Sunday, 18 April 2021

Row as police thwart Occupy Lekki Toll Gate protests

Posted On Sunday, 14 February 2021 17:25 Written by The Nation
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By Robert Egbe; Precious Igbonwelundu; Alao Abiodun and Fanen Ihyongo, Kano/ THE NATION

  • Police arrest, arraign 40 suspects for breaching public peace, COVID-19 guideline

  • We’ll use minimum force against protesters – Defence Minister

  • Defend Lagos group pulls out of counter protest

  • Atiku kicks, says protest is guaranteed by Constitution

  • Human rights lawyer Adegboruwa slams police, mulls withdrawal from Lagos #EndSARS Panel

True to its word, the federal government on Saturday frustrated the #OccupyLekkiTollGate protest, with the police arresting 40 would be protesters as they trooped to the scene in high brow Lekki, Lagos in ones and twos.

Some of the arrested persons said they were mere passers-by who had nothing to do with the protest.

The arrests, apparently part of the minimum force Defence Minister Bashir Magashi vowed earlier in the day would be applied by government on the protesters, sparked condemnations from the human rights community and the political class.

The arrested persons were subsequently arraigned before the Lagos State Mobile Court in Yaba on a three count charge of conspiracy; conduct likely to cause breach of public peace and flouting the COVID-19 guidelines.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) deplored the thwarting of the protest.

Human rights lawyer/activist Ebun Adegboruwa (SAN) said he was “sorely troubled” to see videos showing arrested protesters being subjected to alleged acts of brutality by the police.

Adegboruwa, who is a member of the Lagos State Judicial Panel probing alleged police brutality and the Lekki Toll Gate incident of October 20, said he could not continue to participate in the assignment of the panel if the police continued to perpetrate “fresh assaults” with impunity.

A former presidential aspirant, Adamu Garba, asked government to allow the protesters express themselves without intimidation.

A large contingent of armed policemen had been deployed to the area on Friday night ahead of the planned protest, with government vowing that it would not tolerate any protest so soon after the October mayhem that claimed many lives and assets.

The security agents were there all night, waiting for protesters who might defy the order to stay away.

Some youths indeed defied the order.

But they were picked up as soon as they arrived at the toll gate and driven in different vehicles to the police station.

One of the vehicles, a Black Maria, failed to start when it was to take some of the arrested persons away.

It had to be pushed by workers of the Lekki Consession Company to move.

One of the arrested persons was comedian and activist, Debo Adebayo, popularly known as Mr. Macaroni.

Adegboruwa slams police, demands immediate release of protesters

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN)

One of the early reactions to the police action came from a member of the Lagos State Judicial Panel probing alleged police brutality and the Lekki Tollgate Incident of October 20, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN).

He demanded the immediate release of the arrested protesters.

Adegboruwa said he was “sorely troubled” to see videos showing arrested protesters being subjected to alleged acts of brutality by the police.

He could not, he explained, continue to participate as a member of the #EndSARS panel should the police continue to perpetrate “fresh assaults” with impunity.

No fewer than 23 persons, including passersby, were arrested by operatives of the Lagos Police Command deployed to Lekki Toll Gate.

“My heart is very heavy. I’m saddened and devastated. My soul is sorely troubled at this time,” he said in a statement.

“For decades before the advent of this administration, Nigerians have risked their lives, liberties, their times and their energies, their resources, to win back this country on the side of democracy and good government, from military dictatorship. Some have paid the supreme price with their lives.

“I have been monitoring events at the Lekki Toll Gate since morning, and I am totally overwhelmed with the images, videos and sundry evidence of police brutality of armless civilians, who ventured to protest at the toll gate.

“In one particular video, I saw citizens of Nigeria being dehumanized, striped half naked and cramped together in a rickety bus. This is totally unacceptable.

“While we are yet to come to terms with the events of October 20, 2020, it becomes worrisome that the security agencies have not learnt any positive lesson from those occurrences. I commend the protesters for their peaceful conduct.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to sit at any Panel of Inquiry to heal wounds and end police brutality when fresh assaults are being perpetrated with impunity.

“Consequently, I am presently consulting with my constituency within the civil society as to my continued participation in the EndSARS Judicial Panel.

“I hereby demand the immediate release of all those arrested in connection with the peaceful protest at the Lekki Toll Gate today. On no account should anything happen to any of them while in the custody of the police.

“I appeal for calm on all sides in order not to escalate the worsening security situation across the land. I cannot fail to point out the fact that the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is a product of protest and civil disobedience. Let history vindicate the just.

“Aluta Continua,Victoria Ascerta!”

Atiku kicks, says Constitution guarantees right to peaceful protest

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said on Twitter that the right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.

