” the university students said.