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Public Order Act (1979)

PUBLIC ORDER ACT 1979 (NIGERIA)

Arrangement of sections

1. Power to regulate assemblies, meetings and processions
2. Power to stop assemblies, meetings and processions
3. Unlawful assemblies
4. Power to issue proclamations, etc. for preservation of public order
5. Penalty on endeavour to break-up pub lic assembly, meeting or procession.
6. Prohibition of quasi-military organisations.
7. Flags and uniforms
8. Offensive weapons, etc prohibited at meetings and processions.
9. Arrest without warrant
10. Forms
11. Power to make Regulations and issue guidelines.
12. Interpretation
13. Short title

An Act to repeal all public order laws in th e States of the Federation and to replace
them with a Federal Act for the purpose of maintaining public order and to prohibit
the formation of quasi-military organisatio ns, regulate the use of uniforms and other
matters ancillary thereto.
Commencement [16th February, 1997]

1. (1) For the purpose of the proper and peacef ul conduct of public assemblies, meetings
and processions and subject to se ction 11 of this Act, the Governor of each State is hereby
empowered to direct the conduct of all assemb lies, meetings and processions on the public
roads or places of public resort in the Stat e and prescribe the route by which and the times
at which any procession may pass.

(2) Any person who is desirous of convening or collecting any assembly or meeting or of
forming any procession in any public road or place of public resort shall, unless such
assembly, meeting or procession is pe rmitted by a general licence granted under
subsection (3) of this section, first make application for a licence to the Governor not less
than 48 hours thereto, and if such Governor is satisfied that the assembly, meeting or
procession is not likely to cause a breach of th e peace, he shall direct any superior police
officer to issue a licence, not less than 24 hours thereto, specifying the name of the
licensee and defining the conditions on which the assembly, meeting or procession is
permitted to take place; and if he is not satisfi ed, he shall convey his refusal in like manner
to the applicant within the time hereinbefore stipulated.

(3) The Governor may authorise the issue of general licence by any superior police officer
mentioned in subsection (4) below setting out the conditions under which and by whom
and the place where any particular kind or description of the assembly, meeting or
procession may be convened, collected or formed.

(4) The Governor may delegate his power under this section –

(a) in relation to the whole State or part ther eof, to the Commissioner of Police of the State
or any superior police officer of a rank not belo w that of a Chief Superintendent of Police;

and

(b) in relation to any local government area or a part thereof, but subject to any delegation
made under paragraph (a) above, to any superior police officer or any police officer for the
time being acting as the District Police Officer,
and references in this section to the Governor shall be construed accordingly.

(5) Any person –

(a) aggrieved by any decision of the Commissioner of Police or any superior police
officer under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section, may within 15 days of such
decision appeal to the Governor;

(b) aggrieved by any decision of any police officer mentioned in paragraph (b) of
subsection (4) of this secti on, may within 15 days of such decision appeal to the
Commissioner of Police and shall have a right of further appeal from any decision of the
Commissioner of Police under this paragraph to the Governor,

and the Governor or, as the case may requi re, the Commissioner of Police shall give a
decision on any appeal lodged pursu ant to this section not later than 15 da ys after the date
of its receipt by him.

(6) The decision of the Governor under subsection (5) of this section shall be final and no
further appeal shall lie therefrom.

2. Any police officer of the rank of inspector or above may stop any assembly, meeting or
procession for which no licence has been issued or which violates any condition of the
licence issued under section 1 of this Act, and may order any such assembly, meeting or
procession which has been proh ibited or which violates any such conditions as aforesaid
to disperse immediately.

3. Any assembly, meeting or procession which –

(a) takes place without a licence issu ed under section 1 of this Act or;
(b) violates any condition of any licence granted under section 1 as aforementioned; or
(c) neglects to obey any order given under section 2 of this Act,

shall be deemed to be an unlawful assembly, and all persons taking part in such assembly
meeting or procession for which no licence has b een issued, all persons taking part in the
convening, collecting or directing of the assemb ly, meeting or procession, shall be guilty
of an offence and liable on convi ction to a fine of N1,000 or imprisonment for 6 months or
to both of such fine and imprisonment.

