The Federal and Lagos State governments yesterday warned organisers of #OccupyLekki protests to desist from their action slated for tomorrow or face their wrath.
Aside from both governments, Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, also advised the protest organisers to have a rethink but the organisers insisted that they would not be intimidated into backing down.
The organisers of the protest had said earlier in the week that it was meant to counter the pronouncement of Lagos State Panel on #EndSARS protest which gave Lekki Concession Company, operators of Lekki Toll Gate, the all-clear to restart operations.
This is even as another group of protesters vowed to counter the #OccupyLekki protest to save Lagos from further destruction.
Speaking on the planned protest at a media briefing in Abuja yesterday, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the Federal Government will not fold its arms and allow another round of protests under the banner of the #ENDSARS movement.
Mohammed, who pointed out the atrocities visited on the country and Nigerians during the violent #EndSARS protests of last October, warned: “Any further resort to violence in the name of #EndSARS will not be tolerated this time.
Security agents ready, says FG
“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. The killing of 57 civilians will not be re-enacted.
“Let me be clear: While peaceful protests are the constitutional rights of Nigerians, violent protests are not. 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 destabilizing 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 #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.
“The #EndSARS campaign last October started as a peaceful protest against police brutality. As a government that believes in the constitutionally-guaranteed right of citizens to engage in peaceful protests, the Federal Government did nothing to hinder the protests for as long as they remained peaceful.
“Not only that, the Federal Government moved swiftly to accede to the five-point demands by the #EndSARS campaigners which are immediate release of all arrested protesters; justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families; setting up of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days; in line with the new Police Act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed; and an increase in police salary, so they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.
“Unfortunately, despite the acceptance of the demands, the protesters misread the Federal Government’s respect for the rule of law and defiantly continued to demonstrate and occupy a public facility, even after a curfew was declared by Lagos State government.
“This led to a series of actions that culminated in the hijacking of the protests by hoodlums who perpetrated unimaginable violence in Lagos and other cities across the country.
“The trillion-Naira destruction of Lagos, in particular, remains too fresh a wound. Hundreds, including the youth, lost their livelihoods to the wanton attacks in Lagos. The burnt wreckage of public buses that were wantonly set ablaze by rampaging hoodlums remain in their positions as a sad and gory reminder of the unprecedented attacks. The city is still reeling from the war-like destruction.
“For those who are using justice as an alibi for another round of destruction, let me say this: As we speak, the judicial panels of inquiry set up across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings, with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units, are continuing with the assignments.
Desist from protests tomorrow – FG
“In Lagos, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry has an added responsibility of investigating the incident of October 20 at the Lekki Toll Gate.
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. We, therefore, strongly warn those who are planning to re-occupy Lekki Toll Gate on Saturday to desist.
“We know that many of those who have been loudest on social media in advertising the plan to reconvene in Lagos on Saturday are not even in Nigeria. They are elsewhere around the world, fanning the embers of violence and inciting gullible people back home. No one should fall for their antics.
“No government anywhere will allow a repeat of the kind of destruction, killing and maiming wrought by the hijackers of #EndSARS protests last year. After all, only one policeman – (plus four others) – was killed in the invasion of the US Capitol in January, yet the FBI has continued to hunt down and prosecute the perpetrators. No life is more important than the other.
“The Federal Government is also keenly watching the role being played by the various social media platforms in this renewed clamour for violence in the country.
“Recall that the social media platforms that eagerly nudged on the #EndSARS protesters, until the situation got out of hand, are the same ones that quickly pulled the plug on even their own President when the chips were down in their own country.
I hope we have all learnt our lessons. If we allow them to destroy our country, we will bear the brunt.”
Shelve tomorrow’s protest – LASG
Also warning against the protests yesterday, Lagos State government urged youths not to protest at the Lekki tollgate tomorrow.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotosho, who made the appeal during an interview on Arise TV, pleaded with the protesters not to “cause trouble” in the state, adding that there was nothing to warrant a fresh protest in Lagos.
He said: “We all saw what happened in October last year, how some of the iconic buildings in Lagos were razed.
“We saw how human lives were wasted, including policemen and nobody prays for that kind of thing to happen in Lagos again. Because of that, the Lagos State government has been suing for peace.
“We have been meeting traditional rulers, youth organisations, civil societies, and people we think can influence things for us not to have the kind of thing that happened in October last year.
“As it is now, Lagos will require peace to grow our economy. We need peace for Lagosians to display their creative skills.
“Nobody wants to go back to the scene of October 2020. We are appealing to both sides not to cause trouble in Lagos so that we can continue to focus on the economic and social issues that are facing us.“We have COVID-19, all manners of things that are coming up that the state government is tackling. This is going to be a big distraction.
We are appealing to both sides. Lagos belongs to all of us.”
We won’t allow any protest – Lagos Police boss
Similarly, Lagos State Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu, said yesterday that the command would not allow the protests to take place.
“Allowing both groups to carry out their planned protests will be counter-productive. No protest in any guise will be allowed to take place on Saturday, February 13, 2021 (today),” Odumosu vowed.
