Police on Saturday arrested protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate as calls for the suspension of reopening of the facility gain momentum.
The police had earlier on Friday launched a show-of-force exercise to deter would be participants in the planned protest.
On Saturday morning there was heavy presence of armed policemen who picked up anyone they suspect to be at the toll gate for protest. Reports suggest that no fewer than 30 protesters have been arrested during the ongoing protest at the Lekki toll gate on Saturday.
Today’s protest is not unconnected with the order of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on February 6 that the toll gate be handed over to the Lekki Concession Company for reopening.
The panel’s decision was not unanimous though as some members disagreed with the reopening since investigations into the events of October 20 were still ongoing.
The facility had been closed since October 20 during the #EndSARS protests where the Nigerian military was indicted for shooting at peaceful protesters occupying the toll during the call for an end to police brutality across the country.
The youth representatives on the Lagos panel said in a February 6 statement, outlining their dissent that there should be “a full & thorough investigation into the Lekki Toll Gate incidence; ensure justice for all victims; & that any & every one found culpable is identified & recommended for appropriate action under the law,”
The aftermath of the order witnessed many Nigerian’s taking to the social media to express their displeasure at the toll’s reopening. Banners announcing a protest for February 13 was in circulation with hash tag, ‘OccupyLekkiTollGate.’ There were as well calls for a counter-protest, with the hashtag #DefendLagos.
And preempting the protest, the Federal Government on Thursday warned against violence in the planned protests, going further to urge the organizers to shelve their demonstration.
“At this time, the chances that any peaceful protest will be hijacked are very high. Any resort to violence in the name of #EndSARS will not be tolerated this time,” the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed said.
Meanwhile, a popular entertainer and activist, Debo Adebayo with trade name Mr Macaroni, was on Saturday arrested at the Lekki Toll Gate.
The comedian had joined other protesters at the toll gate to oppose the decision of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to reopen the facility and hand it over to the Lekki Concession Company
“Na military regime?” Mr Macaroni said after his arrest, on a live streaming on Instagram while in a police van. “If na military, make we know sey na military, so make everybody dey hide.” His phone and that of other protesters were later seized by the police which drove to a destination unknown to them.
In a swift reaction, Nigerian rapper Folarin Falana, better known by his stage name Falz has described the arrest of Mr Macaroni, and other #OccupyLekkiTollgate protesters in Lagos State as shameful.
Falz, who is the son of Senior human rights lawyer Femi Falana accused the federal government of not desiring peace.
In a tweet on Saturday, Falz said the Nigerian government has shown that “they don’t want peace”.
“What is this shameful behaviour? Are these people insane? Citizens are peacefully protesting and you are arresting.
“How is this supposed to solve the problems that they have already caused?
“Macaroni has been picked up, the Nigerian government basically saying they do not want peace oh. I am tired of just coping. I am tired of just managing. This is a fu*king shithole we are living in and we simply cannot continue like this.
“They are using this threat of force and violence because they expect that we would naturally fear for our lives, but the life we dey live no kuku get meaning before.”
But there is no evidence, yet, that the protesters arrested on Saturday were violent.