The Lagos State Judicial Panel’s decision permitting the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) to repossess the Lekki Toll Gate caused a social media storm on Tuesday with two groups threatening counter-protests at the plaza
Opponents of the panel’s decision, mainly youths, expressed their outrage on Twitter with the hashtag #OccupyLekkiTollGate.
They resolved to stage another protest at the tollgate to ensure that the tollgate remains shut until justice is served to the victims of the Lekki shooting.
The protest has been fixed for Saturday, February 13, 2021, from 7 am.
Their outrage was matched by that expressed by proponents of a counter social media campaign with the hashtag #DefendLagos and #DemNoBornDemPapaWell.
The promoters lamented that Lagos State witnessed massive destruction of public and private properties during the #EndSARS protests, warning that further protest that will lead to destruction will not be tolerated.
Last November Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the state will need about N1 trillion for the reconstruction and repair of the properties and infrastructure that were vandalised and destroyed by hoodlums.
The Nation reports that the Lekki tollgate has not been operational since October 2020.
The panel was set up in the wake of the near-nationwide protests against police brutality and the alleged shooting incident at the toll gate on October 20.
Protesters have submitted no fewer than 10 petitions to the panel alleging that men of the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, shot at and killed several #EndSARS protesters at the toll gate last October 20, a claim the Army denied.
Last Saturday, five members of the nine-man panel chaired by Judge emeritus Doris Okuwobi voted in support of the reopening of the toll gate, while four others objected.
Those who objected were youth representatives Temitope Majekodunmi and Rinuola Oduola as well as Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and Patience Udoh, both representing the civil society.
Justice Okuwobi’s decision on the toll plaza followed LCC’s fourth application through its counsel, Rotimi Seriki, for the re-opening of the facility.
The company had been praying to the panel to allow it to take over the plaza for repair and insurance claims since December 2020.
Shortly after the ruling, proceedings at the panel degenerated to a shouting match when the four dissenting members were prevented from delivering their dissenting ruling.
They were vehemently opposed, firstly by LCC lawyer, Mr Rotimi Seriki and subsequently by Lagos State Counsel, Mr Olukayode Enitan.
Following appeals for calm by Ms Udoh, she and the Youth Reps were allowed to deliver their rulings, objecting to the majority decision.
Adegboruwa was not able to deliver his.
Sowore, others back protests
Tweeting in support of the #OccupyLekkiTollGate protest, activist and politician Omoyele Sowore, said the toll gate must remain shut until the perpetrators of the killings are brought to justice.
“No to the reopening #Lekkitollgate, the perpetrators of #LekkiMassacre must be brought to book. @jidesanwoolu #Buratai must be brought before @IntlCrimCourt #RevolutionNow #Buharimustgo,” he said via his official handle @YeleSowore.
Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, tweeted: “Lagos State government, Lekki Concession Company, and some members of the Lagos State Judicial Panel members inspired the #OccupyLekkiTollGate protest planned for 7 am on Saturday, February 13.
“We all knew that the panel is just a means to divert youths’ attention, only the rich and those in power get justice.
“But history has been made and stories will be told of how the youths of Nigeria fought against #Badgovernment #EndSARS,” @Shaddyrok tweeted.
Other Nigerians also expressed their support on social media.
@JGagariga said: “That toll gate should never be open, it’s out of the desperation to reopen the toll gate the soldiers were called in to carry out #LekkiMassacre, there’s no excuse whatsoever that the toll should come back, how many victims of #LekkiMassacre have gotten justice? #EndSARS.”
‘Love for Lagos’
But promoting the hashtag #DefendLagos protest, Olusoga Owoeye @olusogaowoeye on Twitter said: “Show your love for our Lagos. Get your friends and your neighbours to be there.
“Join the DefendLagos Rally at the Lekki toll plaza on the 13th of February. We will not cede our city to criminals and insurrectionists. Lagos is our pride.”
@lollylarry1 said: “No one has the monopoly of madness. The destruction of Lagos by the foolish lots is enough. This time we are going to #DefendLagos and #DemNoBornYourPapaWell to do anyhow.”