4. (1) Notwithstanding any license granted under section 1 of this Act, if a superior police
officer, having regard to the time or place at which and th e circumstances in which any
public assembly, meeting or procession is ta king place or is intended to take place at
which and circumstances in which any public assembly, meeting or procession is taking
place or is intended to take pl ace (and in the case of a public procession to the route taken
or proposed to be taken by the procession), has reasonable grounds for apprehending that
the assembly or meeting or procession may occasion serious disorder, he may give

directions imposing upon persons organizing or taking part in the assembly or meeting or
procession such conditions as appear to him necessary for the preservation of public order
including, in the case of a public procession, conditions prohibiting the procession from
entering any public place specified in the directions:

Provided that no conditions restricting the display of symbols or emblems shall be
imposed under the provisions of this subsectio n except such as are reasonably necessary to
prevent risk of a breach of the peace.

(2) Subject to any order made by the Commissi oner of Police under subsection (3) of this
section, if at anytime a superior police offi cer (including any police officer for the time
being acting as a District Police Officer) is of opinion that by reason of particular
circumstances existing in a loca l government area or a part thereof, the powers conferred
upon him by subsection (1) of this section will not be sufficient to prevent serious public
disorder, being occasioned by the holding of pub lic assemblies, meetings or processions in
the area concerned, such police officer may i ssue a proclamation in the form contained in
the schedule to this Act, copies of which shal l be displayed in all local government offices
and police stations and posts in that area and in such other pl aces as may be determined by
him, prohibiting the holding in such areas of all public assemblies, meetings or
processions specified in the proclamation, for such period not exceeding 7 days as may be
so specified.

(3) If at any time the Commissioner of Police is of opinion th at by reason of particular
circumstances existing in the State or any part thereof, the powers conferred by
subsections (1) and (2) of this section will not be sufficient to prevent serious public
disorder being occasioned by the holding of pub lic assemblies, meetings or processions in
the State or in any part thereof the Comm issioner may, by order published in the State
Gazette and in such other manner (including broad casts by radio or television) as he may
deem sufficient to bring the order to the knowledge of the gene ral public in the state or in
that part thereof to which it relates, prohib it the holding in the State or any part of all
public assemblies, meetings or processions sp ecified in the order, for such period not
exceeding 14 days as may be so specified.

(4) An order made under subsection (3) of this section shall effect from the time when it is
first published or publicly notified in any mann er authorised by that subsection or from
such later time as may be specified in the order, and a certificate under the hand of the
Commissioner of Police who made the orde r specifying the time of publication or
notification (other than a publication in the Gazette in respect of which the Evidence Act
has made other provisions) shall be conclusi ve evidence thereof in all legal proceedings.

(5) Any person who knowingly –

(a) fails to comply with any directions given or conditions imposed under this section; or

(b) organises or assists in organi sing any public assembly, meeting or procession held or
intended to be held in contrave ntion of a proclamation or an or der made under this
section or;

(c) attempts to convene or takes part in, or in cites any other person to convene or take part
in, any such assembly, meeting or procession, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on

conviction to a fine of N5,000 or imprisonment for 2 years or both such fine and
imprisonment.

5. (1) Any person who at a public assembly, m eeting or procession acts in a disorderly
manner for the purpose of preventing the tr ansaction of the business for which the
assembly, meeting or procession was called or formed shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) Any person who incites others to commit an offence under this section shall be guilty
of an offence.

(3) Any person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction on a
first offence to a fine of N2,000 or improve ment; and for a second or any subsequent
conviction, to imprisonment for 12 m onths without the option of a fine.

6. (1) If any association (whether corporate or unincorporate)

(a) organises or trains or equips persons (whe ther or not members or adherents of any such
association) for the purpose of enabling any su ch person to be employed in usurping the
functions of the Nigeria Police Force or of the armed forces of the Federation; or

(b) organises and trains or equips persons (w hether or not members or adherents of any
such association) either for the purpose of enabling such persons to be employed for the
use or display of physical force in promoting any political objective, or in such manner as
to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised and either trained or equipped
for that purpose;

then any person who takes part in the control and management of the association or in so
organising or training or equipping any such pe rson as aforesaid, or who undertakes or is
engaged to be so organised, trained or equipped, shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) No prosecution shall be instituted under this section without the consent of the
Attorney-General of the State.

