Ahead of tomorrow’s protest against over Lagos EndSARS panel approval to reopen Lekki tollgate where Nigerian Army attacked protesters, the Nigerian Police has taken over the toll facility and other strategic locations across the state.
As gathered, the law enforcement agency, with their different vans, has deployed officers to different areas across Lagos to ensure that the planned demonstration by “Occupy Lekki Toll Gate” and “Defend Lagos” campaigners, the two groups that were in support and against the panel ruling, does not hold as planned.
The Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Lagos Command, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, who confirmed the development on Friday, said that the position of the agency was clear on the demonstration and that it would not backtrack on its stance.
Adejobi added that the Nigerian Police will not jettison anything that could threaten the safety of all the citizens and would not allow other residents to infringe on one another’s rights.
Earlier, the Lagos State Government and Nigerian Police had warned the opposing groups not to embark on any demonstration and argued that it was not an auspicious moment for such action considering the spread of the virus, though acknowledged rights of citizens to a lawful assembly and freedom to express their feelings as guaranteed by Section 39 and 40 of the Constitution.
The Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, said the security intelligence gathered by the Police Command indicated the “Occupy Lekki Toll Gate” protest and planned counter rallies would degenerate into a breakdown of law and order, stressing that the police will not allow any group to carry out the action.
The police chief said adequate arrangements on the deployment of security forces had been put in place to stop any violent protest, gathering and procession in any part of Lagos, stressing that the Police Command would rise in protection of law-abiding residents from any form of the violence.
He 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.
“The Command also warns that adequate arrangement and deployment of security forces to kick against and dislodge any violent protest, gathering and procession in any part of the state has been emplaced. The decision of the command in this regard is in the interest of all and sundry in Lagos and to ensure that the statutory responsibilities of the Nigeria Police Force are not compromised”, he added.
Odumosu appealed to the general public to advise their wards to ignore mobilisation for the protest and gathering in flouting the existing peace and security situation of the State. He said the police would resist the protest with necessary force, while respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.
The Attorney General of Lagos, Moyosore Onigbanjo, said the Government would not allow any group to push the State, once again, to the edge of carnage, strongly advising those organising protests to desist from the planned action, therefore, directed the State’s Police Command to stop opposing groups from holding rallies in Lekki and any other parts of Lagos.
He said the State Government’s respect for the citizens’ rights to protest should not be seen as a license to break the laws, warning that any individual or corporate organisation that incites an action leading to the destruction of public and private properties would be prosecuted and be made to pay damages.
“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.”
The Attorney General also said the public health crisis occasioned by the spread of deadly variants of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) should discourage anyone attempting to assemble people for the planned protests, urging all groups to consider COVID-19 protocols that limit public gathering not to be more than 50 persons.