Supporters of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist militants headed to court on Tuesday to challenge a police ban on protest marches in the Nigerian capital, calling the decision illegal.
The ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign said it would seek to overturn the ban, which the Federal Capital Territory police announced on Monday because of what they said were security concerns.
Boko Haram fighters kidnapped 276 girls from their school in the remote northeastern town of Chibok on April 14. A total of 219 are still missing and an international effort to locate and rescue them is ongoing.
March organisers Oby Ezekwesili and Hadiza Bala Usman said their protests over the last 34 days had been peaceful and they could not understand the ban, as police had previously indicated the demonstrations were within the law.
A protest planned for Tuesday had been cancelled, they added. Instead, the group would accompany their lawyers to court where they hoped to obtain “an immediate restraint on this unconstitutional, undemocratic and repressive act”.
“Our movement is legitimate and lawful and cannot be arrested by the police whose responsibility is to enforce, not betray the law,” Ezekwesili and Usman added.
“We, the members of the #BringBackOurGirls Abuja Family, remain resolute and will persist in using all lawful means to sustain our peaceful advocacy for the safe rescue of the Chibok Girls.”
The Bring Back Our Girls movement emerged out of a social media campaign of the same name, which fuelled global outrage at the abductions and sparked similar protests around the world.
Boko Haram, which has been waging a violent insurgency in Nigeria’s north since 2009, has indicated it may be prepared to release the girls in exchange for militant fighters currently in prison.