Barely 24 hours after the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu banned all protests, in Federal Capital Territory (FCT), to demand the rescue of the over 250 Chibok schoolgirls, kidnapped in Borno state, the Police High Command has reversed the ban.
Making the U-turn, the Force denied that it has not issued any order banning peaceful assemblies or protests anywhere in Nigeria.
The FCT police authority had on Monday announced the ban, citing security concerns about the possible hijacking of the situation by insurgents and other criminal elements.
According to a statement issued by the Force spokesman, Frank Mba, the force said it only issued advisory notice, enjoining citizens to apply caution in the said rallies, particularly in the FCT and its environs.
“It notes however that against the backdrop of current security challenges in the country, coupled with a recent intelligence report of a likely infiltration and hijack of otherwise innocuous and peaceful protests by some criminal elements having links with insurgents.
“Reminding citizens of the earlier position of the Force on peaceful rallies, which the Police High Command regards as the constitutional and democratic rights of Nigerians, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, M.D. Abubakar, stresses the need for the organizers of such rallies to ensure that they seek proper advice and guidance from the Police before engaging in any such exercise so as to avoid any unpleasant circumstances.”
It further stated: “The IGP calls on the general public to see the present position of the Force as a necessary sacrifice for the peace our nation needs, as security is a collective responsibility.
“Consequently, citizens are strongly advised to reconsider their positions on the issues of rallies and protests in FCT until the existing threats are appropriately neutralized and removed from our midst by relevant security agencies.”
Meanwhile, following the announcement of the ban on Monday, members of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign team, otherwise known as Abuja Family, yesterday headed to the Federal High court, in Maitama, to challenge the legality of the said police action.
They described the Police action as unconstitutional, undemocratic and repressive act against the people.
Leading members of the group, Oby Ezekwesili and Hadiza Bala Usman, argued that their protests over a month-plus had been peaceful and they could not understand why the ban, as police had hitherto said they were acting within the law.
Consequently, the campaigners cancelled its earlier planned return to the Abuja Unity Fountain, being the usual venue for their meeting, defiling all threats of intimidation and harassment by members of a suspected government-sponsored group against their gathering there, seeking the rescue of the girls.
The campaigners, had following last week’s attack on them, relocated to meeting outside the Maitama Amusement Park, in the nation’s capital.
A lot of the group’s campaigns have been directed towards the government for failing to promptly rescue the girls, who were kidnapped by the dreaded Boko haram, in Chibok, near the Cameroon border, on April 14.
It would be recalled that the protest, though popular among several citizens, has been a source of worry for the federal government, with the Minister of Information, some key government official saying that the protesters were sponsored by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).