“The 1999 Nigerian constitution, as amended (Section 40) guarantees the right of citizens to peaceful protest,” he said.

He added: “The courts have also affirmed that right. Anything contrary to that is not acceptable and stands condemned.

“It is the security agents’ responsibility to provide a secured conducive environment for citizens to protest peaceably in line with constitutional provisions and the African Charter on Human rights.”

When will we ever learn in Nigeria? Adamu Garba defends #OccupyLekki protesters

In another tweet, a former presidential aspirant, Adamu Garba, wondered why government would not allow the protesters express themselves.

His words: “Inasmuch as the #EndSARS protesters are not blocking the way for other citizens to move along the #Lekkitollgate, the law permits them the right to peaceful protest. After all, that is a tenet of democracy that we practice. All arrested protesters should be released immediately.

“When will we ever learn in Nigeria? Is it not better for people to express themselves in a protest than hide behind any extreme motive to seek justice? I would rather have a peaceful protester than a bandit with AK-47.

“If #EndSARS protesters promises to be peaceful, let them be. If for any reason an iota of violence is detected from them, the authorities should quickly mobilise and disperse them.

“But as long as protesters claimed to be peaceful, we should give them their right to protest and protect them against possible hoodlums hijacking the protest.”

NBA President blasts police, begins work on protesters’ release

NBA’s President Olumide Akpata

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said it had begun moves to secure the release of the protesters .

NBA’s President Olumide Akpata condemned what he described as the Police’s “shocking” and “unlawful actions” against protesters and demanded their immediate release.

He offered free legal representation to any protester without a lawyer.

“The images & footages of the unlawful actions of the Nigerian Police at the Lekki Tollgate Lagos are truly shocking,” he said on Twitter.

“The @NigBarAssoc condemns the brazen disrespect for the fundamental rights of unarmed citizens who are merely exercising their rights to peaceful protests.

“We are currently working together with members of our association to ensure the release of those detained.

“At the moment, we understand that the detainees are spread across Panti, Adeniji and Ikeja Police Stations, and that they are currently being denied access to their Lawyers.

“This is totally unacceptable and we call on the police to immediately release them or allow them unhindered access to their lawyers.

“For protesters who do not have legal representation, the @NigBarAssoc is setting up a team of volunteer lawyers who will immediately represent them.”

Arrests are illegal, says Ozekhome

Dr. Mike Ozekhom

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr. Mike Ozekhome, also condemned the arrests and demanded the release of all the arrested persons and in particular, his client, Mr, Macaroni.

He said: “The arrest, taking away in a Black Maria and detention of peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate today is patently illegal and totally unconstitutional.

“At least the Nigerian Constitution has not been abrogated by this dictatorial government of impunity.

“Sections 40 and 41 of the said Constitution give Nigerians the right to peaceful assembly and association, and the right to freedom of movement.

“Even under military dictatorships, as one of the founding fathers of the the Civil Liberties Organisation – (the first indigenous human rights organisation in Nigeria founded on 15th October, 1987), I was allowed to demonstrate and protest on the streets by successive military juntas.

“The protesters have done no wrong to protest. It has not been shown that it was violent. Is the Federal government truly saying Nigerians should no longer protest?

“Then the FG should dissolve the people and select or elect another one of its choice.”

SERAP demands release of arrested protesters, threatens legal action

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Civil society organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, called for the immediate release of all the arrested protesters.

It threatened to go to court if they were not released unconditionally.

It said: “The United Nations and concerned governments should press the Nigerian authorities to end the crackdown on peaceful protesters, and unconditionally release those arbitrarily detained.

“We’ll pursue appropriate legal actions if the #EndSARS protesters arbitrarily arrested simply for peacefully exercising their human rights are not immediately and unconditionally released. Peaceful assembly is a fundamental right,” it said in a string of tweets.

Many other Nigerians, including celebrities and social media influencers, also took to the social media to berate the Lagos State Government over the deployment of operatives against unarmed protesters exercising their constitutional rights.

Toke Makinwa said: “Nigeria can really really really test you. Lagos State Government you need the youth, @jidesanwoolu, police arresting peaceful protesters that voted you in to office is a low blow, it is an abuse of our fundamental right to peacefully protest #EndSARS #Lekkitollgate”

Popular Activist, Aisha Yesufu said: “That we decide to be law abiding is not a reason for government to take us for granted. We have seen the Nigerian govt turn to left over spaghetti in the presence of killer herdsmen, kidnappers, bandits, Boko Haram etc who decided not to be law abiding #LekkiTollGate #EndSars

@Adetolaov said: “What is the use of having laws if the Police can simply choose to ignore that “peaceful protests are a constitutional right”, and instead beat up protesters, respond with force and even take protesters away in a Black Maria. Disgraceful and illegal acts #Lekkitollgate #EndSARS”

Charley Boy said: “I know these animals have turned Nigeria into a Jungle. But peaceful protest is still our human right. Animals can’t dash us human right. Say no to #lekkitollgate reopening.

