Mbu’s Ban and Mba’s Somersault By Ogbu, Blessing Ekpere
On Monday, the 2nd June, 2014, the Commissioner of Police FCT Command, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, addressed a Press Conference where he purported to ban all protests concerning the Chibok girls within the Federal Capital Territory. The germane portion of his infamous address rendered in his exact words, delivered viva voce in person, and captured for posterity by both the print and the electronic media from both sides of the nation’s ideological and political divide were thus: “Information reaching us is that too soon dangerous elements will join the groups under the guise of protest and detonate explosive aimed at embarrassing the government. Accordingly protests on the Chibok Girls are hereby banned with immediate effect. I urge all to encourage our security agencies in this war and appreciate them for the sacrifices we have made and are still making”.
It will be recalled that last Wednesday, the 28th of May, 2014, a newfangled group, made up of an agglutination of interests whose mission is as confused as its motivations are hazy and which goes by the appellation “Release Our Girls” had attacked the mostly sedentary coalition of civil societies protesting under the hash-tag of #BringBackOurGirls. This barbarous attack came just about 24 hours after the Release Our Girls mob held its rally – an occasion that was given live coverage by the Nigerian Television Authority, thereby putting to rest all disputations as to its origination. Mbu’s sorry fiat, served straight from a menu of classic Mbu cuisine, therefore, was construed – properly, reasonably, and correctly – as an attempt to gag the persistent, consistent, but peaceful protest.
As would be expected, the #BringBackOurGirls Coalition has since gone to Court to challenge the purported ban by instituting an action under the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 made pursuant to the provisions of section 46(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, claiming among other things declarative, injunctive, and punitive reliefs against the Nigerian Police. However, in a move that surprised not a few followers of the Nigerian democratic space and the unfolding drama, the Police High Command through its Spokesperson, Mr. Frank Mba, issued what could be termed unequivocally as a disclaimer. In the said press release, the Police High Command stated that it never at any time banned public protests in Abuja, or indeed, in any part of Nigeria.
This piece shall not essay to unravel the political intrigues that occasioned the eventual volte face; neither is it the intention of this author to undertake a speculative voyage into the workings of the mental processes of the Police apparatchik. The concernedness of this piece is to decry, in view of international best practices, Mbu’s nettlesome resort to anachronistic methods of mob control and civilian engagement. Watchers of the democratic space have followed progressively Mbu’s style of policing ever since he was re-deployed to the Federal Capital Territory from Rivers State. They were therefore not disappointed when Mbu deployed tear gas canisters, water bullets, rubber bullets, and other paraphernalia of police brutality to suppress the peaceful protest carried out by Lecturers of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in April.
Since Mbu claimed to have intelligence of a surreptitious attempt by some terrorists to infiltrate the ranks of the #BringBackOurGirls coalition group in order to detonate explosives, he should have conducted a thorough forensic investigation and possibly executed a preemptive strike against the masterminds. It was rather puerile of him to assume that Nigerians would swallow his line that a sedate protest, whose presence does not extend beyond the perimeters of the Unity Fountain and whose activities are coordinated by the remarkable Oby Ezekwesili, the cerebral Dr. Jibril Ibrahim and the indescribably fiery Maryam Uwais, a Legal Practitioner and wife of a former Chief Justice of the Federation would be a façade for some cowardly terrorists. The latest attempt by Mbu to abridge the fundamental rights of Abuja residents to freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association should be declaimed in no uncertain terms; for the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are composites of the general bundle of rights declared by scholars over the years, codified in both municipal and international instruments and pronounced upon by Judges over the ages, down the centuries, and across the waters to be inalienable, indestructible and inherent in all human beings. Closer home, the Public Order Act Cap P42, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 which the Police has relied on to disrupt public protests on the ground of non-obtainment of police permit has been held by the Courts to be at variance with section 1(3), and section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
Since that is the current position of the law, it behooves Mbu’s superiors to call the gentleman to order. Reversing the unfortunate ban is not enough: Mbu is capable of an unending string of mischief. His unrepentant aversion to democratic ideals and constitutional principles, which was given further validation last Monday by his fatuous proscription of all forms of protests, is already manifest. People with Mbu’s mindset do not fit into a democratic society. Even in the dark days of military opportunism, respect for fundamental human rights was pursued vigorously and fought for tenaciously – even at the expense of life and limb. It would be inconceivable, therefore, to expect, rather naively, that Nigerians would sit docilely and watch those time-honoured rights ripped off them by Mbu. His modus operandi does not reflect his relevance in a democratic society. Mbu should not be allowed, on the expediency of satisfying some wispy loyalties, to toil with the values that define us as a people. The Police volte face, therefore, can be seen as a face saving measure to redeem the image of the Police. To further preserve the integrity of the Police, the Police High Command should redeploy Mbu to any post within the expansive complex of Louis Edet House where he would be less visible and possibly serve out his years in relative obscurity. He has shown himself to be unqualified to head any Police Command in any Federating Unit of this great nation. Alternatively, since Mbu has boasted of his competence and his daredevil ability to combat terrorism, the Police establishment should redeploy him to Borno State. Or Yobe State. That is where his vaunted competence is most needed.
Ogbu Blessing Ekpere, Esq., a Legal Practitioner, writes from Abuja
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