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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

UN shows interest in harassment of #BringBackOurGirls members

The Office of the UN Special Rapporteur on the
rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and
association has intervened to “end the
harassment of #BringBackOurGirls protesters
and has asked for additional information on the
matter,” Socio-Economic Rights and
Accountability Project (SERAP) said today.

This followed SERAP’s urgent appeal to Mr. Maina
Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to
freedom of peaceful assembly and association on
9 September 2016 drawing his “attention to
continuing harassment and intimidation of the
#BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) group by the
Nigerian authorities, and the impermissible
restrictions on the rights of members to
freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni
who disclosed the development today Tuesday in
Lagos said: “SERAP has been in communication
with Marion Mondain, Consultant Equality, Non-
Discrimination and Participation Unit UN Special
Procedures Branch (SPB) who confirmed the
Special Rapporteur’s interest in the matter and
asked for additional information.”

According to Mumuni, “SERAP has worked closely
with the BBOG leaders to provide the Office of
the Special Rapporteur with the information
requested. We are very grateful for the interest
shown by the Special Rapporteur in taking action
in this matter, as we believe the right to
freedom of peaceful assembly and protest is so
fundamental that it cannot and should never be
denied under any pretext whatsoever.”

“The consideration of the matter by the Special
Rapporteur is indeed timely as the BBOG marks
later this week the 900th day of the Chibok girls
in Boko Haram’s captivity. We hope that this
government will allow the members of the
BBOG and other Nigerians who may wish to do
so to peacefully exercise their constitutional and
internationally recognized right to freedom of
assembly,” Mumuni said.

The additional information that SERAP in
consultation with the BBOG sent to the Officer of
the Special Rapporteur reads in part: “Following
the release of the ‘Plea-for-Rescue’ video on 14
August 2016 wherein the Chibok girls, abducted
from their school Government Secondary School,
Chibok on 14 April 2014 and have been in
captivity since then cried out for help; the BBOG
movement expected a strong response and
decisive action from the federal government.”

“The Police was combat armed and their
provocative actions against the protesters could
have easily degenerated to a major breakdown
of law and order. The Inspector General of Police
was inciting the public against BBOG humanity-
based advocacy for abducted school children by
impugning the motives of BBOG members. His
actions are targeted at maligning and tarnishing
the reputation of BBOG Movement in order to
weaken BBOG advocacy.”

“BBOG decided to embark on a 14-day series of
strategic engagements to protest against the
inexplicable apathy of such monumental tragedy
and blight on humanity. BBOG activities during
the period included four marches to the State
House every three working days. As is
characteristic of BBOG movement, they wrote to
the President and the Inspector General of
Police ahead of time. Both letters were received
and duly acknowledged by their respective
offices.”

“BBOG successfully carried out most of their
public activities without disturbance nor
hindrance. However, on Tuesday 6 September,
BBOG saw in the media that the Police Federal
Capital Territory (FCT) Command had issued a
public announcement specifically warning BBOG
movement against engaging on their march
which was to the State House that day.”

“The Police said that the BBOG movement had
failed to secure ‘police approval’ and so were not
to march because according to them ‘These
indiscriminate actions which are carried out in
disorderly and sometimes riotous manner create
unwarranted tension and apprehension among
law abiding citizens and in the process obstruct
legitimate business activities.’”

“At BBOG usual meeting grounds in Abuja, Unity
Fountain later that morning, they met a
detachment of up to 100 anti-riot police men
and women, many of them bearing arms. BBOG
members were approached by one Mr Abiodun
Alamutu (Assistant Commissioner of Police) that
he had orders from ‘above’ to stop the march
and to limit all BBOG activities within the
boundaries of the Unity Fountain. He threatened
the necessary use of force to ensure the order if
BBOG protesters became uncooperative.”

“BBOG responded that they were acting within
their Citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed to right
to freedoms of thought, conscience, association,
peaceful assembly, movement, etc fell on deaf
ears. All efforts to make the Police contingent
see that their oppressive action was illegal and a
violation of the 1999 Constitution did not
dissuade them from barricading BBOG
protesters from moving out of the Unity
Fountain.”

“At this point, BBOG made a decision to proceed
on their march by walking through human
barriers in a civil manner on to the Shehu
Shagari Way. As BBOG protesters marched on,
the over 100 police officers walked alongside
BBOG movement until when ten minutes into
this, they once again formed a human barricade
and disrupted BBOG procession. This time, ACP
Abiodun Alamutu was adamant that BBOG would
not be permitted to continue the march and
should therefore hold their meetings at the spot
of police barricade.”

“He challenged BBOG to produce evidence of
notice to the Police Command that BBOG would
be marching on the streets of Abuja on that day.

BBOG were very delighted to produce the
evidence. BBOG displayed to the ACP and the
media, acknowledgement copies of their letters
both to Mr President and the IGP giving
adequate notice of BBOG march. From the
acknowledgement copies, it was evident that
BBOG movement had given ample notice, not
the minimum required 48 hours notice. BBOG
had in fact given a 4 days (96 hours) notice to the
authorities. After BBOG showed that their
procession was absolutely lawful, ACP Alamutu
responded that the Police would allow BBOG to
proceed with their march.”

“Immediately BBOG prepared to march on, an
officer who identified himself as Mr M.D. Garba
(Deputy Commissioner of Police) appeared,
intercepted BBOG protesters and declared that
BBOG protesters were still not permitted to
proceed with the march. He stated that he was
acting on the instructions of the FCT
Commissioner of Police, Mr Muhammad Mustafa
and was impervious to reason. He refused to be
persuaded even by his colleagues who attested
to the fact that they could not defend any actions
against BBOG peaceful procession.”

“Again, BBOG refused to be blocked. We broke
through their barricade and proceeded with our
march. To imagine that some of the parents and
relatives of the ChibokGirls were subjected to so
much physical and emotional stress by the
Police’s provocative and unwarranted
infringement of citizens’ right to peaceful
procession!”

“On arrival at the entrance to the State House
where BBOG had usually in the past three other
matches been stopped by the Police, BBOG
decided to stop as usual and conduct their
activities as planned. Strangely, at the spot BBOG
would normally set up their activities, BBOG saw
that another contigent of of Police officers were
providing protection for a group of protesters
wearing polo shirts and caps themed ‘With Buhari
We Stand’.”

“That group carried placards with messages
against BBOG movement and key members.

Some of the messages on the placards of that
group that had police support and protection
included those which referred to Chibok girls
tragedy as a ‘scam’. These counter protesters
chanted insults at BBOG movement but the
movement simply ignored them. BBOG activity
for that day was to post pictures of #ChibokGirls
on the walls of Villa road. BBOG thus quietly
carried out their objective and proceeded to
march back to the Unity Fountain without any
further incidence.”

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