The Illegal Ban of BBOG Protesters Must Not Be Allowed to Stand, By Femi Falana
Since the BBOG members have demonstrated unprecedented courage and determination to continue to protests until Chibok girls are brought back home, the police and the security forces should be directed by President Buhari to desist from harassing them in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.
Following the wicked abduction of the Chibok girls by the satanic Boko Haram sect on April 14, 2014, a group of concerned Nigerians under the auspices of Bring Back Our Girls movement decided to defend the fundamental rights of the victims to personal liberty and human dignity. Through selfless sacrifice and uncommon commitment, the BBOG campaigners mounted a global campaign which drew the attention of all men and women of goodwill to the plight of the innocent girls and the mental and psychological agony to which their parents have been subjected. In particular, the BBOG members have successfully mobilised the United Nations, world leaders and the global human rights community to demand for the unconditional release of the abducted girls.
But for the effective campaign relentlessly waged by the BBOG members through peaceful protests which are held on a daily basis in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, the Federal Government and the Nigerian people would have forgotten about the Chibok girls. However, disturbed that it was constantly reminded of its responsibility to free the girls from the illegal custody of the terrorists, the Jonathan administration deployed armed thugs to attack and disperse the BBOG members. Although they were violently attacked by official thugs, the BBOG members refused to be bullied and silenced. As if the barbaric attack was not enough, the Nigeria Police Force banned public protests in the Federal Capital Territory. The illegal ban was condemned by human rights and democratic organisations including the All Progressives Congress (APC). At the material time, one of the APC members who is now a serving minister in the Buhari administration openly identified with the BBOG members.
The illegal ban was successfully challenged at the Federal Capital Territory High Court in the unreported case of Hadiza Bala Usman &Ors v Commissioner of Police & Anor. (Suit no FCT/Hc/CV/1693/2014 of 30th October, 2014. In upholding our submissions, the court held that “it is wrong for the counsel to the Respondent (IGP) to insist that the Applicants must obtain Police Permit before they can gather together for their peaceful protests.” The High Court had placed heavy reliance on the celebrated case of Inspector-General of Police v ANPP (2008) 12 WRN 65 where the Court of Appeal granted a perpetual injunction restraining the appellant (IGP) from further preventing Nigerian citizens from demonstrating for and against the government. In dismissing the speculation of the Inspector-General of Police that there might be a breakdown of law and order during protests, the Court held that “our Criminal Code has made adequate provisions for sanctions against breakdown of law and order so that the requirement of permit as a conditionality for holding meetings and rallies can no longer be justified in a democratic society.”
By accusing the BBOG campaigners of engaging in subversive activity by legitimately demanding for the abducted Chibok girls, the Inspector-General of Police has exposed the Federal Government to avoidable embarrassment.
Yesterday, there was a “clash” between the BBOG and a pro-Buhari group in Abuja. Sequel to the purported clash, the Inspector-General of Police has called the BBOG members and announced an illegal ban on public protests in the Federal Capital Territory. Since the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people (including former members of the ANPP who are now in the APC-led government) to assemble peacefully and demonstrate without any official harassment have been upheld by Nigerian courts, the illegal ban on public protests in the Federal Capital Territory by the Inspector-General of Police will not be allowed to stand. More so, that is principally aimed at stopping the demand for the unconditionally release of the Chibok girls from the illegal incarceration of the Boko Haram sect.
Instead of demonising the BBOG campaigners, we owe them a duty for upholding our collective humanity. By accusing the BBOG campaigners of engaging in subversive activity by legitimately demanding for the abducted Chibok girls, the Inspector-General of Police has exposed the Federal Government to avoidable embarrassment. Since the BBOG members have demonstrated unprecedented courage and determination to continue to protests until Chibok girls are brought back home, the police and the security forces should be directed by President Buhari to desist from harassing them in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), writes from Lagos.