Premium Times (Abuja)

Nigeria: Protesters in Lagos Defy Police Threat, March for Abducted Borno School Girls

Scores of protesters in Lagos, Thursday, defied threats by armed police officers to march in demand for the rescue of the 234 abducted secondary school girls in Chibok, Borno State.

Over 200 girls were abducted from their hostel at the Government Secondary School, Chibok, on April 14 by suspected Boko Haram insurgents.

A protest, to demonstrate anger and outrage at government's seeming inaction, had been held on Tuesday in Abuja.

At the CMS bus stop in Lagos, where about a dozen protesters had converged at about 9 a.m., armed police officers arrived immediately and began asking for their permit to hold the protest, and attempted to disperse them.

Even the gunshots and tear gas canisters fired into the air did not deter the small crowd as they insisted they would continue their march.

Gbenga Olorunpomi, one of the protesters, accused one of the police officers of firing tear gas canisters directly at them.

"The guy shot at us, and then disappeared. But nobody was injured," Mr. Olorunpomi, a Social Media Strategist said.

As the protesters marched from the bus stop towards Outer Marina, four armed police officers formed a wall at the entrance to the State House, one of them muttering: "Nobody must touch the governor."

The crowd chanted solidarity songs as they marched through the Tafawa Balewa Square towards Onikan stadium, where a Workers' Day rally was going on.

Inside the crowded stadium, hundreds of workers, in bright T-shirts and caps, mingled with drummers, trumpeters, and traders.

"This is about time that young Nigerians speak up for themselves. Imagine, 234 girls are missing, and the bomb blast, you can hear the National Labour Congress and the government playing music and having a good time with themselves over there in the stadium," said Seun Kuti, one of the organizers of the protest, as they arrived outside the stadium.

"They tried to force us, moving us from our initial protest place, with tear gas and oppression from the police to come and mix us with the jamboree that they are having there.

"But we young people have decided to stay here and make our own ground and address ourselves and discuss the things that we believe affect us in Nigeria.

"We want to tell the girls' parents that real Nigerians, not politicians, are here with them. We are making our input. If we had means to go and look for their daughter, we shall and we will. But the people who are enforced by the constitution to do these things don't care about them," Mr. Kuti added.

'FREE THE GIRLS'

In a letter addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan, through Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State Governor, the protesters demanded a concerted effort by the government in fighting terrorism in the country.

"We demand an end to government docility and helplessness in the face of brutal killings, kidnap, and abduction of Nigerians," read one of the demands in the letter.

"An immediate rescue of kidnapped school girls in Chibok, Bornu State, by the Nigerian security forces and putting in adequate measures to ensure an end to such incidents."

As the protesters arrived outside the Onikan stadium, causing massive traffic gridlock, Edgal Imohimi, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, who had attempted to disperse them earlier, returned to tell them to move away from the main road.

The state governor was due to arrive any moment to address the workers inside the stadium.

The protesters refused to be directed by the police, and another argument ensued.

"When are you going to finish?" The officer asked.

"We will finish when we finish," a protester retorted.

Angrily, the officer stormed away, threatening to order the release of another round of tear gas.

A protester, Dupe Killa, said that the protest should pass a message to President Jonathan that the people are no longer with him.

"People voted Jonathan in for different reasons, people on this day declare that we are no longer with him," she said.

"The opposition is not doing their work. If they need to understudy the opposition in other countries to understand the framework of being an opposition, then they should do so.

"We are disappointed that the opposition finds nothing better to do at this time than to play politics with the lives of children. That on the same day Jonathan went dancing, the opposition took brooms and they were sweeping."

Another protester, Ayo Oyalowo, said that the aim of the protest was to tell the government that "we are no longer idiots."

"We have a highly highly extremely insensitive government that does not care about its citizens. Not one issue have been solved, all they do is bring another one to cover the old one," said Mr. Oyalowo, who tweets via the handle @ayourb.

"Nobody is talking about the 75 people bombed in Abuja, nobody is talking about the 234 kidnapped girls, we don't even know their names," he added.

Seun Onigbinde, a protester, said that weeks after the girls had been abducted, nobody knows their status.

"We can't continue to keep quiet about it. Nobody is aware of what the government is doing because they are not communicating. I know it can't be all quietness there, they are doing a lot of work, but you need to communicate and reassure people that you are on top of the situation," Mr. Onigbinde said.

After getting an initial report that the governor would come and receive their written demands under the Onikan bridge, and waiting endlessly, the protesters marched into Onikan stadium.

But they were blocked by armed police officers who ordered them to get onto the soccer pitch, where they eventually converged to continue their solidarity songs.

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