With threats from the Federal and Lagos governments, the insistence by protesters to have a sit-in in a #OccupyLekkiTollGate protest, a counter group insisting on its #DefendLagos protest; a show of force by fully armed and kitted Policemen on Friday, Lagosians are waiting with bated breath for what Saturday February 13 brings.
Police boss in Lagos, Hakeem Odumosu, was on television Friday saying his men were at Lekki to guarantee peace during demonstrations and counter demonstrations, while advising Lagosians to go about their legitimate business, even at the Lekki Toll Gate area.
The plaza of the Toll gate was controversially re-opened by a divided Lagos #EndSARS panel last Saturday precipitating the protest from youths who continued to mobilise on social media and through flyers.
On Thursday, the Federal Government has prohibited the #OccupyLekkiTollGate protest scheduled for Saturday over intelligence report that it will be hijacked and used to destabilise the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Thursday that while peaceful protests are the constitutional rights of Nigerians, violent protests will not be allowed.
Lagos State Attorney General of Lagos, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, said on Thursday: “Attention of the State Government has been drawn to the planned protest scheduled for Saturday February 13, 2021 at the Lekki Toll Gate for and against the opening of the Admiralty Toll Gate. The State is aware of Sections 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. However, such right does not permit the violation of the rights of other citizens in the State.
“While the State recognises the importance of exercising the rights to peaceful protests, the same cannot extend to blockage of roads or actions preventing other members of the public from enjoying their fundamental rights to move freely within the State. Any individual or corporate body that incites or condones any act leading to the destruction of public and private properties shall be prosecuted under the extant laws and in addition to any penalty the court might pronounce. Such person or body will be liable to compensate for any damage, which may arise as a result of the action or inaction of such person or body.”
Lai Mohammed said, “At this time, the chances that any peaceful protest will be hijacked are very high.
“Based on the intelligence at the disposal of the Federal Government, some Nigerian activists have linked up with others outside Nigeria, including subversive elements, with a view to destabilising the country.
“We cannot and must not allow this to happen.
“Never again will the Federal Government allow the kind of violence that was perpetrated across the country under the guise of the EndSars last October.
“Never again will anyone or group be allowed to destroy cities or to kill and maim innocent citizens, including security agents, under any guise,’’ he cautioned.
The minister warned those planning to re-occupy Lekki Toll Gate on Saturday to desist, stressing that any further resort to violence in the name of EndSars will not be tolerated.
“The security agents are ready for any eventuality.
“A situation in which six soldiers and 37 policemen were murdered in cold blood by hoodlums will not repeat itself.
“The attack, looting and razing of 269 private and public property will not happen again and the killing of 57 civilians will not be re-enacted,’’ he said.
The minister said many of those who have been loudest on social media in advertising the plan to reconvene in Lagos on Saturday were not in Nigeria.
He said they were elsewhere around the world fanning the embers of violence and inciting gullible people back home.
Mohammed admonished Nigerians not to fall for their antics, adding that government will not allow a repeat of the kind of destruction, killing and maiming wrought by the hijackers of EndSars protests.
The minister said the federal government is also keenly watching the role being played by the various social media platforms in the renewed clamour for violence in the country.
He recalled that the social media platforms were used to fuel the destructions during the EndSars protest.
He therefore called on Nigerians to learn from the lesson of the past and should not allow people to use the platforms to destroy the country.
For those who are using justice as an alibi for the protest, the minister said they should file their complaints at the Judicial Panels of Inquiry set up by Lagos State Government.
“Like we have said many times, anyone who has any information on the alleged shooting or purported massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, including the names and addresses of those who were purportedly killed, should head to the Panel to give it such information.
“This is how to enhance the search for justice, not by rabble-rousing or engaging in media shows,’’ he said.
He stressed that while the government believed in the constitutionally-guaranteed right of citizens to engage in peaceful protests, it would not fold its arms and watch the country destroyed.
On Thursday Odumosu said: “The Police Command has gathered credible intelligence that some hidden agents of destruction and shadow parties that orchestrated the last EndSARS violence have concluded plans to cause another mayhem in Lagos and spread the same to other parts of the country, tactically and spontaneously, like the recent violence.
“Premised on the available intelligence and due threat analyses carried out on the planned protest, the Police Command perceives such proposed protest as a calculated attempt to cause pandemonium and massive destruction of lives and properties under whatever guide; such will not be allowed to hold in Lagos….
“We believe this kind of tension and anxiety being brought forward by the planned protest will not allow the panel to do a thorough job. If the authorities allow the protest and counter rallies to go on, there would be a breakdown of order and Lagos is not ripe for such action. It is on this premise that the State Government is appealing to all parties to thread with caution. Both sides have the right to express their feelings, but the time is wrong,” Omotoso said.