Lagos State Saturday may witness a series of tense and dueling protests by Nigerian youths over the handover of the Lekki toll gate, where Nigerian forces opened fire on unarmed protesters last October, to its owners Lekki Concession Company.
While some are speaking against the handing over of the toll gate back to LCC for repairs and to begin operations, some are speaking in favour of the ruling.
Members of the judicial panel set up by the Lagos State government to investigate the October 2020 Lekki shooting voted 5-4 in favor of the handover on Saturday.
Young people mobilising through social media have called out the panel for approving the release of the toll gate while an investigation is ongoing.
Many are vexed that the government has not owned up to the killing of unarmed protesters, who marched against police brutality on the night of October 20.
The events of the night of October 20 at Lekki culminated in large-scale violence that grounded the state.
The governor of Ondo State Rotimi Akeredolu, who led a delegation of Southwest governors to Lagos on October 25, said he believed the violence was “well-coordinated and funded”.
The military initially denied being at the toll gate, describing news reports about its presence there as “fake news”. It later claimed it was invited to the scene by Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and that it personnel never shot live rounds at the protesters.
But Amnesty International insisted that the Nigerian forces killed at least 12 protesters and accused the Nigerian government of shielding those responsible.
Youths miffed by the government’s position have been pushing the hashtag #OccupyLekkiTollGate since Sunday night and was number one on Nigeria’s Twitter trend table for several hours on Monday.
They have also shared and reshared graphics and tweets for mobilisation for a protest on Saturday at the Lekki toll gate.
But their vexation started to face resistance by Monday night.
The opposing side also took to Twitter to express plans for a counter-protest planned for Saturday at Lekki toll plaza tagged Defend Lagos Protest.
For every #OccupyLekkiTollGate, there’s a corresponding #DefendLagos, and #DemNoBornYourPapaWell tweet.
#DefendLagos, and #DemNoBornYourPapaWell have remained on the Twitter trend table since Monday night.
LCC, through its counsel, had been praying the panel to allow it to take over the plaza for repair and insurance claims since December 2020.
But the panel earlier said the toll plaza could not be handed over as a forensic expert has been paid by the Lagos state government to examine the toll gate with respect to the October 20 shooting incident.
In January 5 sitting, Doris Okuwobi, the panel chairperson, said the government has paid a forensic expert to examine the scene of the Lekki shooting and LCC needs to wait for the forensic examination results.
“Forensic evidence is most needed in this inquiry,” Okuwobi said.
The matter was adjourned till February 6 as the forensic report was to be ready on February 2.
But on Saturday, instead of the report of the forensic examination is read during the siting, the judge made no comment on the forensic report, while the LCC was allowed to proceed with its application.
Okuwobi, a retired judge, said the forensic report is ready and the panel is satisfied “but would not wait till the termination of the petitions before it hands over control of Lekki to LCC”.
“To put the record straight, it is the jurisdiction of this panel to investigate the incident of October 2020 and make recommendations is the premise by which the panel must comply with jurisdiction to look into the Lekki case.
“The Lekki toll plaza is considered the seat of event of that day. This panel has given ample opportunity to all petitioners to access the toll plaza with the view to considering the investigation.”
After the panel’s chair ruling, Ebun Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and member of the panel, led three other members to oppose the ruling of the judge.
Adegboruwa, Patience Udoh (lawyer and human rights activist), and the two representatives of the youth, Rinuola Oduola and Temitope Majekodunmi, said the decision of the judge and other members of the panel does not represent theirs.
Adegboruwa said the handover of the plaza at this time “is hasty, premature and will overreach the work and eventual recommendations of the panel.”
“Investigation by the panel over the Lekki Tollgate incident is still ongoing, it will therefore be premature to hand over the plaza that is still subject of panel’s investigation and proceedings, to LCC,” he said.