Premium Times (Abuja)

22 May 2014

Nigeria: #BringBackOurGirls Aso Rock Protest March - Live Updates

Protesters seeking to pressure the Nigerian Government to act and rescue 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram sect are this afternoon driving their campaign to a new level.

The #BringBackOurGirls protesters plan to march on Aso Rock, Nigeria's presidential villa. No protest group have ever marched on Aso Rock.

The protesters face two challenges in their bid. The Aso Rock villa is heavily protected by a special security arrangement and protected from the public. Only workers or invited guests are allowed access into that area of town. The protesters may have a difficult time breaking through the layers of security that ensures that Aso Rock villa is out of bounds to the public.

The protesters may also have a hard time breaking through civil police barriers early in the protest. Abuja police boss, Joseph Mbu, had threatened to stop the protesters far before the perimeters of the presidential villa.

Mr. Mbu was recently transferred from Rivers state, after several face-offs with Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

Our reporters are covering the protest and will bring you live updates from the march.

Real-time images and videos on Instagram.

17.56

Unable to access Aso Rock, protesters plead for another opportunity to engage the president saying they were not satisfied with the response they got from government officials that came to meet them half way.

"We went out of our way that we must have this meeting with Mr. President. And the answers we have received is inadequate," Oby Ezekwesili said.

"Please let Mr. President know that the answers we received is not enough. Tell him also that he also missed a colossal opportunity to address his citizens on a crucial issue.

"Our proposal is: that we will demand of Mr. President another opportunity of addressing the issues that the citizens have put before him as the commander-in -chief.

"We also want the delegates to tell the president that we hold the office of the president in very high esteem," she said.

The protest ends in Eagle Square, two kilometres away from the intended Aso Rock destination. Protesters disperse, others return to Unity Fountain singing solidarity songs.

17.22

The questions protesters want government officials to answer include:

Why has the president not visited Chibok?

Where were the security operatives when Chibok was attacked for four hours even though there was a state of emergency and many more?

Abuja bomb attack "tiny incident", Boko Haram leader Shekau boasts in video

17.17

Protesters are still at the Eagles Square, about two kilometres away from Aso Rock. They read their demands, in turns, to the government representatives that met them. It appears the protest will terminate at this point, but the organizers are not saying anything yet.

17.00

The Police Commissioner in Abuja, Joseph Mbu, who had earlier threatened to stop the protest has been very cooperative with the protesters. In Eagle Square, he told protesters sitting on the floor that he was supporting them, though in uniform.

Mr. Mbu also ordered his orderly to get cold water for the women.

16.29

At the Eagle Square, close to the presidential villa entrance, the protesters are met by a team of government officials including the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, and others.

The protesters' initial destination - the presidential villa - is still about two kilometres away.

16.24

This is how the protesters will introduce themselves when they eventually get to Aso Rock.

Who are we?

Crowd: Chibok family

What are we demanding?

Crowd : #BringBackOurGirls Now and Alive

16.22

Police officers barricade the road leading into Aso Rock, as expected. But Assistant Inspector General Suleiman Abba told reporters the protester have been cleared to march into Aso Rock.

16.16

There is another stop at the Eagle Square area. Oby Ezekwesili briefs the crowd on purpose of the protest and need for discipline once more.

16.03

The protesters have just been informed by the police that link roads have been blocked to enable unhindered thoroughfare for the protest. With a presidential permission granted for the protest, the police is in full cooperation with the protesters.

15.51

The protesters have moved about 150 meters away from starting point. The march is halted as Oby Ezekwesili addresses the crowd on purpose and discipline.

15.47

The protest takes its first step away from the Unity Fountain starting point. Protesters are still in lines but organizers are working hard to keep it that way.

15.44

"We are going to be a model of a discipline, nobody will talk to the president rudely. Our questions are simple and straight. If anyone wearing the reflectors say to you, you are out of line, please get back to the line," Oby Ezekwesili tells the crowd as she continues to ensure discipline.

15.42

Oby Ezekwesili has just announced to the crowd that the president is ready to listen to the protesters. The crowd is seemingly impressed by that announcement as they instantly began to cheer.

15.32

Just before the protest starts proper, Oby Ezekwesili warns the protesters: "Please do not come here and chant your war song, we will only use our solidarity chant; #BringBackOurGirls 'Now and Alive'."

Mrs Ezekwesili is trying hard to ensure protesters disciplined. "Anybody who does not respect rules belong to the old Nigeria; please respect all the rules," she pleads.

15.30

The march organizes as it gets set for kickoff.

15.24

Organizers are still distributing protest T-shirts to the crowd. In between, Oby Ezekwesili would chant, "show your neighbour your touch of red".

15.23

The crowd is asked to queue in seven rows as Oby Ezekwesili reads out the rules for the protest march.

1: Be on a single line and maintain your line.

2. Make sure you have a touch of red, if you do not have one a red T-shirt will be given to you soon.

3. Look at your neighbours and report any suspicious person or item.

5. Do not carry any thing that will inconvenience you.

6. Do not carry any kind of metal that can be seen as a weapon.

15.21

There are close to one thousand people gather at the Unity Fountain starting point of the protest. Oby Ezekwesili, one of the leaders of the protest, has addressed the protesters while others distribute red T-shirts for the campaign.

The march is yet to move towards its destination.

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