What we know so far about the #OccupyLekkiTollgate protests

Last week, the LCC was granted the ruling to re open the Lekki Toll Gate by the Justice Okuwobi-led Lagos state judicial panel. The panel delivered the ruling after a 5-4 vote in favour of the petition, with Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), Patience Udoh, Rinuola Oduola, and Temitope Majekodunmi being the four to vote against the petition. Many young Nigerians were displeased with this decision, given that the toll gate was the scene of the fatal shootings of many Nigerians by Nigerian soldiers back in October. The toll gate has been closed since the night of the shooting, sullied with memories of fallen hopes for a better Nigeria.

Over the years since the toll gate was built, Ozumba Mbadiwe became a known traffic hotspot, with the toll causing a bottleneck that sometimes took hours to get through, whilst also costing citizens over 200 Naira for each trip. In the past few months since the toll was shut, the traffic has not been an issue and cars move to and fro with ease that barely existed before. Given these two prominent reasons, concerned Nigerians have vehemently opposed the reopening of the toll gate on social media with the hashtag #OccupyLekkiTollgate quickly gaining popularity on the timeline. There were conversations and plans being set in motion for a protest on Saturday, February 13, to which the Nigerian Police Force responded with even more unlawful arrests and intimidation.

Ahead of the plans to #OccupyLekkiTollgate, the Federal Government of Nigeria issued a warning to protesters asking them to abandon the planned demonstrations. Doubling down, armed officials were deployed yesterday to different parts of Lagos including the Lekki toll, the Chevron toll, and the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge in full riot gear.

Numerous eye-witness reports and visual evidence have been uploaded on social media showing the Nigerian Police Force stationed at the toll gate. While the Lagos State Commissioner Of Police claimed the officers at Lekki Toll Gate “ are there to keep peace and orderliness in that environment”, it appears they are not. The police officers at the toll gate were seen earlier today chanting, “No retreat, No surrender!” in anticipation of protesters, and upon their arrival immediately acted with force and intimidation. So far, The Nigerian Police appear to have arrested over 20 people, and took them away in vehicles branded LCC enforcement. Along those arrested is comedian and activist, Debo Adebayo who we know as Mr Macaronii. According to FK Abudu, the protestors who were arrested have been granted bail and are being charged with breaking COVID-19 safety protocols, and breaking an order not to protest.

 

This is a familiar tactic, as back in October in the height of the #EndSARS protests, several young people who were exercising their right to peacefully protest were met with brutish force and harassment from the Nigerian Police, in response to protests against police brutality.

The rapid response from the Nigerian armed forces to #OccupyLekkiTollgate is surprising, especially given that throughout the week, there have been several reports of insecurity in different parts of Nigeria – from a tribal war brewing in Oyo State to gang-related fights for supremacy in Obalende, Lagos. Following these reports, no security forces were deployed to quell the insecurity in these areas, however, there was a heavy presence of the Nigerian Police at a peaceful protest. It is clear that the security of Nigerian citizens is not a priority, and the fight for our rights must continue.

Featured image credits/CnnAfrica

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