The #OccupyLekkiTollGate protest to hold at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos is scheduled for today, February 13, 2021. This is following the decision of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to reopen the tollgate. The panel for months since the Lekki massacre has been investigating the alleged killing of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers.
The decision for the reopening of the tollgate was however rejected by four of the nine-member panel. The four member’s stand was based on the grounds that forensic examination on the incident was yet to be disclosed and the victims were yet to be compensated.
They stated that the tollgates presumption will endanger evidence and forensic analysis, adding that the present state of affairs should remain till the outcome of the panel.
Rinu Oduala, a youth representative on the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry, has stepped down from the panel. She stated on Friday that she has made a clear stand on the reopening of the tollgate.
‘The state government and the private organization operating the toll have not been cleared of collusion with elements allegedly deployed by the federal govt to target citizens on home soil during a time of peace, without provocation’.
‘Justice has not been served, and as a representative of the Nigerian citizenry, my only recourse is to stay the course of justice,’ she added.
Oduala condemned the decision of the parties to reopen the toll as they emphasized the loss of jobs more highly than justice for lost lives.
The Federal Government in response to the reopening of the protest has deployed policemen and over 150 Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. This according to the FG is to ensure the maintenance of law and order and to likely halt the protest.
The security personnel is said to come under the aegis of #DefendLagos. A very strange irony as one question that keeps coming to mind is defending Lagos against who or what, peaceful protesters without ammunition? Are the protesters not also citizens of the state or what exactly is a state?
A viral video on Friday showed that Armoured Personnel Carrier, trucks, and ambulances of the police Rapid Response Squad were already stationed in the tollgate area.
Seun Abolurin, the NSCDC spokesperson was asked if the protesters would be arrested if they kept to their decision to hold a demonstration, his response was he can not predict but would uphold the fundamental human right.
This means security personnel has been mobilized with no strict rules to follow as they are uncertain of the turnout of the event. On the other hand, the protesters being counteracted have revealed their intentions of a peaceful protest. The protester’s mandate is known, but the reason for the deploying of security personnel is still vague.
This means the policemen can afford to do whatever and they won’t be faulted since they were never restricted or given specific orders in the first place. The NSCDC spokesperson who stated that the policemen would uphold the fundamental human right should also realize that the protesters are also exercising their fundamental rights. Hence the question being posed to him was unanswered. He further stated that ‘we cannot predict until tomorrow (today) comes.
Also, Muyiwa Adejobi, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the state when asked if the police would arrest the protesters if they defied the command’s order and carry out the protest vaguely stated that ‘when we get to the bridge, we are going to cross it’.
Juwon Sanyaolu, one of the promoters of the protest stated that they all are ‘acting in line with constitutional requirements’.
‘We want to exercise our right to lawful assembly to call the government to order out of their lawlessness.’
The #EndSARS protest led to the loss of both lives and properties. The government incurred millions of losses from the protest which would take years to recover, but they should also not forget that some citizens lost their loved ones who will never be recovered.
Millions of properties will never be compared to the death of just one citizen. It is disconcerting that the government cannot sympathize and come to terms with the pain of the citizens. Peaceful protest should never be met with violence. Respect for the citizen’s right should be the utmost priority of the state and country, which includes the right to protest.