Members of the Bring Back Our Girls advocacy group were the target of police teargas canisters. Here's the full story.
The BBOG has been demanding for the rescue of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists on April 14, 2014.
While a number of the girls have been released by their abductors following negotiations with the federal government, more than 100 of the Chibok girls remain in the custody of the terrorists.
“We have been attacked by the police. We were tear gassed. Today 23rd April, BBOG members were attacked by police. We stay demanding”, Aisha Yesufu, a co-convener of the BBOG group shared on Twitter.
“Shame on you President Buhari and Prof Osibanjo. You both will not truncate our hard fought democracy. This is unacceptable and we will never be intimidated into silence. We have been protesting since April 2014. Will not stop until all our girls are accounted for”, another member of the BBOG, Maureen Kabrik, said.
Jeff Okoroafor said; “They cannot tell us what we've done wrong since the 13th when our regular place of meeting was cordoned off...our chairs are still not brought back. This is a crime. This is lawlessness. This is irresponsibility”.
Former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili who has been leading the group on their peaceful sit-outs since 2014, said; “The police have been attacking our movement since April 13, 2018 - eve of the 4th year of Chibok girls abduction. They have pushed us out of the space we hold our daily sit outs and seized our chairs.
“Our members have been physically manhandled, assaulted and sprayed with tear- gas by the Nigerian presidency and police in violation of our rights.”
The police first banned the BBOG movement from using the Unity Fountain as a starting point for their protests in June of 2014, citing “security reasons”.
It was a ban Ezekwesili and others kicked against at the time.
"There is no basis for and no power of FCT commissioner of police to ban peaceful assembly of any group of persons in the city. None at all," Ezekwesili said at the time.
BBOG lawyer Femi Falana had said: "The decision to ban the protest is insane. We are going to court as soon as possible to challenge the ban."
In June of 2016, the police disrupted the assembly of the protesters again. FCT police spokesperson, Anjuguri Manzah would later issue a statement accusing the BBOG group of creating "unwarranted tension and apprehension among law abiding citizens and in the process obstructing legitimate business activities."
In October of 2014, Justice Sunday Aladetoyinbo of the High Court of the FCT, ruled that the police lacks the powers to prevent the BBOG from carrying out their daily sit-outs. “The court specifically ruled that, ‘The right to freedom of assembly is the bone of democratic governance”, the BBOG said in a statement.
A recent statement from the BBOG after the police told the press that their gathering was illegal, read as follows:
“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 stifling 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”.
Over 164 of the 276 Chibok girls have so far returned home; with 112 still in Boko Haram custody.
On the eve of the 4th anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, Ezekwesili told Pulse that she is “deeply disappointed in leadership and governance", that a chunk of the girls haven't been rescued. "A decent and just society is known for how it places dignity on its weakest and most vulnerable.
“By failing our Chibok girls and their parents regardless of which government was in place in the last four years, we learn that we are yet on the journey to being a just and fair society.
“That is why our BBOG movement will not stop demanding for justice of rescue for our Chibok girls from our government. Their return will commence our journey to becoming a decent society", Ezekwesili had added.
Police spokesperson Jimoh Moshood didn’t pick up calls when Pulse rang his mobile for a reaction to Monday's tear-gas incident on the BBOG.
FCT police spokesperson Manzah was also not immediately available for comments for this story.