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On Ban of #BringBackOurGirls Protest in Abuja: A Response

The beauty and glory of any democracy lies in the ability of the people to voice dissent–Free expression. In fact, the cardinal pillars of democracy are: free expression, adherence to the rule of law, accountability, transparency, good governance and free and fair election. All will be lost in a democracy where citizens are banned from organizing peacefully to influence the government they supposedly elected. And this is exactly what has happened in Abuja, Nigeria where the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Chief, Joseph Mbu has placed a ban on #BringBackOurGirls Protest which has been on for over a month demanding for answers and rescue of the 200+ Chibok school girls abducted from their school in Borno by Boko Haram militants on April 15th, 2014. The burning questions are: on what basis is the ban issued? Was the protest a security threat to the nation or government? Are we no longer in a democratic state?

People react to situations differently depending on the socio-political eco-system in which they find themselves. And Nigerians, sorry to say, are quite a docile, calm, and yet highly cynical people who when faced with threatening matters bordering on our collective well-being will shrug and laugh it off – every man to his tent. But sometimes, Nigerians come at issues with a united front, damning their variegated background and mundane inclinations. June 12 is one of such times. Yet, the #BringBackOurGirls protest is by far the most popular and sustained civil march undertaken by Nigerians to address an issue of common concern – government’s ostrich attitude to the ravaging scourge of terrorism. The kidnap of 200+ Chibok girls roused the conscience of most Nigerians and the world at large to the banditry, blood bath, and near anarchy that has been brewing in North-Eastern Nigeria for 5 years which the Federal Government has treated with derelict lethargy.

People all over the world, leveraging the wide coverage of social media – ‘tweeted’, ‘hashtagged’, and marched – a movement was born – a movement of the people. No government can ban a people bound by a common cause form marching. Luther King Jnr. marched with Americans – racism fell; the Arab world marched – sit-tight regimes gave way; and now Nigerians are marching – what do you expect?

It’s crystal clear as provided by the Constitution that every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons… for the protection of his interest. Supreme is the interest of all Nigerians that our girls be rescued and brought back safe and sound. Further, it’s in the greater interest of the Government to rescue our girls by what ever means available and possible in order to save its face and in return restore our confidence in its power to perform its basic function – protection of life and property and promotion of the citizens’ welfare. So from whence did the ill-conceived ban issued by Mbu emanate from? We declare such order as illegal, unconstitutional and therefore null, void and of no effect. The ban is in total violation of the citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly and free expression as guaranteed in our constitution, the African Charter and other international treaties binding the Nigerian state; and no ban or intimidation can cow the Nigerian people from demanding for the rescue of our girls. We are one with the world and speaking with one voice saying: #BringBackOurGirls

– Elvis Wura Towolawi

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