MS Risk Blog

Support Rallies Banned in Nigeria’s Capital

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Citing a security threat, Nigerian police have decided to ban public protests for the release of the kidnapped schoolgirls in the capital Abuja.

In a statement released Monday, Abuja police commissioner Joseph Mbu confirmed the decision, stating that public protests had “degenerated” and that the rallies were “now posing a serious security threat.”  The capital city has seen almost daily rallies, which have called for the Nigerian government to take firmer actions to rescue the more than 200 schoolgirls that were kidnapped by Islamist militants in the remote village of Chibok on 14 April.  The ban also comes a week after scuffles broke out between demonstrators organised under #BringBackOurGirls and a new government-sponsored group known as #ReleaseOurGirls.  The police commissioner has also been quoted as stating that “dangerous elements” could join the demonstrations and further jeopardize the security situation.

While the protests have increased over the past several weeks, with activists and campaign groups seeking to attain meetings with senior government officials, including the president himself, last Wednesday, the high-profile marches descended into violence after a number of young men attacked female protesters, throwing chairs, bottles and stones at them.  According to on the ground sources, some of the men involved in the incident were carrying posters in support of President Jonathan.  The identities of the men involved in the attack have not been released, however some sources have idicated that they may have links to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).  No evidence connecting this however has been released.

While no further details pertaining to the ban have been released, some protest organizers have questioned the legitimacy of the decision, stating that the move may have been politically motivated in a bid to quiet those not content with the government’s reaction to the mass kidnapping.

Families and supporters of the missing girls have been critical of President Goodluck Jonathan’s response to the kidnappings, accusing him of being slow to reach and indifferent to their plight.  In the weeks since the April 14 kidnappings, Nigeria has been forced to accept international help, including from the United States, in a bid to locate the missing girls.