One Dead, as Lagos Police Crackdown on Occupy Lekki Protesters
|A dead protester
Ahead of the planned commencement of toll collection on Lekki-Epe Expressway today, heavily armed policemen, yesterday, stopped a demonstration when they dispersed hundreds of residents along the axis who stormed the Admiralty Plaza, at Admiralty Circle Plaza at Lekki–Eti-Osa in protest against the tolling.
Meanwhile, an unconfirmed report had it that one person later died as a result of bullet wound he sustained during the incident. The police claimed, last night, to have fired gunshots into the air to disperse the protesters because they were armed.
There were conflicting reports as to the cause of the disturbance. While the residents said the police and hoodlums attacked them, another account had it that trouble started when the protesters tried to force motorists out of their vehicles to join them.
The toll collection, billed to commence today, will see saloon cars and tricycles paying N120 each per trip, motorcycle N50 and heavy duty vehicle N300. The road had been concessioned to the Lekki Concessioning Company (LCC) under a programme that is the first in sub-Saharan Africa and backed by a law by Lagos State House of Assembly. The project has generated global attention going by an export processing road and an airport proposed for Lekki and tied to the success of the concessioning.
The protest that started around 10 a.m.,yesterday, saw many protesters wounded with two severe cases of injuries and others escaped with minor wounds when the anti- riot policemen, led by the commander of the state Rapid Response Squad, RRS, Hakeem Odumosu, fired to disperse the teeming protesters.
|Residents of Lekki protesting
|Police men and soldier deployed to Lekki
According to sources, no fewer than 18 people were arrested by the police and taken to Maroko Police Station before they were transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Panti, Lagos.
Those that escaped arrest narrated their experiences, saying the police and miscreants attacked them during the “peaceful protest”. Two video cameras belonging to Mr. Sunday Alamba of Associated Press, AP, and Mr. Maxwell Kupe of Silver-Bird Television, STV were seized by miscreants alleged sponsored by one of the popular land owners in the area.
Among those arrested were the chairman of Lekki Phase I Residents Association, Mr. Wole Akala, and another resident association chairman, Mr Martin Eze.
The residents demanded immediate release of those arrested.
A resident and human rights lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa, who made the call for the release, vowed that nothing would stop the aggrieved residents from continuing with their “peaceful protests”.
Adegboruwa, speaking with newsmen after the protest, confirmed the arrest and detention of the protesters at SCID, Panti.
However, special adviser to the governor on information and strategy, Alhaji Lateef Raji, when contacted, said normalcy had returned to the area debunking that nobody died in the process.
Raji said the people are entitled to embark on a peaceful protest since Fashola is a man that believes in the rule of law and a true democrat.
He disclosed that the governor has ordered for investigation into the alleged brutality of the protesters with a view of determining the veracity of the claim and as well as bring the culprits to justice.
Why we fired hots, say police
The police said, yesterday, the reason its fired into the air during the protest was that the demonstrators were armed.
“We fired into the air to disperse the protesters”, the public relations officer of the Lagos State Police Command, Mr Samuel Jinadu, told Sunday Vanguard.
The state commissioner of information and strategy, Mr Aderemi Ibirogba, also claimed the police stepped in to restore law and order, saying the police made some arrests including a top Peoples Democratic Party candidate who contested and lost during the last general elections, a development which, according to him, showed that the protest itself was politically motivated.
Ibirogba cautioned against the politicization of every issue including developmental issues with clear implications for the welfare of the people and the image of the country as a whole.
He said broad based consultations had been carried out and several conditions set by the people in the Lekki axis including the provision of alternative routes and provision of high capacity buses had been met before an earlier suspension on tolling was lifted.