Falana urges #BringBackOurGirls Movement to revive rallies

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Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, had said that the Federal Government’s persecution and troop deployment to disband the BringBackOurGirls Advocacy Movement during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure are factors contributing to the continued captivity of about 100 Chibok girls.

Falana also disclosed that it is time for the movement to resume its advocacy efforts at either monthly or weekly intervals to keep Nigeria public and the world abreast of the girls in captivity.

“Instead of filing an appeal, the government sent troops to disband the protesters around the Unity Fountain and made it impossible for the movement to continue to operate. Now that we are marking the 10th anniversary, I think the challenge before the movement and other stakeholders and the human rights community is to see how we can revive the rallies; remind the entire world that these girls are still missing and see what can be done to pressurize the government to devise means of locating them.”

Falana further disclosed that he declined an appointment to join the panel of enquiry set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 because he was convinced civilians had no business advising the Federal Government on how to rescue the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

The Human rights lawyer, Falana disclosed this at a virtual event held by Women FM on Google Meet to celebrate ’10 Years Life After Abduction of Chibok Girls’ on Monday evening.

The virtual programme was monitored by our correspondent.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria also appealed to the Federal Government to make the freedom of the remaining 87 abducted schoolgirls in captivity a priority.

#BringBackOurGirls Advocacy Movement, on its website described its operations as, “A diverse group of citizens advocating for speedy and effective search and rescue of all our abducted girls and a rapid containment and quelling of insurgency in Nigeria.”

On April 14, 2014, about 276 female students of Government Secondary School in Chibok, a local government area in Borno State, were kidnapped and whisked away by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents.

However, 57 of the schoolgirls managed to escape, mostly by jumping off the moving trucks and fleeing to nearby bushes.

The abduction had sparked outrage from both local and international media with political leaders and activists putting pressure on the then President Goodluck Jonathan to rescue the girls while offering intelligence and support.

The pressure continued long after Jonathan’s administration.

Despite spirited efforts and intervention put up by the immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari, to facilitate their freedom after the initial kidnapping, nearly 100 of the girls remain missing.

But Falana believed the rescue operation was not properly managed as a result of arrogance on the part of the FG.

He said, “Recall that when this unfortunate incident occurred 10 years ago, the military claimed that they knew where these girls were and they didn’t want any danger to happen to them. For that reason, they were going to find a way of getting each of them released. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Even when some foreign governments offered to assist, the government arrogantly maintained that it could ensure that these girls were brought home safely.

“To divert attention at this stage, the Jonathan administration set up a panel of enquiry to help the government or to offer suggestions on how the girls could be located. Remember, I was a member of that panel and I declined to serve because it is not the business of civilians, to make suggestions on how to ensure the release of innocent unarmed girls that were kidnapped in their school.

“So, legally speaking, the government must ensure the safety and the security, not just of citizens, but of everybody living in the country. So, we must continue to put pressure on the government to look for these girls under the law. Somebody is presumed dead after seven years if he cannot be located. But we are all still convinced that these girls are alive and that the government did not do enough to secure the release of these girls.

“Again, one of the most horrendous actions ever taken by the Nigerian government was the attack on the #BringBackOurGirls movement in Abuja. The government at this stage felt disturbed that it was being reminded of its responsibility.”

Continuing, the lawyer blamed the continued persecution of the #BringBackOurGirls, which he said was led at a point by a former commissioner of police.

Falana said he found it hard to believe that a country with a population of over 200 million still lacks modern-day tracking gadgets and other crime prevention to curb the increasing rate of abduction in the country.

“One Mbu, a commissioner of police in Abuja banned or imposed a ban on any form of gathering in the Federal Capital Territory. At the instance of the movement, we had to go to court and the court declared the ban illegal and asked the movement to continue its activities under the law. The government was disturbed and wasn’t satisfied with the judgment.

“Instead of filing an appeal, the government sent troops to disband the protesters around the Unity Fountain and made it impossible for the movement to continue to operate. Now that we are marking the 10th anniversary, I think the challenge before the movement and other stakeholders and the human rights community is to see how we can revive the rallies; remind the entire world that these girls are still missing and see what can be done to pressurize the government to devise means of locating them.

“Initially, we were told that once the government take over the Sambisa Forest, we are going to be able to secure the release of these girls. So we must go back to that harassment of the government by gathering on a weekly or monthly basis and letting the world know that these girls are still missing.

“We cannot have a modern government in this age and time, with the enormous resources of Nigeria, not being able to acquire the necessary security gadgets, including drones, to ensure that criminal elements that have made it possible to kidnap school children, take them to bushes, where some die and then collect money before they are released. This is unacceptable in a modern society.”

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