Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Chuks Okocha in Abuja, Chiemelie Ezeobi, Segun James, Abiodun Eromosele and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos
The federal government yesterday squared up to organisers of a fresh protest at Lekki Tollgate, the epicentre of last October #EndSARS protests, with a warning that they should jettison the idea.
It said security agents had been mobilised to scuttle the protest planned for tomorrow.
To also frustrate the planned protest, the Lagos State Police Command yesterday banned the gathering and vowed to arrest the protesters.
The Lagos State Government also appealed to the public and groups planning to stage protests to shelve the plan.
But notwithstanding the threats, the organisers of the planned protest remained defiant, saying the protest, over the ban on cryptocurrency accounts among other reasons will hold.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told reporters in Abuja that no responsible government will allow a repeat of the violence that followed last year’s #EndSARS protest, when hoodlums hijacked it.
He said: ‘’Any further resort to violence in the name of #EndSARS will not be tolerated this time. The security agents are ready for any eventuality. A situation in which six soldiers and 37 policemen were murdered in cold blood by hoodlums will not repeat itself.
‘’The attack, looting, and razing of 269 private and public property will not happen again. The killing of 57 civilians will not be re-enacted.’’
He said intelligence report had shown that some Nigerian activists had linked up with others outside Nigeria, including subversive elements, with a view to destabilising the country.
‘’We cannot and must not allow this to happen,’’ he added.
Mohammed, in justifying the federal government’s plans to clamp down on the organisers and the would-be protesters, said despite the fact that only one policeman and four others were killed in the invasion of the United States Capitol in January, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had continued to hunt down and prosecute the perpetrators.
According to him, many of those actively promoting the planned protest on social media are not even in Nigeria, as they are in other countries inciting people to violence in Nigeria.
The minister added that the federal government is also watching the role being played by the various social media platforms in mobilising people to join the protest.
Police Vow to Arrest Protesters
The Lagos State Police Command has vowed to arrest protesters who defy the ban to join the march being planned for tomorrow at the Lekki Tollgate.
The police said security forces had been put on red alert to dislodge any violent protest, gathering, and procession in any part of the state.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, yesterday told the protesters to shelve their plans.
He stated that the decision to ban the protest was necessitated by intelligence gathering about a possible hijack by the same hoodlums responsible for the violence last year.
He said: “Permit me to state in clear terms that organising any protest in furtherance of the recent violent and destructive EndSARS protest will be counterproductive to the ongoing series of inquiries and investigations into many cases related to the EndSARS violence and the present security situation of the state.
“Above all, the command has gathered intelligence that some hidden agents of destruction and shadow parties that planned and orchestrated the last EndSARS violence have concluded plans to cause another set of mayhem in Lagos State and spread same to other parts of the country, tactically and spontaneously, like the recent violence.”
Lagos Urges Organisers to Shelve Protest
The Lagos State Government yesterday appealed to the organisers of the protest to shelve it.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotosho, said on ARISE NEWS Channels, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, that the protesters should reconsider their decision so as not to “cause trouble” in the state.
He explained that there was nothing in the state to warrant any fresh protests by anyone, including the youth.
He said: “We all saw what happened in October last year, how some of the iconic buildings in Lagos were razed. We saw how human lives were wasted, including policemen and nobody prays for that kind of thing to happen in Lagos again. Because of that, the Lagos State Government has been suing for peace.
“We have been meeting traditional rulers, youth organisations, civil societies, and people we think can influence things for us not to have the kind of thing that happened in October last year. As it is now, Lagos will require peace to grow our economy. We need peace for Lagosians to display their creative skills.
“Nobody wants to go back to the scene of October 2020. We are appealing to both sides not to cause trouble in Lagos so that we can continue to focus on the economic and social issues that are facing us.
“We have COVID-19, all manners of things that are coming up that the state government is tackling. This is going to be a big distraction. We are appealing to both sides. Lagos belongs to all of us.”
Omotosho appealed to parents and guardians to prevail on their children and wards to give peace a chance and, therefore, not to be part of the planned protest.
The Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), also warned against the blockage of roads as a form of protest in the state.
In a statement yesterday, Onigbanjo stated that while the state recognises the right to peaceful protests, the same cannot extend to blockage of roads, including preventing other members of the public from enjoying their fundamental rights to move freely.
“While the state recognises the importance of exercising the right to peaceful protests, same cannot extend to blockage of roads and or preventing other members of the public from enjoying their fundamental rights to move freely within the state.
“Any person or group with such desire to protest must also bear in mind the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Regulations 2021, which prevents any gathering beyond 50 and other safety measures, including but not limited to maintaining social distancing and the use of face mask,” he stated.
Protest Organisers Remain Defiant
Despite warnings by the federal government and the police, the organisers of tomorrow’s protest insisted yesterday that it would hold as planned.
They also cited the ban on cryptocurrency accounts as one of the reasons for the protest.
They said in a statement yesterday, titled, ‘EndSARS Season 2; Why we will #OccupyLekkiTollGate on Saturday – Campaigners,’ that the planned protest was more than the ruling of the Lagos State Judicial Panel probing alleged killings of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020.
They stated that they are unmoved by threats by security operatives and counter-protesters under the aegis of #DefendLagos.
“After committing genocide by killing scores of people who were peacefully protesting at Lekki Tollgate and other parts of Lagos, Governor Sanwo-Olu, and other oppressors wants (sic) to spit on the dead and dance on the blood of the innocent by reopening the yahoo gate to be collecting their blood money as again.
“We say NO! We are undaunted! We will be occupying Lekki Tollgate again starting from Saturday, February 13. We urge all well-meaning Nigerians to storm back all the barricades as our rulers have shown that they can never change,” they said.