Monday Ubani, former Second Vice- President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Wednesday said Japan cannot stop members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) from demonstrating against President Muhammadu Buhari because the constitution of Japan protects freedom of speech and expression.
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He said protests against leaders who are attending foreign meetings and summits is a normal practice all over the world.
He however said the host country may not allow the protesters to have direct access to the President so as not to attack him which may lead to retaliation by the security forces on the protesters.
While urging President Buhari to address the grievances of the IPOB members, Ubani said while the President may not do that in Japan where he is currently participating in the 7th Tokyo International Conference, he can do that immediately he returns to Nigeria so that IPOB members who felt they have been treated badly can have a sense of belonging in the country.
“When people have agitations, it could be a group or certain persons against their leaders, they usually manifest such grievances by protests and sometimes they can even follow their leaders to wherever they go in the world to express their grievance. We saw it whenever all these international leaders gather for any event, those who are protesting on climate change always come to the venue to protest and express their grievances”.
“For example, US President Donald Trump has always had strong views against climate change and sometimes there are people who gather to protest against his views on climate change”.
“So, it is a normal practice all over the world”.
“I think IPOB members are saying there are certain things that the President has done back home against IPOB members and they are there in Japan to express those grievances. I have never seen leaders trying to engage those protesters on the international fora to discuss issues”.
“There is nothing wrong in President Buhari coming home to look at those complaints and address them. People protest because they want their grievances to be addressed. If what IPOB members are protesting for is worth considering, I will ask the president to look into those issues and address them. But stopping them from protesting is out of it”.
“Even Japan will not stop people from protesting against their leaders. They can’t do that because freedom of expression allows that especially in a country like Japan. But the IPOB members must not abuse, beat up leaders as they did to Ike Ekweremadu. We condemn that”.
“People can express their grievances against leadership, people can protest against misgovernance but physically manhandling leaders is not something we should encourage because it may lead to consequences that may be fatal.
“If the security operatives of the leaders begin to shoot, those protesters may be killed. If the protesters are also given unrestricted access, they can mob the leaders to death. So, we should always try to strike a balance in all these things” he said.