Today, 13th February 2021, will go down in history as the day the strength of force clashed with the voice of people. Police force command would not allow Nigerians that converged at the Lekki tollgate to protest against the alleged directive given by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses, for the reopening of Lekki tollgate and operation of the Lekki Concession Company, in Lekki, Lagos State. The directive was allegedly given after 5 members out of 9 members of the Judicial panel voted for the reopening of the tollgate, which was the epicenter of the #EndSARS protest.
As of yesterday evening, the police command had begun to show significant presence at the tollgate – a shred of evidence that force could be applied to scuttle the protest of the #OccupyLekkiTollGate.
Before protesters could occupy the Lekki tollgate, heavily armed policemen have taken over the strategic points in the area – showing the readiness of the Lagos State Police Command not to allow the protest to breathe air.
Later on, the policemen arrested many protesters of varying combinations. Among them was Debo Adebayo, popularly known in the comedy sphere as Mr. Macaroni. Some of them were alleged to be sandwiched in a bus that appeared to be a “Danfo” vehicle, with apparent disregard to the covid 19 rules championed by the Lagos State Government.
Many are of the view that the right to peaceful protest is fundamental and that nothing has shown that #OccupyLekkiTollGate protesters will be violent since the purpose of their protest was made known to Nigerians.
On the other hand, the handwriting on the wall was obvious that government would not tolerate any form of protest. The Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State Governor, Gboyega Akosile, had warningly tweeted that “nobody will bring our dear Lagos State down! Their rights end where other people’s rights begin.”
Although Lekki Concession Company also has the right to conduct their legitimate businesses at the Lekki tollgate, to heal the distrust and suspicion between the government and citizens, especially victims of SARS brutality and alleged military assault at the Lekki tollgate, it will be fair for the government to reassure citizens that the blood, injuries, and humiliations experienced at the Lekki tollgate and other parts of Nigeria will not be in vain.