Law News
Commission Proposes Amendment to Public Order Act

Chairman of the NLRC, Professor Oserheimen Osunbo

The Nigerian Law Reform Commission on Thursday in Abuja said some provisions of the Public Order Act which require Nigerians to obtain permit from the police before holding a public rally are unconstitutional.

Speaking at a workshop on the reform of the Public Order Act, the Chairman of the NLRC, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, said the law was enacted in 1999 under a military regime.

He noted that since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999, the Act had come under serious criticism because its requirement for a licence was considered inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution.

The Act requires ‘an application for licence’ from the governor or police before a lawful public assembly can hold. It also provides for the conduct and direction of such assemblies and for penalties where organisers fail to comply with the police instructions.

Osunbor said section 40 of the constitution provided for the fundamental human rights to assemble freely and associate with other persons.

He said: “The requirement of a licence before holding public assembly, meeting, protest or procession impinges upon the fundamental human rights of persons in Nigeria to freely assemble and associate with other persons.

“The Public Order Act is therefore unconstitutional and cannot be allowed to remain.”

The chairman stated that that was what informed the commission’s proposal for an amendment of the Public Order Act.

The proposed amendment provides for a ‘notification’ to the police instead of an application for a licence prior to holding public assemblies, meetings, protests and processions.

According to him, public order is important because society needs peace, order and harmony for continued positive existence, adding that: “In a multicultural society like Nigeria, it is necessary that public order and decorum are maintained at all times.”

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