There was widespread anger on Saturday following the arrest of 40 persons who protested peacefully against the reopening of the Lekki Tollgate Plaza in Lagos State.
The peaceful protesters were arrested on Saturday and locked up in standby Black Marias.
The police consequently brought them before a mobile court in Yaba for conspiracy, conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, and violation of COVID-19 protocols.
The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing police brutality and alleged killings of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at the Lekki Tollgate had ruled that the tollgate be handed back to its operator, Lekki Concession Company, after forensic experts submitted their report on October 20, 2020 incident.
Four out of the nine members of the panel had faulted the report of the forensic experts hired to comb the scene for evidence and rejected the application by the LCC to take possession of the facility, which had been shut down since the probe of the shootings started.
The four members who rejected the forensic report are the two representatives of the civil society – Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) and Ms. Patience Udoh; as well as the two youth representatives on the panel – Rinu Oduala and Temitope Majekodunmi.
They contended that the LCC denied the forensic experts access to its servers and failed to provide them with information on who ordered the extraction of CCTV footage; the date and time of extraction of the footage; the method used for the extraction, among others.
But the chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (retd.), and four other members of the panel acceded to LCC’s request to repossess the tollgate.
The chairman was backed by Segun Awosanya (popularly known as Segalink), Oluwatoyin Odusanya (Director, Citizens Rights), a representative of the police, DIG Taiwo Lakanu (retd.), and Lucas Koyejo from the National Human Rights Commission.
Subsequently, hashtags #OccupyLekkiTollgate and #DefendLagos trended on social media for and against the reopening respectively.
Lagos State and the Federal Government as well as the police had warned the protesters to shelve the demonstration but some of them defied the warning and came out on Saturday to protest against the reopening.
The demonstrators at different times in the day came to the tollgate in units and small groups, expressing their displeasure at what they described as injustice on the part of the government.
The majority of them, including the popular comedian, Debo Adedayo, well known as Mr. Macaroni, were hounded by armed policemen, thrown into waiting for Black Marias, vans, and whisked away.
Some people walking along the tollgate were also accosted by the police and taken away. Their attempts to explain where they were heading for were rebuffed.
Later in the day, 40 protesters were arraigned for allegedly conducting themselves in a manner capable of causing a breach of the peace.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, confirmed the arraignment in a statement, adding that they were granted bail.
He said, “The command has arrested 40 suspects at Lekki Tollgate Plaza, Lagos State, on Saturday, February 13, 2021, for conspiracy, conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, and violation of COVID-19 protocols.
“The suspects had gathered at the Lekki Tollgate Plaza creating tension and behaving in such a manner that could cause a breach of the public peace without due regard for COVID-19 protocols major of which are the use of nose masks and social distancing.
“The command had, however, arraigned the suspects at the mobile court at Panti, Yaba, accordingly but they were granted bail by the court. They will appear in court on the next date of adjournment, March 2, 2021, with the certificate of COVID-19 test.”