Dele Ogbdo, Kasim Sumaina, Nosa Enobhayisobo and Oluwatosin Komolafe in Abuja
The Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group on Tuesday broke through a police cordon and marched on the Presidential Villa, Abuja to register its demand for more concrete efforts by the federal government to rescue the secondary school girls who were abducted by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014.
The Nigeria Police Force had on Monday issued an order restricting the BBOG’s daily protests to their Unity Fountain, Maitama base. The order came against the background of two protest marches on the Presidential Villa in the last one month that were aborted by the police.
The group led by their joint conveners, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili and Aisha Yesufu, were however surprised to meet at the gate of the Presidential Villa, another group, “With Buhari I Stand,” that had gone to pay a solidarity visit to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The demand for the rescue of the Chibok girls is not a privilege,” Yesufu told the police personnel that had attempted to prevent them from accessing the seat of power.
The march yesterday was the first defiant one by the group that had had a running battle with the police and other security agencies over their insistence on conveying their demands for a quicker and more coordinated efforts at rescuing the girls to the president personally.
For two years, the BBOG had been on the Chibok girls’ case, charging the federal government to act more decisively to rescue 217 of them that are still in the custody of Boko Haram.
However, there was a twist yesterday as the new group, #With Buhari I Stand, emerged to oppose the activities of the BBOG and the situation would have degenerated into fisticuffs if not for the presence and intervention of security operatives.
As the BBOG set out from its Unity Fountain base, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Abiodun Alamutu had met with the leaders of the group to inform them of a directive restricting their activities to their base. He however refused to disclose the source of the directive.
Ezekwesili, who refused to be dissuaded, presented a letter signed by an assistant inspector general of police (AIG) that gave permission to the group to embark on the peaceful protest.
Following the presentation of the letter, the ACP allowed the group to proceed, but its march was however short lived as Deputy Commissioner of Police M. D. Garba stopped the group and directed the BBOG to return to its base.
Ezekwesili immediately addressed the press, explaining their frustration with the lackadaisical attitude of the federal government to the rescue of the girls.
She said: “When the ‘proof of life’ video showing Dorcas Yakubu was released by the Boko Haram sect which has been holding them captive for 876 days, the BBOG decided to give the federal government one week within which to show evidence of decisive action to rescue our Chibok girls.”
She explained that the group made that decision guided by the fact that on 14th April 2016, the Boko Haram sect had released a video to CNN, suggesting that the girls were still alive, adding that weeks after, one of the persons abducted, Amina Ali, was found wandering in the Sambisa forest, where she was picked up by the civilian JTF and handed over to the Nigerian military authorities that brought her back home.
Ezekwesili said: “The president said the return of Amina Ali was an important turning point in the efforts to get our Chibok girls back to their families, stating that she was going to provide vital information that will make the government bring back her peers. But nothing was done to that effect. There was no action taken, and no communication made to us from the federal government.”
She said the group was more pained by the offhanded response to the second “proof of life” video released on 14 August, 2016 showing Dorcas Yakubu, who was identified by her mother, Esther Yakubu, making a plea for rescue. Dorcas was shown against the background of about 50 of her colleagues in captivity.
Ezekwesili, who said the group had marched unhindered to the Villa on three different occasions, wondered why the police suddenly chose to prevent this one, adding that it was unfortunate that this was happening under a president who had pledged in his inaugural speech that he would not consider Nigeria to be free until the girls were brought back home and alive.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Command, Mr. Mustafa Mohammed, has said anyone or group intending to engage in public procession should obtain a permit from his command.
He spoke in a statement by the command’s Public Relations Officer, Anjuguri Manzah, and said he viewed with serious concern the flagrant disregard for the law by some individuals and group of persons who laid siege to the FCT in the form of protests and demonstrations.
Mohammed said: “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.
“It is on this note that the command is making it clear that it will continue to be professional in discharging its constitutionally assigned roles in accordance with international best practices especially as it relates to the fundamental rights of citizens.”