By Ebuka Onyeji
A group, Joint Nigeria Crisis Action Committee (JN-CAC), says it will observe a National Day of Mourning at the Unity Fountain in Abuja despite a ban by the police on such activities at the place.
According to the group, the event will be held on May 28 to remember lives lost to violence in the wake of increased mass killings in the country.
Sadiq Bello, the Abuja police commissioner, had placed an indefinite ban on daily sit-outs at Unity Fountain, the venue of the event.
Mr Bello told PREMIUM TIMES he took the decision because he sees the activities of pro-democracy and good governance advocates, including the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ movement, as public “nuisance” at the fountain.
“All of them are in the same category, they’re disrupting people’s activities and infringing on their human rights by blocking the roads and other things. They’re constituting a nuisance,” he emphasised.
However, Chidi Odinkalu, one of the conveners of the JN-CAC said on Monday at a press briefing in Abuja that the group will ‘reclaim’ the fountain and observe their activities there.
“Unity fountain is our territory and we shall reclaim it. We will go there and if they will kill us for mourning let them kill us,” Mr Odinkalu, a professor, said.
He further called on security agencies in the country to key into the event as “they also have lost a lot of their people to mass killings and violence.”
According to the group, in the first 70 days of 2018, over 1,400 persons were killed violently across the country, an average of nearly 40 per state and the Federal Capital Territory.
“The African Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) estimates that over 60,000 persons were killed in Nigeria’s Middle Belt between 2001 and 2016”, a statement jointly signed by Mr Odinkalu, Yemi Adamolekun, Abiodun Baiyewu among other conveners of the group, read.
The group further listed several violent killings going on in different parts of the country for years.
“Reports have reduced human lives lost to mere numbers that are bandied and argued about without thought of properly accounting for them, or according them dignity by naming them.”
According to the statement, the mourning day is necessary so as to awaken the consciousness of Nigerians to the level of impunity and frequency of violent killings in Nigeria in recent times.
The group further listed activities lined up for the event scheduled to commence from the Unity Fountain in Abuja.
“Mourning at Unity Fountain, Abuja: as a sign of our collective mourning, citizens will organise and hold solemn assemblies and “Say their names” ceremonies across the country. Humanitarian Convoy to Sites of Mass Killings & Displacement:
“We will from May 28th commence the dispatch of citizen-led humanitarian convoys to sites of mass killings and displacements across the country. We will call on the Nigerian government and its agencies to provide protection to these convoys and will enlist the communities through and to whom we will be going to defend the rights of Nigerians to show solidarity with one another.
“Black: We invite all Nigerians to wear black on May 28, or at least a black arm band, or black ribbons as a symbol of solidarity. For citizens with media access, we invite
them to utilise commemorative social network frames, or place black bands at the base of their medium (including websites), in solidarity.”