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If there was any doubt as to whether the #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) campaign had become an unbearable thorn in the flesh of the federal government or not, the attack yesterday on the organisers of the campaign, cleared any such doubts.
The campaigners, who have met everyday at the Abuja Gardens to review developments and plan strategies, were attacked yesterday by hired thugs, while the Nigerian police watched from a distance.
One of the campaigners, who spoke to THISDAY, said when they arrived the venue yesterday for their usual daily meeting, they discovered that the usual spot where they had been meeting had been taken over by another set of women, the copycat, rent-a-crowd “ReleaseOurGirls” group.
The rival group pretends to organise protests for the missing schoolgirls but its real agenda is to muster support for the federal government and military, which have both come under harsh criticism worldwide over their mishandling of the abduction of the girls.
Owing to the presence of the ReleaseOurGirls group, the BBOG organisers had to look for another spot within the park.
When the BBOG campaigners commenced their meeting in their new location with members sitting on mats and plastic chairs, the copycat group swarmed on them shouting and singing with the intent of drowning their discussion.
“When we got to our usual meeting spot, the ‘Release’ women had taken over our usual meeting ground so we found another spot and spread our mats and chairs. The women then surrounded us singing and dancing, chanting ‘holy ghost fire, pursue Boko Haram.’
“They attempted to drown our voices but we had a microphone and so ignored them and continued our discussions,” said the source who was at the meeting.
Not satisfied with the effect of the disruption, the “Release” women were said to have continued their ruckus, until suddenly, a group of thugs, reeking of alcohol ran into the BBOG group and snatched the bags and phones of female members of the group.
“As the men amongst us attempted to retrieve our belongings, some of the thugs, holding sticks and broken bottles, began smashing our chairs. The chairman of the Chibok community amongst us broke down in tears,” the source said.
The source, who said they had to run away, added that policemen who stood and watched the attack from a little distance, did nothing to restore order.
The female source said: “The police watched from afar. I approached them and asked why they were there. A few of them (police) came over and arrested a few guys and then released them shortly after. The policemen withdrew again, and then we continued our meeting.”
It was not certain who sponsored the thugs, but the ‘Release’ women who took over the usual meeting spot of the BBOG campaigners were believed to have been hired by people with ties close to the administration to either change tone of campaign for the rescue of the girls or serve as distraction.