Chibok schoolgirls: Outrage over police ban on protests

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jun 3rd, 2014
0 Comments
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‘It’s tyrany of the highest order’

Ezekwesili, Keyamo, others condemn Mbu’s action

The police have banned public protests in Abuja for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls seized by Boko Haram since April.

Federal Capital Territory Police commissioner Mbu Joseph Mbu said the rallies were “now posing a serious security threat”.

The protests have been going on almost daily for the government to take firmer action to rescue the girls.

In a statement, Mbu said public protests had “degenerated” and were now a security threat.

Mbu told reporters at a news conference that the protests were posing a serious security threat.

“Accordingly, protests on the Chibok girls are hereby banned with immediate,’’ Mbu said.

He said after a group under the aegis of “Bring Back Our Girls’’ protested on April 28, another group, “Release Our Girls’’, emerged.

Mbu said information at the disposal of the command indicated that “dangerous elements’’ were about to hijack the protest, hence the ban.

“As the FCT police boss, I cannot fold my hands and watch this lawlessness.

“Information reaching us is that too soon, dangerous elements will join groups under the guise of protest and detonate explosives aimed at embarrassing the government,’’ he said.

Mbu said a situation where the ‘Fountain of Unity’, venue of gathering for the protest, was being turned into a place for “cooking and selling’’ was embarrassing.

According to him, many diplomats live in that area of the territory.

He called on the people of the territory to encourage the security agencies in the war against terrorism and criminality by appreciating the sacrifices they had made.

Asked whether the ban would not violate the freedom of expression and assembly, the commissioner said that one person’s freedom should not affect another person’s freedom.

“People have been protesting over a month now…it is the issue of terrorism, it is not solved in one day.

“Then, when you continue to do it persistently, it becomes nuisance to the government,’’ he said

The commissioner also announced the revocation of permits earlier issued for tinted glass vehicles in the territory.

‘Yes, there is a period when permits were granted but the recent security challenges have made the police authority to revisit the issue and have resolved to revoke same.

“The permits issued so far remain revoked. You are hearing this from my mouth.

“The only authority to grant tinted glass permit is the Inspector-General of Police himself under his hand and signature,’’ he said.

The commissioner also redeployed all Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) in the FCT and directed them to hand over to the next senior police officers in their respective divisions.

FCT Police spokesman Altine Daniel, said the decision was taken after the commissioner met with the DPOs.

“The Commissioner of Police has directed the redeployment of all Divisional Police Officers; they have to hand over to the next senior person in the various divisions.

“The commissioner of police was not satisfied with the conduct of the Divisional Police Officers,’’ she said

A core group that is part of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign has accused the government of sponsoring a new group, known as Release Our Girls.

The new group shifts the responsibility of the kidnapping from the government to Boko Haram, the militant group which has killed thousands in its campaign to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria

The Federal Government has been facing growing pressure both at home and abroad to do more to tackle the group and bring about the girls’ release.

A deal for the release of some of the abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria was close to being secured when the Nigerian government called it off late last month. It was learnt..

Some of the girls were set to be freed in exchange for imprisoned Islamist militants

It was not clear why the police took the action but President Goodluck Jonathan said the protests were calculated to bring down his government.

Minister of Information Labaran Maku also accused the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) of being behind the protests.

He said the protesters were being sponsored by the opposition against the government.

The ban was immediately condemned by Lagos lawyer Festus Keyamo, who described the action as illegal and a violation of the constitutional rights of the people.

Former Minister for Education Dr. Oby Ezekwesili took to Twitter to condemn the ban.

Ezekwesili who has been the arrow head of the protests in Abuja tweeted last night.

“The FG would do well to send its officials who wish to roll back our Democracy by infringing on Citizens Rights to my #Democracy101 Class.

“There is no BASIS for and no POWER of FCT Commissioner of Police to ban peaceful assembly of any group of persons in in the city. None @ ALL

“We of the AbujaFamily of #BringBackOurGirls have in the face of harassment by both the Nigerian Police &hired thugs maintained our CIVILITY

“What Commissioner Mbu should do is REPRIMAND their sponsored thugs who attacked us, WOMEN at our peaceful gathering. He can. He hired them.

“When their thugs attacked us while Mbu’s POLICEmen stood aloof, we refused to engage wt their gutter conduct. We figured this was their PLOT

“Predictably, Mbu has proven by his latest ill advised statement of repression of Citizens Rights that he and his bosses HIRED those THUGS.

“If Mbu’s daughter were one of 200 Daughters of Nigeria held captive by terrorists & We came out to STAND 4 their CAUSE, he would do this??

“Our AbujaFamily of #BringBackOurGirls diverse women, men and young people STANDING with our #ChibokGirls SHALL never abandon them. Never!

“No matter how DIRELY they want to take our FOCUS off our #ChibokGirls, We shall not permit them that LUXURY. All WE are SAYING………!!!”

Keyamo said Mbu’s statement is against the spirit and letters of section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

All the above, Keyamo said, guarantee freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

According to him, “It is shocking that the Federal Government, hiding under the facade of the Police, has finally openly displayed its disdain for the public outcry over the kidnap of those innocent souls. The Federal Government would really have wished that we all went about our normal businesses and live in denial like it did for many weeks.

The Government has shown that it is more concerned about its image and self-preservation than the safety of those girls.

“At a time when Government has not shown a capacity to protect lives and properties, it is even denying the citizens the basic right to cry out about Government’s inaction. It is like beating a child mercilessly and choking the child at the same time to prevent the child from crying out. It is inhuman, it is degrading and it is humiliating. That order by the Commissioner of Police should be rescinded immediately or else the Federal Government should be prepared to arrest and lock up all Nigerians. Even the military did not succeed in muzzling Nigerians like the Federal Government wants to do by this feeble Order,” he said.

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on House Compliance Hon Moruf Akinderu-Fatai said the statement is a desperate attempt by an ineptitude administration that has failed to meet up with concerns that is now global.

He said: “If you are stopping people from converging, where is the democracy? Are we back in Abacha era? All progressive forces must resist this and we must encourage more people to violate this dictatorial directive. As Peoples representatives, they are our employers because they voted for us and they can and must ask questions when they have concerns. We, as government must bring back the girls hale and hearty and it must be now. The president should lead properly and provide directions at all times. All well meaning Nigerians must resist this directive either in Abuja or anywhere in the country.

Lagos State University (LASU) senior lecturer Prof Lakin Akintola described the action as tyranny of the highest order.

“This is not military regime; Mbu is ignorant of the constitution and several court judgments had said protest is legitimate. Where did he get his constitutional order to ban protest in Abuja. Mbu will go down in the history as the most tyrannical police commissioner in Nigeria. We are yet to forget his escapades in Rivers State,” he said.

University of Lagos Senior lecturer Dr Ismail Ibrahim described Mbu’s statement as grave encroachment on fundamental rights of Nigerians.

Dr Ibrahim said Mbu is using strong Army tactic which is alien to democracy.

“I am not surprised by the statement because Mbu is known for disregard for rule of law; he has no right to restrict fundamental human rights of Nigerians. Even, if he succeeded in prevent people from physical gathering, he cannot stop the use of social media, which has been proven to be effective in bringing the world attention to issues,” he said.

Mbu’s statement, Dr Ibrahim said, portend great danger to democratic institution.

“There is reason justifying this reckless order; Nigerians should not be deterred in exercising their rights,” he said.

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