The Lagos State Government and the State Police Command on Thursday warned against the planned protest tagged #OccupyLagosLekkiTollGate.
The state government gave the warning during a joint press conference held at Ikeja by the Commissioner for Justice/Attorney General of Lagos, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, and Commissioner of Police, Mr Hakeem Odumosu.
The Commissioner of Police issued a stern warning to various groups planning to embark on protests at the Lekki Toll Plaza on Saturday, Feb. 13, advising them to shelve the plan.
Odumosu said that the security intelligence gathered by the police command indicated that the “OccupyLekkiTollGate” protest and planned counter-rallies would degenerate into a breakdown of law and order.
According to him, the police will not allow any group to carry out the action.
He said that adequate arrangements on the deployment of security forces had been put in place to stop any violent protest, gathering and procession in any part of Lagos.
Odumosu said that the police command would rise in the protection of law-abiding residents from any form of the violence.
”The police command has gathered credible intelligence that some hidden agents of destruction and shadow parties that orchestrated the last EndSARS violence have concluded plans to cause another mayhem in Lagos and spread the same to other parts of the country, tactically and spontaneously, like the recent violence.
”Premised on the available intelligence and due threat analyses carried out on the planned protest, the Police Command perceives such proposed protest as a calculated attempt to cause pandemonium and massive destruction of lives and property under whatever guise; such will not be allowed to hold in Lagos.
”The decision of the command in this regard is in the interest of all and sundry in Lagos and to ensure that the statutory responsibilities of the Nigeria Police Force are not compromised.
”I, therefore, appeal to the general public, particularly parents and guardians, to discourage and warn their children and wards to ignore any unreasonable call or mobilisation for protest or gathering which runs against the existing peace and security situation of the state,” he said.
The commissioner for justice, in his remark, said that the government acknowledged the rights of the citizens to a lawful assembly and freedom to express their feelings as guaranteed by Section 39 and 40 of the Constitution.
Onigbanjo, however, said that the rights did not give any citizen the freedom to block highways and prevent other citizens from moving freely within the state.
He said that the government would not allow any group to push the state, once again, to the edge of carnage, hence, those organising the “Occupy Lekki Toll Gate” and “Defend Lagos” protests should desist from the planned action.
According to him, the state government’s respect for the citizens’ rights to protest should not be seen as a licence to break the laws.
He warns that any individual or corporate organisation that incited an action leading to the destruction of public and private property would be prosecuted and be made to pay damages.
The Attorney General also said that the public health crisis occasioned by the spread of deadly variants of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) should discourage anyone from attempting to assemble people for the planned protests.
He urged all groups to consider COVID-19 protocols that limit public gathering not to be more than 50 persons.
Onigbanjo, therefore, directed the state’s Police Command to stop opposing groups from holding rallies in Lekki and any other parts of Lagos.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy said that the steps taken by the state government on the planned protest were not to take away the fundamental rights of the citizens but to prevent re-enactment of the event that led to the destruction of public and private assets in October 2020.
Omotoso sued for peace, urging the organisers of the planned protests and rallies to allow the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to conclude its investigation on what transpired between the military and EndSARS protesters.
”We believe this kind of tension and anxiety being brought forward by the planned protest will not allow the panel to do a thorough job.
”If the authorities allow the protest and counter-rallies to go on, there would be a breakdown of order and Lagos is not ripe for such action.
”It is on this premise that the state government is appealing to all parties to thread with caution. Both sides have the right to express their feelings, but the time is wrong,” he said.