Threats won’t deter us, organizers vow
Insisting on the protest yesterday, organisers of the planned #OccupyLekki protest at Lekki toll gate listed the ban on crypto-currency as one of the reasons for the protest, beyond the ruling of Lagos Judicial Panel.
In a statement, titled “EndSARS Season 2, Why we will #OccupyLekkiTollGate on Saturday – Campaigners,” issued in Lagos yesterday, the organisers explained that they were undaunted by threats by security operatives and counter-protesters under the aegis of #DefendLagos.
The statement read: “After committing genocide by killing scores of people who were peacefully protesting at Lekki Toll Gate and other parts of Lagos, Governor Sanwo-Olu and other oppressors want to spit on the dead and dance on the blood of the innocent by reopening the yahoo gate to be collecting money again.
“We say NO! We are undaunted! We will be occupying Lekki Toll gate again, starting from Saturday February 13. We urge all well-meaning Nigerians to return all the barricades as our rulers have shown that they can never change. Since the #EndSARS, they are yet to effect any of the promises. Police brutality is still raging and SARS is still operating.“Despite overwhelming and highly compelling evidence showing how several protesters were shot by the military, no single military personnel has been brought to book.
“Deaths have been established and many victims of the Lekki shootings have surfaced, yet neither the victims or families of our deceased colleagues have got justice.
“After close to five months of sitting, the judicial panel meant to inquire into the Lekki massacre has refused to deliver justice to victims of the Lekki massacre, most of whom have either lost their limbs due to gun wounds or have become deceased.
“Despite overwhelming grounds of involvement of Governor Sanwo-Olu and ex-army chief, Buratai, in the Lekki massacre, neither of them has been brought to book. President Buhari instead appointed them ambassadors, so they won’t be arrested and prosecuted for genocide and war crimes at The Hague.
“Despite #EndSARS, police brutality and extra-judicial killings continue unabated. Government has refused to provide employment for young people, yet they went ahead to ban the most promising source of income of young people — cryptocurrency.
“Nigerians are extremely poorer and yet the cost of food is on the high side, with increased cost of electricity that only produces darkness. Petrol price is being increased as marketers want it at N190 per litre.
“Nigerians are no longer secure in any part of the country. When they are not being harassed or extra-judicially murdered by police, they are being kidnapped, maimed or killed by bandits.
“Today, the life of cows has become more valuable than those of Nigerians, even as our streets and communities have fallen to the rule of kidnappers and bandits.The Nigerian government now negotiates and enriches terrorists and bandits, while chasing after and arresting, shooting and killing protesters.
“It is to this end that we call on you all to come out en masse to demand not just justice for victims and fallen heroes of October 20 killings but that all involved in this heinous criminality be brought to book.‘
“Come out to demand the right to life and to exist in a country that respects our rights as citizens, abhors police brutality/extrajudicial killings, provides us with security, decent jobs with good wages and other such socio-economic rights that come with being a citizen.”
Meanwhile, Lekki Concession Company Limited, LCC, operators of the toll gate, yesterday, appealed to Nigerians planning to stage a protest at the Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza tomorrow to rescind their decision.
It said another protest at the toll gate has the potentials of repeating the disruptions people suffered last year, in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest, explaining that it approached the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for permission to repossess the facilities in order to halt further losses in its operations.
Managing Director of the company, Mr. Yomi Omomuwasan, who made the appeal, said: “We have lately been made aware from media reports that two groups, #OccupyLekkiTollGate and #DefendLagos/#DemNoBornDemPapaWell, are planning to demonstrate at our already destroyed Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza on Saturday, following the decision of Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to hand the Toll plaza back to us.“
It was in a bid to halt further losses to our operations, especially given our subsisting financial commitments to local and foreign institutions, that we approached the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for permission to repossess our facilities.
“Our intent with the request was to enable us evaluate the damages, process insurance claims and rebuild the burnt facilities before the commencement of operations in order to continue to fulfill our loan repayment and other financial obligations.
“We want to place on record that we cooperated fully with the panel and made a strong representation through our lawyers concerning the return of our assets, a request the panel graciously granted on Saturday, February 6, 2021.
“We are, therefore, distressed by the reactions the decision of the panel has elicited from some members of the public and their resolve to again forcibly take over the already destroyed plaza on Saturday.
“We wish to use this medium to appeal to well-meaning Nigerians from across the divide to reconsider the decision, which has the potentials of repeating the disruptions we all suffered, especially bringing sad memories to the various families that were affected by the protest of October 2020.
“It is also pertinent to restate and put it on record that, just like other businesses on the Lekki corridor, LCC is also a victim of the events, as assets worth several billions of Naira were destroyed during the protests.
“LCC had nothing to do with the protest against police brutality, which was the central point of the youth agitation.
As an organization, we were unlucky to have been caught in the web.”
He noted that the company was incorporated as a special purpose vehicle to build, operate and maintain the Eti-Osa Lekki Toll road under a 30-year concession.