@drjollyseg noted: “@jidesanwoolu this is the time to be proactive! If care is not taken, there will be bloodshed and needless deaths following a possible clash between the two groups. Don’t overrule a possible hijack by hoodlums again.
Kanu: Nothing must happen to protesters
Leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) backed the #OccupyLekkiTollGate protesters.
“Let’s start tagging international correspondences (sic), media houses, members of UK parliament, Biden administration, ICC, etc. If a peaceful protest is not a constitutional right, let the world say so, else nothing must happen to #OccupyLekkiTollGate #EndSARS protesters,” he said via his official handle @MaziNnamdlKanu.
Police step up security at panel venue
Meanwhile, proceedings resumed at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS related abuses and the Lekki Toll Gate incident yesterday after Saturday’s divided ruling.
But there seemed to be evidence that the panel was aware of the social media campaign and had made security arrangements to forestall a breach.
The Nation observed that the police set up temporary barricades around the Lagos Court of Arbitration (LCA) in Lekki, venue of the panel.
Police trucks, usually parked in front of the LCA on Remi Olowude Street, Lekki, were also moved to a few feet away to screen persons coming towards the building.
Inside the building, the panel began its 39th sitting since last October on an unusual note: an apology from a lawyer.
Mr Enitan, who alongside Mr Seriki, prevented Mr Adegboruwa from delivering his dissenting ruling tendered an apology for his actions.
Apology accepted, the panel proceeded to hear its 11 petitions of the day, all against the police.
Seek judicial review, lawyer advises #OccupyLekkiTollGate promoters
Activist-lawyer Richard Akinnola II condemned the planned #OccupyLekkiTollGate protests. He advised those aggrieved with the panel’s decision to seek judicial review.
Sharing his thoughts on his Facebook wall, Akinnola said: “Some people have asked what my position is in respect of the planned OCCUPY LEKKI TOLL GATE next Saturday and my response is straightforward. I wouldn’t know if it’s mere red herring or real but I’m unreservedly and totally opposed to such.
“I subscribe to protests but not anarchism. If anyone is aggrieved over the decision of the Lagos Endsars panel on the “re-opening” of the Lekki Toll gate, he should seek a judicial review of such a decision. I’m just wondering what has the “re-opening” of the toll gate, which has been open since October last year, got to do with justice for the victims. It becomes more worrisome that Nnamdi Kanu is also asking his IPOB members to OCCUPY LEKKI TOLL GATE.
“This character did not occupy Orlu where his members were allegedly killed by soldiers few weeks ago but he wants to occupy Lekki, which suggests a sinister motive. People who lost millions of Naira of their businesses during the last episode are still reeling from the effect of that action by miscreants who took advantage of the protests. I can’t in all conscience endorse this.”
EndSARS lawyer: why judicial review may not be feasible
Counsel for some #EndSARS protesters at the panel, Mr Adesina Ogunlana, said there were several options available to anyone aggrieved by the decision to grant LCC possession of the plaza.
He warned security agencies against trampling on protesters’ right to protest, advising instead that they should be more concerned with ensuring that the protests are peaceful.
Ogunlana said: “Protest is one way, but it has its own limitations.
“Judicial review or going to court to challenge the panel’s ruling is another option. It has its own limitations. On the surface, it looks so neat and nice, but in practical terms, you know the speed of the wheel of justice in this country. The panel has March to wind up. This is almost middle of February. If you go to court, when will it (the suit) be assigned. You’ll be running helter-skelter and it usually becomes like a joke. That is the limitation. It is not a bad idea but it is not to be seen as the only way that people should go. What we should be talking about is that people who want to demonstrate must do so within the law.
“If some people want to demonstrate and others plan a counter demonstration, why can’t (those planning a counter demonstration) go to court too? Go to court and obtain an order restriction against those who want to demonstrate? Somebody says ‘I want to demonstrate.’ That’s when you wake and say you want to demonstrate too. That means you don’t really have a genuine case.”
