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Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government generally respected this right, although some limits remained. In areas that experienced communal violence, police and security forces permitted public meetings and demonstrations on a case-by-case basis.
The Government continued to nominally require organizers of outdoor public functions to apply for permits, although both government authorities and those assembling often ignored this requirement.
The Government retained legal provisions banning gatherings whose political, ethnic, or religious content might lead to unrest. Open-air religious services away from places of worship remained prohibited in many states due to fears that they might heighten inter-religious tensions. The Ondo State ban on open-air religious events remained in effect during the year, and the Kaduna State government ban on processions, rallies, demonstrations, and meetings in public places still was being enforced on a case-by-case basis. A security forces committee ban on all political, cultural, and religious meetings in Plateau State continued to be implemented on an ad hoc basis.
The Government denied the opposition ANPP permits to hold rallies for their presidential candidate on multiple occasions. In some cases, the Government allowed the rally within a few days of the originally requested date. On September 23, Governor Shekarau of Kano State authorized an ANPP rally in contravention of a denial from the Inspector General of Police. During the rally, police tear-gassed ANPP supporters.
During the year, police killed 6 persons in Abuja, at least 10 persons in Lagos, and 6 students in Port Harcourt when dispersing otherwise peaceful protests.
On December 3, six members of the United Action for Democracy were arrested and beaten in Lagos when they attempted to hold a rally to protest the government's hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The activists filed suit on December 29 to protest both the detention and the beating.
Unlike in the previous year, police did not disrupt meetings of the OPC and allowed the organization to operate freely.
Police reportedly harassed members of MASSOB, MOSOP, and other groups. On March 29, anti-riot police killed seven MASSOB members in Imo state after reportedly disrupting a MASSOB meeting.
No action was taken against security forces who killed or injured persons while forcibly dispersing protests in 2002 or 2001, including the March 2002 raid on a weekly religious crusade in which the Enugu State Governor was implicated.
The Constitution provides for the right to associate freely with other persons in political parties, trade unions, or special interest associations, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that INEC used a stringent interpretation of constitutional requirements to block political parties from registering. The Constitution allows the free formation of political parties, and the number of parties registered with INEC increased to 31 in 2002.
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