(3) If upon application made by a superior po lice officer it appears to the High Court of
that State that any association is an associ ation which organises, trains or equips any
person (whether or not members or adherents thereof) in cont ravention of the provisions
of this section, the court may make such order as appears necessary to prevent any
disposition, without the leave of the court, of property held by or for the association and,
in accordance with the applicable rules of cour t, may direct any inquiry and report to be
made as to any such property as aforesaid and as to the affairs of the association, and may
make further orders as appear to the court to be just and equitable for the application of
such property –

(a) in or toward the discharge of the liabiliti es of the association lawfully incurred before
the date of the application or since that date with the approval of the court;

(b) in or towards the repayment of moneys to person who became subscribers or
contributors to the association in good fa ith and without knowledge of any such
contravention as aforesaid;

(c) in or towards any cost incurred in the connection with any such inquiry and report as
aforesaid or in winding up or dissolving the association; and may order that any property
which is not directed by court to be so applied as aforesaid shall be forfeited to the state.

(4) In any criminal or civil proceedings under this section, proof of things done or words
written, spoken or published (whether or not in the presence of any party to the
proceedings) by any person taking part in the co ntrol or management of an association or
in organising, training or equipping persons (whether or not members or adherents
thereof) shall be admissible as evidence of the purposes for which, or the manner in
which, such persons (including where applicable members or adherents of the association)
were organised, or trained or equipped.

(5) If a Magistrate or Upper Area Court J udge is satisfied by information on oath that
there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence against this section has been
committed, and that evidence of the commission th ereof is to be found at any premises or
place specified in the information, he may, on an application made by a superior police
officer, grant a search warrant authorizing any such officer named in the warrant together
with any other persons specified in the warr ant and any other police officers to enter the
premises or place at anytime within 7 days from date and every person found therein, and
to seize anything found on the premises or place or on any such person which the officer
has reasonable ground for suspecting to be evid ence of the commission of such an offence
as aforesaid.

Provided that no woman shall, in pursuance of a warrant issued under the provisions of
this subsection, be searched except by a woman.

(6) Any person found guilty of an offence under this section shall on conviction –

(a) in the case of a person who is proved to have taken part in the organisation or
management of an association or in organi sing, training, or equipping any person referred
to in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) of this section, be liable to a fine of N5,000 or
imprisonment for 2 years or to bot h such fine and imprisonment; and

(b) in the case of a person who is proved to have undertaken or been engaged in being
organised, trained or equipped, be liable to a fine of N1,000 or imprisonment for 6 months
or both such fine and imprisonment.

7. (1) Subject to section 6 of this Act an d as hereinafter provided, members of an
association may wear any uniform as defined under this section whether or not at a public
assembly or meeting, or during a public procession:

Provided that if a Commissioner of Police is of the opinion that wearing of any uniform is
offensive or is likely to provoke a breach of the peace, he may prohibit the wearing of
such uniform in the State.

(2) The powers conferred on the Commissione r of Police under subsection (1) of this
section are hereby conferred upon and shall be ex ercisable in a Local Government area by
any police officer to whom a delegation has been made pursuant to section 1(4) of this
Act.

(3) Every association registered as a political party pursuant to the Electoral Act, may fly
the approved party flag at the Fe deral headquarters of that party and at each branch office
in the States and at each branch office in Local Government Areas and any such party may
display party flags at public assemblies and meetings:

Provided that nothing in this subsection shall be construed as authorizing the display of
flags by any individual or association on any vehicle or carriage or at place or on any
building or otherwise however except to the extent authorised herein and under the Flags
and Coats of Arms Act 1960, the Flags and Coats of Arms Act, and the Flags of Nigerian
Ships Act.

(4) Any person who

(a) wears any uniform otherwise than in compliance with the provisions of this section; or

(b) displays any flags otherwise th an as provided in this section;

shall be guilty of any offence.

(5) Any person found guilty of an offence under this section shall upon conviction –

(a) in the case of an individual, be liable to a fine of N1,000 or imprisonment for six
months or to both such fine and imprisonment;

(b) in the case of an association (whether cor porate or unincorporate), be liable to a fine of
N2,000; and in addition, every individual who ta kes part in the control of management of
such association shall be severally liable to th e penalties prescribed in paragraph (a) of this
subsection.

(6) Any person aggrieved by any decision of th e Commissioner of Police or of any other
police officer referred to in this section, shal l have a right of appeal from such decision
and the provisions of subsecti ons (5) and (6) of section 1 of this Act shall apply mutatis
mutandis to any such appeal.

(7) For the purposes of this se ction, “uniform” means any special dress or wear (whether
made or unmade and whether or not with th e inscription of the association concerned)
worn by members of a particular associa tion but does not include any uniform which
resembles, or partakes of the design or charact er or, the uniform of any member of Nigeria
Police Force or the armed forces of the Federa tion or of any other corps established by or
pursuant to any law or of any other association.

