L-R: Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, Commissioner for Information and Strategy; Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, Attorney-General; and Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, at a Press Conference Thursday Photo: The Moment

Lagos, Police halt planned #EndSARS protest, rallies over threats of violence

*The Lagos State Government warns any individual or corporate organisation that incites an action leading to the destruction of public and private property would be prosecuted and be made to pay damages

Emmanuel Akosile | ConsumerConnect

While restating it acknowledges the rights of the citizens to a lawful assembly and freedom to express their feelings as guaranteed by the Constitution, the Lagos State Government (LASG) has issued a stern warning to various opposing groups planning to embark on protests at the Lekki Toll Plaza Saturday, February 13, 2021, advising them to shelve the plan.

ConsumerConnect reports the state government made known its decision at a joint press conference by Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, Attorney-General of Lagos; Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, Honourable Commissioner for Information and Strategy; and Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Thursday, February 11, in Lagos.

The government, however, urged the groups planning opposing rallies, that this is not an auspicious moment for such an action in the state nay the country.

The LASG also acknowledged the rights of the citizenry to a lawful assembly and freedom to express their feelings, as guaranteed by Section 39 and 40 of the Constitution.

#EndSARS protesters converged on Lekki Toll Gate, in Lagos, October 2020

But it said such rights did not give any citizen the freedom to block highways and prevent fellow citizens from moving freely within Lagos State.

Onigbanjo as well stated state government would not allow any group to push the state, once again, to the edge of carnage.

He strongly advised those organising the “Occupy Lekki Toll Gate” and “Defend Lagos” protests to desist from the planned action.

The Attorney-General noted the Lagos State Government’s respect for the citizens’ rights to protest should not be seen as a licence to break the laws.

Any individual or corporate organisation that incites an action leading to the destruction of public and private properties would be prosecuted and be made to pay damages, said Onigbanjo.

He said: “Attention of the State Government has been drawn to the planned protest scheduled for Saturday, February 13, 2021, at the Lekki Toll Gate for and against the opening of the Admiralty Toll Gate.

“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.

“While the State recognises the importance of exercising the rights to peaceful protests, the same cannot extend to blockage of roads or actions preventing other members of the public from enjoying their fundamental rights to move freely within the state.

“Any individual or corporate body that 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 may arise as a result of the action or inaction of such person or body.”

According to him, the public health crisis occasioned by the spread of deadly variants of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) should discourage anyone attempting to assemble people for the planned protests.

Onigbanjo urged all groups to consider COVID-19 protocols that limit public gathering not to be more than 50 persons.

He, therefore, directed the State Police Command to stop opposing groups from holding rallies in Lekki and any other parts of Lagos.

Mr. Odumosu also said the security intelligence gathered by the Police Command indicated the “Occupy Lekki Toll Gate” protest and planned counter rallies would degenerate into a breakdown of law and order.

The State Commissioner of Police stressed that the Police would not allow any group to carry out the action.

Adequate arrangements on the deployment of security forces had been put in place to stop any violent protest, gathering and procession in any part of Lagos, said the Commissioner of Police.

He stated that the Police Command would rise in protection of law-abiding residents from any form of the violence.

Odumosu, however, appealed to the general public to advise their wards to ignore mobilisation for the protest and gathering in flouting the existing peace and security situation of the State.

He said the Police would resist the protest with necessary force, while respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy said the steps taken by the State Government on the planned protest was not to take away the fundamental rights of the citizens, but to prevent re-enactment of the event that led to destruction of public and private assets during the #EndSARS protests October 2020.

Omotoso sued for peace, urging the organisers of the planned protests and rallies to allow the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry conclude its investigation on what transpired between the military and EndSARS protesters.

He added: “We believe this kind of tension and anxiety being brought forward by the planned protest will not allow the panel to do a thorough job.

“If the authorities allow the protest and counter rallies to go on, there would be a breakdown of order and Lagos is not ripe for such action.”

Acording to him, “it is on this premise that the State Government is appealing to all parties to thread with caution.

“Both sides have the right to express their feelings, but the time is wrong.”

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