Popular CNN Journalist Stephanie Busari said: “Police are clamping down heavily on the few protesters that turned up. We saw some beaten with sticks and their posters confiscated. One young man who said he was an observer was taken away in a Black Maria. #Lekkitollgate”

Wale Adetona said: “So the armed police and LCC staff at #LekkiTollGate are arresting anyone on sight whether you are a protester or not, straight into a Black Maria and moved to an unknown location. Whatever happened to the fundamental right of peaceful gathering?”

A social media influencer, Dr. Dipò Awójídé, condemned the police action, noting that it was not the way to go.

“This is not the path of peace/justice. The government should not be doing this. Peaceful protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution. #EndSARS.”

Another commentator, Festus Ogun, wrote: “Damilare Adenola is asthmatic. He is currently being violently tortured at Adeniji Police Station for being a voice of courage. He has been denied access to his inhalers and lawyers. Nothing must happen to @dadenola. #EndSARS.”

A medical doctor, Olufunmilayo said: “The government arrested young people for peaceful protest. They pushed them into a Black Maria then stripped them naked and tied some of them. They seized their phones. Then recorded these men to let the whole world see they dehumanised them.

“This government is criminally cruel. Even armed robbers should not be stripped naked and tied up like goats stuffed into a narrow van.

“They rounded them up. They stripped them naked. They tied them up like animals.

“That video was terribly traumatising to watch. Now imagine what Mr Macaroni went through. #EndSARS

DJ Switch said: “I am so angry at all I see, I want us all… Where ever we are, to speak up! In whatever way you can!!! Will update you all on what is happening on the 17th if all goes well. Like I said… I have chosen to fight, what do you want to do? #EndSARS #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria”

Kate Henshaw said: “All I really want to say is that they don’t really care about us…… #EndSARS #EndBadGovernanceInNigeria #EndPoliceBrutality”.

Footages from the scene posted across various media platforms showed how policemen chased some suspects and bundled them into a waiting Black Maria.

Also seen were images of some of the suspects handcuffed, their clothes taken off and they were sweating on each other inside the van.

40 suspects arraigned, granted bail

Forty suspects arrested on Saturday in connection with the protest were immediately arraigned before the Lagos State Mobile Court, Yaba.

The suspects, including Answer Harrison, Adekanbi Kayode, Yemi Orungbamila, Anjorin Joseph Seye, Paul Terkuma, Dayo Keshinro, Belema Briggs, Anisere Sodiq, Olanrenwaju Gonta and Damilare Adenola, were arraigned on a three count charge of conspiracy, conduct likely to cause breach of public peace and flouting the COVID-19 guidelines.

According to the charge sheet signed by prosecuting counsel, A.O. Adekunle, the defendants conspired amongst themselves to commit a misdemeanour to wit conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 412 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

It reads: “That you the above named defendants on the 13th of February, 2021 at Lekki Toll Plaza in the Yaba Magisterial District being a public place, gathered yourselves to harass and causing unnecessary alarm and panic in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 168 (1) (e) and punishable under Section 168 (2) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

“That you the above named Defendants on the 13th of February, 2021 at Lekki Toll Plaza in the Yaba Magisterial District did fail to comply with the Restriction/Prohibition Quarantine Law which prohibits any social gathering to avoid spreading and contacting of Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 5 of the Quarantine Act Q2 Law of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004 as domesticated under Public Health Law CH: P: Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015.”

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges against them and were granted bail in the sum of N100,000 by the presiding magistrate.

Lagos Police Command: ‘We arrested 76 for violating Covid-19 protocols, impounded 136 vehicles for breaking curfew’

The Lagos State Police Command, in its own version of what transpired yesterday, said it arrested 76 people for allegedly violating Covid-19 protocols and 40 others for conspiracy, conduct likely to cause breach of peace and violation of COVID-19 protocols.

It said: “In its bid to consistently enforce COVID-19 protocols in the state, the Lagos State Police Command on Saturday 13th February, at about 1am, arrested seventy six (76) suspects at a birthday party violating COVID-19 protocols.

“The Divisional Police Officer, Maroko Division of the command, led his team on enforcement of COVID-19 protocols including 12 midnight to 4am curfew when he got wind of the gathering at Lavender Court, Jakande Close, Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos.

“Those arrested at the party included: 1. Popoola Michael 2. Adeyemo opeyemi 3. Ramon salami 4. Kareem Akeem 5. Balogun Nurudeen and 71 others.

