#BringBackOurGirls Campaign Demands Immediate End to Police Intimidation, Attempts to Scuttle Protests
Thirteen days ago, a group of concerned citizens came together to demand that government take action on the case of the abducted girls in Chibok, Borno State. We have since engaged some of those who are vital to achieving the aim of rescuing these girls alive, such as the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Defense Staff. In the course of these engagements, we have conducted ourselves in an orderly manner, and are therefore surprised that instead of confronting the insurgency currently gripping our country, the Federal Government of Nigeria has opted to direct its ire against peaceful protesters who demand the return of the abducted Chibok girls.
As we gathered for our customary sit-out at Unity Fountain, Abuja at 3pm on Sunday, 11 May, 2013, we were disappointed and saddened to see police stationed at Unity Fountain with weapons and water cannons at the ready to prevent our peaceful gathering. This show of police intimidation was preceded by the shutting down of the Maitama Amusement Park by authorities, another site used for protests, on 8th May, 2014, during the World Economic Forum, after which we were forced to gather on the pedestrian pavement in front of the park.
We also recall the unlawful arrest of Chibok community leaders, Mrs. Naomi Mutah and Mrs. Saratu Angus on May 4th, 2014, at the behest of First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan after being called to a meeting by the First Lady and being falsely accused of being Boko Haram leaders.
These most recent shows of intimidation by Nigerian authorities would only serve to embarrass a nation that deems itself a democracy and a leading light on the African continent. Any attempt to prevent peaceful gatherings or scuttle peaceful marches is a violation of Nigerians’ constitutional rights, which assure freedom of association and the right to peacefully gather.
The #BringBackOurGirls campaign has ignited the passions of Nigerians throughout the country, and indeed well-meaning people the world over. As active citizens of the Federal Republic, we recognize the need for Nigerians to play their part by asking the right questions and meeting authorities to ensure that more light is shed on what is being done to ensure the safe return of the abducted girls. We will continue to demand from our government regular communication on the status of work being done to bring back abducted Nigerian girls from Chibok and elsewhere, and that measures be taken to protect our children in vulnerable states in the North-East, and indeed all over the country, from future abductions.
As we continue to perform our duties as peaceful and patriotic Nigerians, we hope that our government will deem it fit to do theirs: protect – not violate – our rights, as well as our lives and property, and put an immediate end to the harassment and intimidation.
Signed: Rotimi Olawale
Head, Media Task Team