•Police in show of force, tighten security around Lekki
Festus Akanbi and Segun James
There are anxieties over today’s planned protest by youths under the aegis of the EndSARS movement at the Lekki-Ajah Tollgate in Lagos, the epicentre of last October #EndSARS protests, following the federal government’s threat to crush any protest and the insistence of the organisers to go ahead with their action.
Still using the social media, promoters of #occupyLekkitollgate movement, in a defiant move, spent most of yesterday mobilising youths for the protest to express their displeasure over approval for the reopening of the toll plaza.
In response to the call for protest, a counter-protest group tagged #DefendLagos was also active on social media, countering the EndSARS protesters amidst heavy presence of security forces at the Lekki Tollgate.
The police last night dispatched teams of operatives along the Lekki corridor and the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State Police Command confirmed the deployment.
“CSP Yinka Egbeyemi is presently leading a team of police officers on a show of force to Lekki Tollgate(Admiralty Plaza) Obalende, Ikoyi, Jakande Roundabout, and other areas in Eti Osa,” RRS tweeted last night.
As at the time of going to press, mobilisation for the protest had reached a fever pitch on the social media, especially Twitter, with the organisers calling the bluff of the police to dislodge and arrest any protester at the venue.
However, not taking any chances, a crack team of uniformed policemen had taken positions in strategic locations at the venue of the planned protest since yesterday morning with a police source disclosing that the efforts of the uniformed men were being complemented by the presence of some plain clothes policemen and men of the Department of State Security.
Some members of the public who had passed through the Admiralty way, Lekki venue of the planned protest had taken to Twitter to warn potential protesters to avoid the Lekki Tollgate because of the heavy presence of security forces in the area as early as yesterday morning.
A resident of Lekki area of Lagos, who identified herself as Morris Monye in her tweet said she saw about three trucks of heavily armed security forces at the tollgate yesterday morning: “Near the Lekki Tollgate observing three trucks of heavily armed security forces at the venue. Let’s all apply common sense,” she tweeted.
Her story was corroborated by another resident, Christine. She tweeted: “Just passed by the Lekki Tollgate and all I can say is please stay at home tomorrow. There are already at least three trucks parked there with uniformed officers. God help us”
Nengi Adoki, another Twitter user reported, “Passed by the Lekki Tollgate just now and there’s armed military trucks. See how you people are giving these people extra work. No peace for the wicked. Them go be there for the rest of their lives. Murderers”
On his part, Kelvin Odanz (Or Odense), warned the protesters to stay away from Lekki Tollgate given the heavy presence of the police. He tweeted: “If you know what is good for you, stay away from Lekki Tollgate and its environs tomorrow. There will be a rematch with the powers that be one day. But tomorrow is not that day. He that has ears, let him hear.”
Joining the league of corporate organisations kicking against the protest is the management of the company in charge of the Lekki Toll Plaza, Lekki Concession Company (LCC).
The company appealed to Nigerian youth to refrain from the planned #occupyLekkitollgate protest and the #DefendLagos counter-protest slated to hold at the tollgate this morning.
In a statement released by the company yesterday, the managing director of LCC Yomi Omomuwasan, urged “leaders of movements planning a protest at its destroyed Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza to give peace a chance.”
He added that if LCC did not return to full operations within the shortest possible time, it would result in loss of jobs for LCC’s over 500 direct staff and thousands of others across its business value chain.
Speaking on the planned protests, Omomuwasan said LCC was distressed by the reactions as there is need to halt further losses being incurred by the company as an aftermath of the October 20, 2020 incident.
“Last weekend’s decision by the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to return the Tollgate to the LCC had generated strong reactions from youth movements with a group threatening to occupy it and another pledging to defend it.
“We are distressed by the reactions the decision of the Panel has elicited from some members of the public and their resolve to again forcefully take over the already destroyed Plaza on Saturday 13, January 2021.
“It was in a bid to halt further losses, especially given our subsisting financial commitments to local and foreign lenders, including the African Development Bank (AfDB), that we approached the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for permission to repossess our facilities,” Omomuwasan said.
He added that the company approached the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to return the Tollgate to it in good faith and stem its losses.
Omomuwasa said the company refrained from making comments since the Lekki shooting incident of October 20, 2020, because of the heightened temper.
The director, who referred to the shooting incident as an “unfortunate event,” said the LCC was “also a victim of the unfortunate circumstance.”
The Lekki Tollgate not has been operational since the night of October 20, 2020, following the shooting of unarmed protesters by officers of the Nigerian Army.
The Judicial Panel of Inquiry, last Saturday returned the control of the toll plaza to the LCC.
The ruling to reopen the Lekki toll plaza, which was dissented to by some members of the panel, has generated controversies among Nigerian youth, resulting in the protest and counter-protest slated for today.