Leadership (Abuja)

12 May 2014

Nigeria: Chibok Girls - Police Disperse Protesters in Abuja

Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Nigerian Minister of Education and World Bank vice president, addressing a BringBackOurGirls protest in Abuja. ( Resource: Obiageli Ezekwesili Addressing BringBackOurGirls Protest in Abuja

Protesters who gathered in Abuja to protest the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram were forcefully dispersed by the police yesterday evening.

The BringBackOurGirls protesters confronted a heavy police cordon off the Unity Fountain Park, Maitama, venue of daily protests for the release of the schoolgirls.

The botched protest was scheduled to start at 3pm yesterday.

A plain-cloth police officer who appeared to be in charge stated that he had "orders from above" to stop the protest.

Former minister of education and frontline protest leader Oby Ezekwesili alongside other protesters insisted on the right to peaceful assembly.

Speaking to newsmen, Ezekwesili said, "One thing I know they should not be doing is dispersing peaceful citizens in their peaceful gathering; this is a democracy. How can the government act like this? I never thought that I will live to see the day that a democratic government will try to violate my constitutional right to peaceful gathering in protest of the fact that we have not seen girls that were abducted out of our territory for so many weeks now."

Ezekwesili continued: "When we got here, they were evacuating us. We simply resisted and said we were not going anywhere. I simply said to them, 'I certainly am not going anywhere, if I have to have this meeting alone, in clear determination to assert my right as a citizen of Nigeria I will do it.'

"How can a democratic government dare to be repressive towards us for crying that our girls are missing? I don't understand it. I was beaten in the streets of Lagos under the military; I will not take it in a democracy. We have the right to stand here and demand 'bring back our girls'; we will continue to demand 'bring back our girls' until the government acts according to their responsibility.

"If government has been slow to responding to our demands for the rescue of the girls from Chibok, why should they be angry at us for protesting when we want our girls to be brought back?"

Also, a former member of the House of Representatives and protester, Hon. Dino Melaye, said: "We feel very insulted as Nigerians. This is a peaceful assembly, but the police came here with machine guns, with hot water tankers and all sorts of ammunition to stop us from assembling."

Police keep mum

When contacted, the FCT police command spokesman, Daniel Altine, refused to answer calls put to her phone. She also refused to respond to text messages sent to her.

Israel joins US, Britain, others in rescue operation

Nigeria can now boast of the highest global security apparatus and intelligence at its disposal in the ongoing search for the schoolgirls abducted in Chibok, Borno State. Israel, a country globally acknowledged for its anti-terrorism expertise, has joined other world powers in the rescue operation.

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday accepted the offer by Israeli prime minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, to send a team of Israeli counter-terrorism experts to assist in the ongoing search-and-rescue operations for the abducted schoolgirls.

Special adviser to the president on media and publicity Dr Reuben Abati noted in a statement that Jonathan received and accepted the offer of assistance from Israel in a telephone conversation with Netanyahu Sunday afternoon. He briefed the prime minister on efforts already made by Nigerian military and security personnel so far in this regard.

"Speaking in a telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, who called this afternoon to convey his country's sympathy and solidarity with Nigeria, President Jonathan welcomed the offer by Mr Netanyahu to send a team of Israeli counter-terrorism experts to assist in the ongoing search and rescue operations," Abati stated.

An elated President Jonathan, Abati continued, "said he was very optimistic that with the entire international community deploying its considerable military and intelligence-gathering skills and assets in support of Nigeria's efforts to find and rescue the abducted Chibok girls, success will soon be achieved".

Chimamanda Adichie faults Jonathan's approach

Award-winning Nigerian novelist Ms Chimamanda Adichie has criticised President Goodluck Jonathan's snail-pace response to the security challenges in the country, particularly as it borders on the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State.

She advised the president to secure a place for himeslf in the country's history by acting like a true leader rather than seeking to stay beyond 2015.

"I do not want a president who, weeks after girls are abducted from a school and days after brave Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest the abductions, merely announces a fact-finding committee to find the girls," Adichie stated.

In a statement she issued yesterday, the author of Half of a Yellow Sun, Purple Hibiscus, The Thing Around Your Neck and Americanah urged President Jonathan to be utterly consumed by the state of insecurity in Nigeria by either making security a priority or make it seem like a priority.

"I want a president consumed by the urgency of now, who rejects the false idea of keeping up appearances while the country is mired in terror and uncertainty," she added.

Chibok girls' abduction disgraceful - Onaiyekan

Catholic archbishop of Abuja John Cardinal Onaiyekan has said that the unconscionable kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno State, is a big disgrace to Nigeria as a whole.

The Catholic primate told the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that the terrorist group was determined to stop the girls from getting an education.

"Assuming I'm one of the top government officials, I wouldn't have known where to bury myself in shame" he said. "My fear is that this menace affects everyone in the country. Again, movement of the innocent girls from one place to another by the terrorists is very alarming."

Bishop Kukah calls for prayers

Bishop Hassan Kukah of the Sokoto Diocese has called on Nigerians to embark on fervent prayers for the successful rescue of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

Kukah made the call on Sunday when he led a peaceful protest in Sokoto to press for the urgent release of the girls.

He said that the Nigerian and foreign security operatives needed prayers from all well-meaning Nigerians to ensure God's intervention in their ongoing rescue operations.

Nigerians in UK hold intercessory prayers

A cross-section of Nigerians in the UK on Sunday held a prayer session for Nigeria and President Goodluck Jonathan as part of their spiritual contributions to end attacks by insurgents.

The prayer session, which was held at the Fathers House International Church, London, was organised by the UK chapter of Goodluck Support Group (GSG).

Pastors from various Christian denominations took turns to pray for the release of the girls and the unity of Nigeria.

Nigerian Army lacks capacity - Sen McCain

United States senator John McCain has expressed dismay over the abduction of schoolgirls from Chibok, saying that their abduction shows the lack of capacity of the Nigerian army to rescue the girls.

In an interview with MSNBC television, McCain said "on abduction of the schoolgirls, I don't know the word to use in describing Nigerian government on its insensitivity on the plight of the innocent girls in Chibok".

He said, "In my opinion, I think the US should send our investigative devices to checkmate what the Nigerian government was doing when the girls were kidnapped and also send drones and aircraft to rescue the abducted schoolgirls.

"We will also let the Nigerian government know that abduction of the schoolgirls violates international law and is also a crime against humanity.

"Nigerian military, as we all know, cannot rescue the abducted girls from the Boko Haram militants due to the epileptic nature of their equipment. It is therefore pertinent for us to help the country with less privilege like Nigeria and I believe that we have the equipment for assistance."

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