- Armed police storm NBA office over planned protest
Akinwale Akintunde with agency report
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja branch wednesday said it would be embarking on another round of streets protest as planned over the reviewed Land Use Charge (LUC) notwithstanding the work -free-day declared by Lagos State government to host President Muhammadu Buhari during his visit to the state.
The Chairman of the branch, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, disclosed this at a press briefing wednesday, adding that this is a response to the failure of the state government and Lagos State House of Assembly, to meet its demands.
Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode had reduced the levies by 50 per cent following the uproar that greeted the LUC but this does no go down well with some stakeholders who insisted a return to the status quo.
The NBA team led by Ogunlana was also reported to have staged a walk out during the public hearing organised by the state House of Assembly on the controversial Land Use Charge on March 27, 2018 on the ground that the notice to submit their memorandum was too short.
According to Ogunlana, the protest would hold at 2p.m after the presidentâ€™s inauguration of a newly built bus terminal in Ikeja.
Ogunlana alleged that the work free-day declared was to stop them from protesting but it would not work because even though they understand the state, they do not agree with the decision.
Meanwhile, dozens of armed police officers have laid siege at the secretariat of the Ikeja branch of the NBA over the bodyâ€™s decision to stage a protest today.
Ogunlana who confirmed the development yesterday, said: â€œThe police have invaded my secretariat, there are about 50 of them who are armed, and they are saying that they donâ€™t want the protest tomorrow,â€ Ogunlana told Premium Times over the phone last night.
â€œAnd we told them that we are not interested in disrupting the presidential visit, our protest is not going to take place in Ikeja, and that there is no need for any alarm. We are not blocking any route.â€
President Buhari is scheduled to arrive Lagos today for a two-day official visit.
After a march two weeks ago to protest the state governmentâ€™s newly introduced land use charge, the lawyers had planned another round of protest to coincide with the presidentâ€™s visit.
The police siege yesterday evening came shortly after police authorities issued a statement ordering the lawyers to shelve their planned protest today.
The statement issued by Chike Oti, the spokesperson of the Lagos State Police Command, said the police would not tolerate any protest from the NBA or any group during Mr. Buhariâ€™s visit.
â€œThe CP believes strongly that the planned protest by the NBA is the handiwork of mischief makers who are using the NBA as a launching pad to possibly compromise the security emplaced for the presidential visit,â€ Oti, a Superintendent of Police, said in the statement.
â€œIt must be recalled that on March 12, 2018, the Lagos State Police Command availed the NBA Ikeja branch its security assets and escorted them to the Government House Alausa to protest the increase in the Land Use Charge. At Alausa they were addressed and afterwards escorted back to their base.
â€œIt is baffling that the same NBA whose right to protest has never been denied to use the auspicious occasion of the presidentâ€™s visit to protest and disrupt the occasion and by extension compromise the security of the president is to say the least most incomprehensible (sic).
â€œFor the avoidance of doubt, the Lagos State Police Command will not tolerate any protest from the NBA or from any group or individual for that matter during the visit of Mr. President whom Lagosians are ready to receive warmly.â€
He said: â€œThe NBA and any group wanting to protest at this time are warned to jettison the idea or face dire consequences which may include arrest and prosecution of participants.
â€œIt is curious that of all the NBA branches in Lagos, it is only the Ikeja branch that has been using the option of protest and civil disobedience despite several options available to it thus lending credence to the intelligence report that the Chairman of the NBA is a pawn in the hands of some disgruntled politicians. Please be warned.â€
Ogunlana had summoned an emergency meeting of the Ikeja NBA branch in reaction to the police siege.
He also insisted that todayâ€™s protest would hold at a location and time â€œfar, far awayâ€ from the president.
He further promised to sue the Lagos police hierarchy for them to disclose the names of those allegedly using the Ikeja NBA against the state government