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SERAP: UN intervenes to end harassment of #BringBackOurGirls members

Source: pointblanknews.com
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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 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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