19 April 2018

Nigeria: BBOG Gives Nigerian Govt 72 Hours to Unseal Protest Venue

The Bring Back our Girls Group, (BBOG) has given the Nigerian government and the police 72 hours (three days) to unseal the Unity Fountain, venue of its daily sit-outs, that was sealed by the police a few days ago.

The group, while condemning the action of the police reminded them that the sealing violates the group's constitutional rights and past court rulings.

The group has been sitting almost daily for the past few years to protest the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014. They have had serial confrontations with the police who have been uncomfortable with their consistent gathering at the Unity Fountain.

The Shiites, who also had a violent confrontation with the police during the week also use the spot for their protests. The sealing of the venue, the police argued was temporary while it said it was considering the security situation around the capital city.

However the BBOG in a statement issued three of its leaders, Florence Ozor, Aisha Yusuf and Oby Ezekwesili, said the action was targeted at its criticism of the government over the handling of the Chibok abduction.

In its Post-4th-Year Commemoration address on Thursday, the group also stated its position on some "key emerging issues".

"Today is Day 1466 (4 years and 5 days) since schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok were abducted in their school on 14 April 2014, 112 of them remain missing. Following our activities across cities in Nigeria and around the world to mark the sad occasion, with the flagship 2nd Annual #ChibokGirls Lecture, it is imperative for our movement to state our position on some key emerging issues," it said.

Some of the issues it addressed included the non-return of the remaining Chibok girls, the Dapchi schoolgirls' abduction, revelations made by a Nigerian journalist, Ahmad Salkida over the fate of the Chibok girls and the harassment of its members by the police.

Part of its statement read:

"There are indications by Ahmad Salkida, a journalist who has reported the crisis in the northeast for over a decade, and has a record of having exclusive, insider exposés from the terrorists that most of our girls may have suffered fatalities. Considering his record it will be out of place to not pay attention to information he reveals.

"The Government of Nigeria has in turn refuted the claims, however in a perfunctory manner. The federal government has not given sufficient, convincing reasons and evidence to believe otherwise. Our movement therefore tasks the federal government to provide a proof-of-life video as sufficient counter-evidence indicating the number of our girls alive, and most importantly bring all of them home and/or accounting for each single one.

"Of the 110 abducted schoolgirls of Government Science and Technical College, Dapchi on 19 February this year, 104 are back, Leah Sharibu is held back, but there has been no report of the 5 others. Our movement demands an update on the state and whereabouts of our 5 #DapchiGirls.

"The parents of the 6, as our movement has been made aware have not been briefed personally by the government except for what they here in the news. This is unacceptable. The poor treatment of Chibok parents for 4 years by successive administrations must never be normalised. We reject it, and call for a reversal. Families, close relations, friends and communities must never be left in a limbo, guessing and allowed to be in a state of despair. Deaths from the toll such distress causes as has been with 20 Chibok parents must be prevented."

It also addressed what it termed, the "lawlessness by the Nigeria Police Force".

"On Friday 13 April, just a day to the 4th year commemoration, operatives of the Nigeria police carted away (stole?) our chairs from our usual meeting grounds in Abuja, Unity Fountain, for no just cause. The park was also sealed. Our movement and others have been purportedly banned by the police from meeting.

"This stiffling of citizens' voices and closing of civic spaces is blatant lawlessness and an abuse. Rights to freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, thought and conscience are guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Nigeria police itself being a creation of the law cannot act above the law that created it.

"Further to this, in October 2014 Justice Sunday Aladetoyinbo of the High Court of the FCT, ruled that the police lacks the powers to prevent protest by our movement. The court specifically ruled that, 'The right to freedom of assembly is the bone of democratic governance.'

"The Nigeria police cannot therefore reenact through the backdoor Decrees 2 and 4 of the dark military era in stifling democratic voices. The 'banning' of other civic groups meeting peacefully at Unity Fountain creates room for a repeat of errors of the past. Nigeria cannot afford groups going underground. Nigeria cannot afford yet another sectarian crisis."

The BBOG outlined the steps it would take to enforce its rights in the coming days.

"Having given the federal government 72 hours to rethink its totalitarian inclinations and descent to militarism by stifling civic voices, we have decided to return to our daily sit-outs beginning from this day.

"Also, our movement shall be bringing forth a number of law suits: to compel the federal to produce evidence to the claim that our #ChibokGirls are all alive; to compel the federal government to answer the 14 question we had raised following the abduction of our #DapchiGirls; and to provide reasons for living behind Leah Sharibu, and not accounting for the other 5; the Nigeria police; the inspector-general of the police, FCT commissioner of police as officers and in their personal capacities for willfully breaking the law with impunity. There have to be consequences for bad behaviour," the group said.

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