Posted by News Express | 3 June 2014 | 2,424 times
Former Education Minister Oby Ezekwesili has vowed to head for court today to challenge the action of the Nigeria Police, which yesterday announced a ban on all protests in Abuja over the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls.
Federal Capital Territory Police Commissioner Mbu Joseph Mbu, who announced the ban at a news conference, had claimed that there were plans by “dangerous elements” to infiltrate the protesters and detonate bombs.
However, Ezekwesili, who has been leading the #BringBackOurGirls protests, immediately rejected the ban as illegal and said they would seek redress in court.
“What we plan to do is, and we already spoke to our lawyers, we will go to court tomorrow to seek restraint on the police,” she told CNN last night.
She added that based on a Supreme Court ruling, the police had no right to stop the protesters from exercising their rights to hold the protest.
Earlier, Ezekwesili wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Also in a statement, lawyer Festus Keyamo said the protest ban “is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void. It is against the spirit and letters of section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
He added: “It is shocking that the Federal Government, hiding under the facade of the Police, has finally openly displayed its disdain for the public outcry over the kidnap of those innocent souls. The Federal Government would really have wished that we all went about our normal businesses and live in denial like it did for many weeks.”
The ban, he said, “should be rescinded immediately or else the Federal Government should be prepared to arrest and lock up all Nigerians. Even the military did not succeed in muzzling Nigerians like the Federal Government wants to do by this feeble Order.”
Announcing that “protests on the Chibok girls are hereby banned with immediate effect,” CP Mbu had said: “We are all aware of what happened in Mubi, Adamawa State and as FCT police boss, I cannot fold my hands and watch this lawlessness.
“Information reaching us is that too soon, dangerous elements will join groups under the guise of protest and detonate explosives aimed at embarrassing the government.”
Daily rallies have been going on in Abuja for more than a month, after over 200 girls were taken by Boko Haram gunmen from the Government Secondary School Chobok, Borno State on April 14.
The #BringBackOurGirls protesters are demanding more efforts by the government towards finding the girls. They were forced to relocate their rallies from the Unity Fountain to Maitama Amusement Park following an attack by the rival #ReleaseOurGirls group last week.
The Federal Government has not hidden its discomfort with the #BringBackOurGirls group, claiming that majority of them are members of the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
On May 11, a detachment of armed policemen tried to stop the protesters from gaining entry to the Unity Fountain, their regular venue for the rallies. A senior police officer was heard as telling the organisers that there were orders from “above” not to allow any more protests over the Chibok girls.
In justifying his action yesterday, Mbu said a situation where the Fountain of Unity was being turned into a place for cooking and selling was embarrassing.
He said many diplomats live in that area of Abuja.
Asked whether the ban would not violate the freedom of expression and assembly, the commissioner said that one person’s freedom should not affect another person’s freedom.
“People have been protesting over a month now…it is the issue of terrorism, it is not solved in one day. Then, when you continue to do it persistently, it becomes nuisance to the government,” Mbu said.
Mbu also yesterday removed all the 32 Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) in the FCT and directed them to hand over to the next senior police officers in their respective divisions.
The FCT Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Altine Daniel, told newsmen that the decision was taken because the “commissioner of police was not satisfied with the conduct of the Divisional Police Officers.”
•Adapted from a Daily Trust report. Photo shows Ezekwesili leading a #BringBackOurGirls protest.
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