A World Press Conference to mark Day 900 of the Chibok Girls’ Abduction, Unity Fountain, Abuja
September 30, 2016
Hosted by #BringBackOurGirls
September 30, 2016 is the 900th day since 276 school-girls were abducted by Boko Haram from a secondary school in Chibok (57 girls escaped initially, as did Amina Ali, who was found by the Civilian Joint Task Force on May 18, 2016). It is also the 885th day since #BringBackOurGirls (#BBOG) first convened in Abuja, Nigeria.
As such, #BringBackOurGirls would like to take the opportunity to address recent events in its advocacy that affect:
A. The Chibok Girls and all others abducted by Boko Haram (the reason for its civil movement); and,
B. Peaceful protests (one of several advocacy methods used by #BBOG and many other civil movements and groups in democracies around the world).
#BBOG’s World Press Conference provides the opportunity to share with the media and the public a number of salient issues that have arisen in the course of the group’s advocacy. Events surrounding the aforementioned issues, are briefly described in the order of their occurrence:
A.Peaceful Protests and the Nigerian Police
On September 6, 2016, the civil liberties of Nigerian citizens and the tenets of democracy were severely threatened by the Nigerian Police. Following Boko Haram’s August 14th-release of the “plea-for-rescue” video, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign embarked on what it has referred to for the past two-and-a-half years as its “Global Week of Action”, or GWA. These series of activities are designed to mark milestone days in the movement’s advocacy or to highlight specific events with the aim of raising awareness and compelling action on the part of the Nigerian government. With the release of yet a second video this year featuring between 15 and 50 Chibok girls, #BBOG waited for a cogent, action-oriented response from the government while simultaneously designing a series of events which included meetings with the international diplomatic community and protest marches to be carried out every 72 working hours. There was no response, so the group proceeded with its planned activities.
As is customary for #BBOG, letters were submitted to the Nigerian Police and to the State House (the venue-designate) ahead of each of the four planned marches that were to take place. As is also customary for #BBOG, the first three marches were held peaceably and in full view of the police and the public, with the former monitoring the protest march from start to finish without a single issue of safety or security arising.
On the morning of the September 6th march, members of the movement and the press arrived at Unity Fountain for the fourth march and found a 100 man-strong anti-riot police squad waiting to stop them. Armed only with photographs of the Chibok girls which were to be posted on the bridge overpass leading to the State House, the group proceeded to march, followed by members of the media. The group was subjected to several stops by the Nigerian Police, who linked arms and formed a human barricade across the street for each stop. When asked the reason for the blockade, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Deputy Commissioner of Police, M.D. Garba, said that they were “operating under orders”. The group produced their customary letter of intent along with an acknowledgment copy, signed by the police. #BBOG proceeded with the march and arrived at the venue-designate where a counter-protest group was carrying out its own rally and did not appear to have been subjected to the same treatment by the Nigerian Police.
On September 7, 2016, the Inspector General (IG) of the Nigerian Police, Ibrahim Idris issued a statement where he referred to the #BBOG as a “threat to public peace and order” and said that “the police will not sit on the fence and watch such a scenario unfold”.
On September 9, 2016, the Nigerian Police issued a statement denying that it issued a ban on peaceful protests and said that it “recognises the constitutional rights of every law abiding citizen to express his or her view through public protest/procession and other legitimate means”.
While the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees every citizen the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and association (Section 40) as well as the right to the freedom of movement (Section 41), the Nigerian Police failed to recognize this right on September 6, 2016. They also failed to recognize a 2014 Federal Court ruling in favour of #BringBackOurGirls which states that the law does not authorize police to disrupt rallies and processions and overruled the ban placed on the group by a former FCT Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu.
Several groups including SERAP and Amnesty International have condemned the actions of the Nigerian Police against #BBOG, with the latter remarking that – along with other actions of Nigerian security agencies – such actions constitute “a growing threat to human rights enshrined in international law and the Nigerian constitution”.
At a press conference held on September 14, 2016, #BBOG requested that the Inspector General Idris issue an official apology and a retraction of the injurious statements levied against the group.
B.The Chibok Girls, the Plea-for-Rescue video and the Nigerian Government’s Response
On September 15, 2016, eight months after #BBOG’s second meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on January 14th of this year, the government issued an official statement through the Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in which a chronicle of Nigerian security agencies’ efforts to rescue our Chibok girls was reported. This included efforts that were said to have started on July 17, 2015 (several days after #BBOG’s first meeting with President Buhari) and grew into negotiations that had failed three times during the period between August 4th and December 10th, 2015.
Immediately after the Federal Government released this statement, #BBOG was asked to comment. In response, the group recognized the government’s statement as being the first official statement addressing questions that #BBOG has repeatedly asked in the course of its 30 month-long advocacy, including during its last meeting with the President and the Chibok parents in January. However, the groups asked for time to study the statement and promised to release a reply soon afterwards.
#BBOG believes that the World Press Conference on Day 900 is the best forum within which to respond to the Federal Government’s statement.
At the World Press Conference we hope to achieve the following objectives:
1. To review the details of the Nigerian Police’s actions against #BBOG and discuss the implications that these actions have, not only for the movement, but for the constitutional rights of other civic groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Nigerian citizens.
2. To issue a statement and analysis of the contradictions and concerns arising from the Federal Government’s official statement on the Chibok Girls, dated September 15, 2016.
3. To provide answers to the press and public about matters pertaining to the abduction and rescue of the Chibok girls, and other matters relating to the aftermath of the Boko Haram insurgency.
WHO WILL ATTEND THE WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE?
The main audience for the World Press Conference are members of the local and international press, but also welcome are:
The Nigerian Police and other Nigerian Security Agencies
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
International Human Rights Groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
International Organisations working in Nigeria
Local NGOs and Civil Society Groups
Concerned and/or interested members of the public