8. (1) Any person who, while present at any public assembly or meeting, or on the
occasion of any public procession, has with him any offensive weapon or missiles,
otherwise than in pursuance of lawful authority, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on
conviction to imprisonment for 12 m onths without the option of a fine.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person sh all not be deemed to be acting in pursuance
of lawful authority unless he is acting in his capacity as a police officer or as a member of
the armed forces of the Federation or as memb er of any corps recognized by law or as a
member of a fire brigade established by law.

(3) In this section, “offensive weapon or missiles’ incl udes any cannon, gun, rifle, carbine,
machine gun, cap-gun, flint-lock gu n, revolver, pistol, air gun, air pistol or other firearms
(whether whole or in detached pieces) bow and arrow, spear, cutlass, machete, knife,
dagger, axe, cudgel, horsewhip or any piece of wood, metal or other material, or stone
capable of being used as an offensive weapon or missile and includes tear gas, corrosives,
inflammable substances or any ot her thing that is capable of being used to inflict or cause
injury.

9. Except where otherwise specified, a police officer may without warrant arrest any
person reasonably suspected by him to be committing an offence in contravention of any
provision of this Act.

10. The Governor may prescribe additional forms to be used for the purposes of this Act
by order published in the state Gazette.

11. (1) The National Council of States may make regulations generally for the purpose of
carrying into effect th e objects of this Act.

(2) Subject to subsection (1) of this section, the National Council of States may from time
to time issue to the Nigeria Police Force such general or special guidelines as it considers
expedient for the better and uni form administration throughout Nigeria of the provisions
of this Act.

12. (1) In this Act, unless th e context otherwise requires –
“assembly” means a meting of five or more persons;
“association” means any body or persons who agree to act together for any common
purpose and includes any political party as de fined in section 76 of the Electoral Act;

“place of public resort” means any highway, pub lic park or garden and sea-beach, and any
public bridge, road, lane, foot-way or pathway, square, court, alley or passage, whether a
thoroughfare or not, and includes any open space or any building or other structure to
which, for the time being, the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on
payment or otherwise;

“police officer” includes an officer of an e quivalent rank in other security agencies;

“public meeting” includes any assembly which the public or any section thereof is
permitted to attend, whether on payment or otherwise, including any assembly in a place
of public resort for the propaga tion of any religion or belief whatsoever of a religious or
anti-religious nature but, notwithstanding any ot her provision of this Act, does not include

(a) any regular religious service conducted in a mosque, church or any building or other
structure customarily used for lawf ul worship of any description;

(b) any charitable, social or sporting gatherings;

(c) any meeting convened by a department of any government in the Federation or any
other body established by law for its own purposes; or

(d) any lawful public entertainment.

“public procession” means a procession in a place of public resort.

(2) In this Act, the following expressions have the meanings respectively assigned thereto
by the Police Act, that is to say “Commissi oner of Police”; “superior police officer”;
“District Police Officer” and “police officer”.

14. This Act may be cited as the Public Order Act.

SCHEDULE Section 4 (2)
PUBLIC ORDER ACT
(Cap. 382)
PROCLAMATION PROHIBITING PUBLIC ASSEMBLIES,
MEETINGS OR PUBLIC PREOCESSIONS

IN THE ………………………………………………………..
………………. STATE OF NIGERIA
IN THE ………………………………………………………..
………………. LOCAL GOVERNMENT

I, ……………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………….
(Full names of Superior *District Police Officer)

………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………….
(Rank)

of ……………………………………………………………
……………………………………………………………
(Designation of Police District/*Division)

BEING OF OPINION that the holding of any further *public assemblies* meetings *and
public processions in this Local Government Area/District* would lead to a breakdown in
the maintenance of public order;

AND THAT it is therefore expedient to proh ibit the holding of any further *public
assemblies*, meetings *and public processions;

ACCORDINGLY, in exercise of the powers conf erred by section 4(2) if the Public Order
Act and of all other powers enabling me in that behalf, I HEREBY ISSUE THE
FOLLOWING PROCLAMATION:-

The holding of any further *public assemblies*, meetings *and public processions in this
Local Government Area/District* is hereby prohibited for a period of
………………………………………….. days with effect from
……………………………. 19 ………..

DATED this ……………………… day of ……………………..
……………….. 19 ……………….

…………………………………………….
Signature

Official Stamp

*Omit whichever is inapplicable
___________________

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