The procedural conflict within the police begs for rectification. Otherwise, how could Joseph Mbu, Commissioner of Police for Federal Capital Territory (FCT), have single-handedly banned protests by the ‘Bring Back our Girls’ protesters without direct authorisation from the Inspector-General of Police (IGP)? What has happened to discipline in the force?
We were appalled by reports that Mbu, who came to national consciousness through his notorious mishandling of the Rivers State political crisis, audaciously trampled on people’s rights in the FCT where he currently holds sway. He reportedly banned peaceful protests embarked upon by the pro-Chibok girls’ protesters under the direction of Oby Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education, and Hadiza Bala Usman. The protests in Abuja had been on for over 34 days without hiccups until the latest condemnable but supposedly overruled ban by Mbu.
We are pleased by the timely intervention of the IGP even though with a bit of reservation. Frank Mba, Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), who held forth for the IGP at a media parley in Abuja disclosed that the “buck stops at the table of the IGP” and that the ‘Police High Command wishes to inform the general public that the force has not issued any order banning peaceful assemblies/protests anywhere in Nigeria.’
Despite this explicit about-face on the Mbu ban, we consider the subsequent clarification that follows as befuddling as Mba further ambivalently stated that “security is a collective responsibility of all and consequently, citizens are strongly advised to reconsider their positions on the issues of rallies and protests in FCT until the existing threats are appropriately neutralised and removed from our midst by relevant security agencies.”
We ask: What constitute the threats in these peaceful protests and how did such intelligence report come about in a country where peaceful protests are always treated by government as a serious crime? We recollect that peaceful protest has been judicially declared to be lawful under the nation’s democracy.
So, this latter statement by Mba is ambiguous and capable of mischievous interpretations. The IGP cannot be approbating and reprobating on this same issue at the same time. After all, the police have not adduced any clear-cut evidence showing that there were indeed plans by miscreants to hijack the Abuja protests on the Chibok girls’ abduction. If there were any, it is, in our view, the duty of the police to prevent such from happening. This is why we agree with Ezekwesili and Usman when they declared that the protest “movement is legitimate and lawful and cannot be arrested by the police whose responsibility is to enforce, not betray the law.”
The point is that advocacy for the safe rescue of the Chibok girls should not be seen by the police as an affront to government’s authority but rather a welcome development. Such protests should be encouraged for they serve as daily reminder to the authorities of the need not to rest on their oars until the girls are rescued. This should be encouraged especially in a country like ours where serious state matters easily get relegated to the backburner of national discourse.
Mbu unleashed subversive disorder as CP in Rivers State. He has extended that patent in Abuja. We call on the IGP to rein in CP Mbu before he does further damage to the police as an institution. He went too far this time, which shows the contempt he has for the gravity of the Chibok abductions, the parents and the nation in general, despite the latest damage control. His conduct over time is incompatible with democratic tenets. Perhaps it is time for him to go.