The peaceful protest of the #BringBackOurGirls activists took a dramatic turn on Tuesday when the Nigerian police descended heavily on the peaceful protesters at Unity Fountain in Abuja, preventing them from embarking on their protest march.
Trouble started when a team of armed anti-riot policemen arrived at the takeoff point of the protesters and barricaded the venue. The police officers became hostile to the demonstrators, saying that they were operating on orders to cancel the planned rally.
The FCT Deputy Commissioner of Police, M.D. Garba, kept mute when the group confronted him with the police permit allowing them to hold their peaceful protest. But the protesters became enraged and agitated as they forced their way into the police barricade and headed to villa gate.
Upon arriving at the villa gate, the #BBOG demonstrators sighted rival protesters who had already taken over their position. Members of the rival group, #WithBuhariWeStand, were singing solidarity songs and carrying pro-Buhari placards in support of the government.
The #BBOG protesters lamented that the police allowed Mr. Buhari’s praise-singing protesters to go close to the villa gate but refused to allow the #BBOG camp to exercise their fundamental human rights.
The coordinator of #BBOG, Oby Ezekwesili, said that today marked 871 days since the Chibok girls had been abducted. She condemned the counter-protest, which she said was aimed at destabilizing their campaign, saying they would not allow the president to rest until the girls are rescued.
"There is nothing to be cheerful for. We have sat with the president two times and nothing concrete has been done," Ms. Ezekwesili said.
"The government has decided to curtail the freedom of movement of the people by stopping us from exercising our fundamental human rights,” she added.
In the midst of this melee, a presidential convoy was coming from the villa but was made to follow a detour under the bridge as a result of the confusion.
This development comes before President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s trip to Edo State to flag off the governorship campaign of the All Progressives Congress (APC).