By Henry Okonkwo
No fewer than 20 people were beaten and taken into custody yesterday at the Lekki tollgate as they moved to protest the ruling of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry to reopen the toll gate, where #Endsars activists condemning police brutality were shot and allegedly killed last year.
There was a heavy presence of armed police officers and also men from the Lagos State Neighbourhood Watch, who all stationed at different corners of the Lekki tollgate to ambush protesters.
Meanwhile, lawyer and activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) has called for the immediate release of the protesters, describing their arrest and dehumanisation as “unacceptable.”
Sunday Sun gathered that the clampdown all started in the morning around 9 am when a group of protesters gathered despite strong warnings issued to them by both the Federal and state governments to jettison the demonstration. At least six of the protesters were dragged, beaten, and arrested by the police, before being driven away in black Maria vans. One of those arrested is the popular comedian and Endsars activist, Mr Debo Adebayo aka Mr Macaroni.
Many angry Nigerian youths were particularly miffed by the arrests and show of brutal force on unarmed protesters.
While some who spoke to newsmen expressed outrage, others took to social media to vent their anger, and further gave rallying cries for the youths to resist the governments’ plot to attack and silence unarmed protesters.
“This wave of civil unrest and clampdown on unarmed protesters is one of the worst since the end of military rule in 1999,” a protester that managed to escape arrest told Sunday Sun.
“We are not armed, and we just wanted to make our statement very peacefully. But as you can see the police deployed here are very armed. They have arrested some of us, and they have injured some of us.”
One of last year’s Endsars protest coordinators that pleaded anonymity disclosed that at least 22 people were taken away by officers enforcing the restrictions on protest, and further blasted the government for restricting the rights of Nigerians to protest. “This government has been ranked as the country’s most corrupt,” he said.
“We are not going to stand for that anymore. We are going to keep standing up and peacefully protesting until we get justice.”
In a release, Adegboruwa said he was saddened by the auction meted to the protesters at the Lekki tollgate.
He said: “My heart is very heavy. I’m saddened and devastated. My soul is sorely troubled at this time.
“For decades before the advent of this administration, Nigerians have risked their lives, liberties, their times and their energies, their resources, to win back this country on the side of democracy and good government, from military dictatorship. Some have paid the supreme price with their lives.
“I have been monitoring events at the Lekki Tollgate since morning, and I am totally overwhelmed with the images, videos, and sundry evidence of police brutality of armless civilians, who ventured to protest at the toll gate. In one particular video, I saw citizens of Nigeria being dehumanised, stripped half-naked, and cramped together in a rickety bus. This is totally unacceptable.
“While we are yet to come to terms with the events of October 20, 2020, it becomes worrisome that the security agencies have not learnt any positive lesson from those occurrences. I commend the protesters for their peaceful conduct.
“I cannot in good conscience continue to sit at any Panel of Inquiry to heal wounds and end police brutality, when fresh assaults are being perpetrated with impunity. Consequently, I am presently consulting with my constituency within the civil society, as to my continued participation in the EndSARS Judicial Panel.
“I hereby demand the immediate release of all those arrested in connection with the peaceful protest at the Lekki Toll Gate today.
“On no account should anything happen to any of them while in the custody of the police.
“I appeal for calm on all sides, in order not to escalate the worsening security situation across the land. I cannot fail to point out the fact that the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is a product of protest and civil disobedience.”