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At a press conference held in Lagos on Thursday, Moyosore Onigbanjo, Lagos State attorney general, and Gbenga Omotoso, commissioner for information, said it was not an auspicious moment to hold protests in Nigeria’s commercial capital.
While calling on the organisers of the protest to shelve their plans, Onigbanjo said the government would not allow any group to push the state, once again, to the edge of carnage.
“The 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,” he said,
“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.”
On the hand, Omotoso called for peace, urging the organisers of the planned protests to allow the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to conclude its investigation on what transpired between the military and #EndSARS protesters.
“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,” he said.
“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 tread with caution. Both sides have the right to express their feelings, but the time is wrong.”
In a similar vein, Hakeem Odumosu, state commissioner of police, added that the security intelligence gathered by his command indicated that the #OccupyLekkiTollGate protest and planned counter rally would degenerate into a breakdown of law and order.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The warnings are coming barely hours after the federal government had given a similar stern warning to the protesters.
Lai Mohammed, Nigerian minister of information, had earlier on Thursday, warned that law enforcement agents would be on the ground to prevent any eventuality.
On Monday, The ICIR reported how the plan to #OccupyLekkiTollGate came on the backdrop of the controversial ruling of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to reopen the Lekki tollgate.
The Doris Okwubi-led panel ruled in favour of the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) to repossess the toll plaza for repairs and insurance claims at its last sitting on Saturday.
The ruling was supported by five members out of the nine-man panel, with four other members, including Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and the youth representatives, opposing it.
Some youths have also planned the #DefendLagos rally to counter the protest which is scheduled for Saturday 13th, February, 2021.
The Lekki tollgate has been shut by the panel since last October 20, 2020, when armed soldiers opened fire on unarmed protesters, allegedly killing some and injuring several others.