Some people inciting mayhem in Lagos, says APC
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State weighed in on the protest threats yesterday by warning agents of violence to desist from inciting mayhem in the state.
The chapter said the condemnation of the reopening of the Lekki Toll Gate by former APC National Deputy Secretary Timi Frank was in bad faith.
According to Lagos APC, the statement by Frank was reckless and irresponsible, adding that he was inciting youths to return to the streets to unleash further mayhem on innocent Lagosians who are still individually and collectively struggling to over-come their recent losses.
The party said in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Seye Oladejo, that its earlier position that the violent and orchestrated protest was sponsored has been buttressed by the renewed efforts to make Lagos ungovernable.
Oladejo said: “The mindless reaction of the politically frustrated comrade is typical of someone seeking relevance through a rather sensitive issue.
“Besides, it is sub judice and lawless on the part of Timi Frank to condemn a panel that’s yet to officially submit its findings.”
The publicity secretary urged Lagosians to frown at any act under whatever guise that could lead to further unrest in the state.
He also said Lagosians should be mindful of the ravaging second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which thrives in an atmosphere of the mammoth crowd.
Oladejo added: “While we commend the Lagos State government for its earnest and committed efforts to rebuild the state, we also appreciate their partners, individual and corporate, who are committing their hard-earned resources.
“We urge the Lagos State government to remain committed to upholding law and order at all times and enjoin all and sundry to continue to engage in their lawful activities without needless distractions.”
Stop using Ndigbo to divide Nigeria, IPAN warns Sowore, others
A group, Igbos for a Progressive Nigeria (IPAN) warned Sowore and others to desist from using Igbo to perpetuate his plans targeted at disintegrating Nigeria.
The group described the move as another attempt to commence a fresh round of violence, looting and destruction of properties, calling on Ndigbo to shun activities that would not promote Nigeria’s unity.
Their warning came in the wake of a trending narrative on Twitter claiming that IPOB and by extension his Igbo followers sponsored the #EndSARS carnage in Lagos.
Promoters of this narrative tried to create the impression that the #OccupyLekkiTollGate and #DefendLagos trends was a Yoruba vs Igbo battle.
In a statement signed by its National President and South East Secretary, Mr. Lawrence Onuzulike and Michael Chibuzor respectively, IPAN said the warning followed plans to protest at the toll gate on February 13.
According to the group, Sowore was one of those behind the planned protest.
The statement partly read, “Our attention has been drawn to a planned protest at the Lekki toll gate on February 13th 2021.
“This planned protest is obviously in response to the decision of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality to allow the Lekki Concession Company to repossess the Lekki toll gate.
“IPAN views this move by Sowore as another attempt to start a fresh round of violence, destruction of properties and looting of businesses in Lagos. Many businesses and public facilities are yet to recover from the destruction of last October.
“We therefore call on the Igbos to shun this self-seeking planned protest by Sowore. Sowore must stop constituting a nuisance to the country and approach the courts instead if he is dissatisfied with the Panel’s decision.
“IPAN most importantly calls on well-meaning Igbos residing in Lagos not to allow a failed politician as well as a fugitive controlling the thinking of his followers turn the Igbos against the Yoruba nation.
“Igbos in Lagos should not allow themselves to be used as tools to destroy a state that has always welcomed them and allowed them to thrive.
“We also call on Igbo artistes such as Peter Okoye (popularly known as Mr. P), Obianuju Catherine Udeh (popularly known as DJ Switch) and many others who are seemingly egging the people to embark on a misguided protest while safely away in their comfort zones to desist from this misadventure.
“Enough is enough, IPAN says no to lawlessness. Igbo leaders should wake up and lend their voices to this call to avoid further damage to the image of Ndigbo in the eyes of other ethnic groups.
“While appealing to security agencies to be proactive and protect public infrastructure in Lagos from arson, the group further called on Lagos State government not to fold its arms and watch the state go through another round of coordinated destruction, stressing that “once bitten, twice shy.”