“The Divisional Police Officer, Maroko Division, also impounded more than One Hundred and thirty six (136) vehicles for breaking the 12 midnight to 4am curfew on the island and some parts of Lekki in the recent past. The owners of the vehicles have been charged to the Mobile Court, Oshodi and were fined appropriately.

“In addition, the command has arrested forty (40) suspects at Lekki Toll Gate plaza, Lagos State, on Saturday 13th February, 2021 for conspiracy, conduct likely to cause breach of peace and violation of COVID-19 protocols.

“The suspects had gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate plaza creating tension and behaving in such a manner that could cause breach of public peace without due regard for COVID-19 protocols major of which are use of nose masks and social distancing.

“The command has however arraigned the suspects today to the mobile court at Panti, Yaba accordingly but were however granted bail by the court. They will appear in court on the next date of adjournment, 2nd March, 2021, with the certificate of COVID-19 test.

“The command therefore assured the general public that it will always discharge its statutory duties as expected within the ambit of the law, while appealing to Lagosians to be law-abiding and go about their lawful businesses.”

How we were arrested – suspects

One of the arrested persons, Abdulfatai Olusina, who sustained leg injury while being dragged by a policeman, told reporters he stepped out of his office to buy food when he was picked up.

He said: “I work in Lekki Phase 1. He has injured me in the leg without committing any crime. My leg is bleeding. My ID card is in the office. I came out to buy food around the toll gate.

“A policeman came behind me and held my trousers. I asked him what I did, but he couldn’t mention any offence. He was just dragging me. His colleague joined him and they pushed me into the Black Maria.”

Another suspect, Christopher Ogboji, was heard shouting his name from the Black Maria, insisting he was not a protester.

“I was just walking (by) when I was arrested. I committed no crime. I am a civil engineer. I am a contractor. I work with a construction company. I was heading to the construction site when I was arrested.

“The future is at risk. I cannot be a slave in my own country. Is this an arrest or abduction? I need an answer. Is it a crime to walk in my own country? I am an employer of labour. They have collected my phone.”

#DefendLagos campaigners withdraw from Lekki counter protest

Opponents of the #OccupyLekkiTollgate protesters, #DefendLagos protest backed out of the Lekki toll gate counter protest.

They however asked the police to arrest #OccupyLekkiTollgate protesters.

The group – #DefendLagos – was formed as a counter team against the #OccupyLekkiTollGate.

The head of the #DefendLagos campaign, Alabi Oladimeji, who announced the suspension of the protests, said: “I am proud to announce that for the meantime, we will be suspending this protest due to the law of the federal and state governments. We are law-abiding and good citizens; we should not be the ones seen disobeying any law.”

He added: “If Lagos and FG fail us, we will come out huge and protest on Monday.”

We’ll use minimum force on #ENDSARS2 protesters – Defence minister

Defence Minister Bashir Salihi Magashi said on Saturday in Kano that the federal government would not sit down and watch hoodlums and criminals destroy lives and vandalise properties under the guise of #ENDSARS2 protest.

“We will maintain the law and peace of this country to the best of our ability. We can use force when it is required,” he warned.

Gen. Magashi spoke to reporters in Kano State after revalidating his membership with the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He said: “Whoever is involved in this EndSARS issue, the military and the government will not allow it to happen. We will be as good as any other citizen to protect this country.

“We are not going to be harsh on anybody. We will maintain the law and peace to the best of our ability. We can use force when it is required. When we say ‘use force,’ we don’t mean go and start killing people.

“We can use minimum force commensurate with what is seen on the ground. And that is where some people are getting it wrong.

“We cannot sit down and then watch you shoot somebody and we allow you to go free because somebody thinks you are one who can kill and go away.

“Please give us time in this country. We are in a state where we want everybody to look up and see what you can do for this country, not what the country can do for you.

“This EndSARS issue, if you recall, the Minister of Information had briefed this nation and alerted that something like this is coming, and we know we are always prepared -this is our job -to ensure internal security.

“We must plan for it. We don’t want to be taken by surprise. And if you want us to be taken by surprise, then, there is no need to call us protectors.

“If EndSARS is to take place today, we will ensure that we have peaceful counter plans that we will put in place to ensure that mistakes are not made in protecting the people.

“You know the composition of the EndSARS crowd. Over 60 per cent of them are people who don’t even know why they are there. They just come to take part. Some of them are rogues, some are there to steal. They want to do whatever they think. The actual ones are few.”

The #OccupyLekkiprotest was organised in reaction to the decision of the Lagos Judicial Panel to return the Lekki tollgate to its owners (LCC).

The organisers also listed the ban on cryptocurrency accounts among other reasons.

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