The Federal Government, on Wednesday, said that the protesting members of the National Association of Nigerian students, NANS, that blocked a traffic-laden section of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway are “violating” the country’s law.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, SAN, stated this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to the Minister, the Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) recognises and protects citizens’ right to public protests but does not empower any Nigerian to “inflict pain and inconvenience on other people.”
The Ministet’s explanation came on the heels of the report that the protest embarked upon by NANS on Tuesday caused a gridlock on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, leaving motorists and passengers stranded.
The protest took place just after the Sagamu Interchange section of the expressway, towards Lagos.
The protesting students carried placards with different inscriptions and chanting solidarity songs as they lamented the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, that has prolonged for seven months.
They vowed to lay siege of the major highway and others to drive home their demand to end the strike.
But fielding question from journalists on the recurrent gridlock on the uncompleted sections of the highway, Fashola appealed for more patience from Nigerians saying that there is no alternative route in the already built-up areas.
He said “Once again, I apologise and empathise with commuters who need that place to get on with their lives. It’s the place we left to the last really because it’s the most built-up area, the last six kilometers into Lagos; very densely populated and occupied. There’s very little room for alternative routes for people. So, you just have to bear with us.
“I also 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, 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.”