Lagos state government and the Police on Thursday urged Lagosians to shun calls for a protest on Saturday at the Lekki Toll Gate.
They said with two opposing groups calling for protests at the Lekki Toll Gate, the stage was set for confrontation, pandemonium, public disorder and wanton destruction of property.
Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu and Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso made the appeal at a news conference at Bagauda Kalto Centre, Alausa, Ikeja
Two groups, “Occupy Lagos Lekki Toll Gate” and “We Rebuild Lagos” had scheduled protest for Saturday at the Toll Gate, following the return of the facility to its owner, the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) by the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry.
Onigbanjo said while the state recognises the importance of exercising the rights to peaceful protests, same cannot extend to blockage of roads and or preventing other members of the public from enjoying their fundamental rights to move freely within the state.
According to him, “the State is aware of Sections 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, however such right does not permit the violation of the Rights of other citizens in the State.”
Onigbanjo reminded the people of the need to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 regulations and any other extant laws in the state stressing that the right to protest peacefully does not exempt anyone from violating laws.
He said any violator of the laws “will therefore be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
He further stated: “Any person or group with such desire to protest must also bear in mind the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Health Regulations 2021 which prevents any gathering beyond 50 and other safety measures including but not limited to maintaining Social Distancing and the use of face mask.
“Furthermore, any individual or corporate body who incites or condones any act leading to the destruction of public and private properties shall be prosecuted under the extant laws and in addition to any penalty the court might pronounce, such person or body will be liable to compensate for any damage which is as a result of the action or inaction of such person or body”, he warned.
Omotoso urged the people to allow peace to reign so that government could concentrate attention on rebuilding the state.
He clarified that contrary to information making the rounds, the Lekki Toll Gate was never shut down as vehicles were moving in and out of the gate.
He said government had not taken the right of the people to protest away from them, “but if a protest becomes problematic before it starts, there is no way it would be allowed to go on.”
He reminded the people that the Judicial Panel making inquiries into SARS abuses is yet to conclude sitting and will not be able to carry out its assignment in an atmosphere filled with threats.
Speaking in the same vein, the Commissioner of Police , CP Odumosu, also urged the people of the state to ignore the call for fresh protest at Lekki.
He said such gathering is not expedient now in view of the prevailing Covid19 virus which is rampaging in the country.
According to Odumosu, “the command has gathered intelligence that some hidden agents of destruction and shadow parties that planned and orchestrated the last Endsars violence have concluded plans to cause another set of mayhem in Lagos State and spread 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 command perceives such proposed protest as a calculated attempt to cause pandemonium, brouhaha and massive destruction of lives and properties under whatever guide and such will not be allowed in Lagos State.
“Lagos State, its people and the Nigerian nation at large are still groaning (in pains) for the aftermath of the last Endsars violence that left many lives and properties lost. It is therefore not reasonable to allow same to repeat itself in the state.”