Nigeria: Authorities must uphold and protect right to peaceful protest

The Nigerian authorities must withdraw threat to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) by the police ahead of the ongoing nationwide protests against the economic challenges and cost of living crisis in the country that has left millions of people unable to meet the costs of food, education and healthcare. Authorities must ensure the right of everyone to peaceful protest and allow protesters to freely exercise their human rights.

The NLC planned to hold protests between 27-28 February 2024 over the unprecedented cost of living crisis.

It is perfectly within the rights of people and the labour unions to take to the streets to protest over issues that affect their lives. Any attempt to undermine the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly would only intensify the crackdown on peaceful dissent,

Isa Sanusi, Director Amnesty International Nigeria.

“People across Nigeria have the right to express discontent peacefully and the authorities have an obligation to facilitate and ensure the exercise of this right. Instead of issuing threats over protests, the authorities should be prioritizing addressing the country’s economic woes,” said Isa Sanusi

On 2 February, women bakers of the local bread ‘gurasa’ held a protest in Kano against rising cost of flour, which they said is pushing them out of business. On 5 February, hundreds of residents of Minna Niger state also took to the streets against the cost of living crisis in the country. In subsequent weeks, similar protests were held in Osogbo, Suleja, Ibadan and parts of Lagos.

Statements from the police and the authorities on the NLC protest show disturbing pattern of demonization of protests and protesters and clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. This must stop.

The Nigerian authorities must ensure that protesters can freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.

Millions of people in Nigeria are facing extreme poverty. So far, the authorities have failed to put in place effective mitigation measures, leaving millions of people without the hope of getting out of the economic challenges and enjoying their human rights. 

Amnesty International is monitoring the protests nationwide closely and documenting any human rights violations.