Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed has said that, the ”Occupy Lekki Toll Gate” flyers have been circulating online, with the proponents threatening that ”Lagos will burn” again.
“As you may be aware, some EndSars proponents have given notice of their plan to return to Lagos – Lekki Toll Gate to be specific – on Saturday, February 13th 2021.”- Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Abuja on Thursday.
The minister said, “Let me be clear: While peaceful protests are the constitutional rights of Nigerians, violent protests are not. At this time, the chances that any peaceful protest will be hijacked are very high”.
The #EndSARS movement first began on October 8, after the shooting of an unidentified young Nigerian man by a police officer in the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad unit known as SARS. The shooting kicked off a series of physical protests across Nigeria and throughout the Nigerian diaspora that called for an end to police brutality, and came to be a bold affront to the Nigerian government.
The demonstrations came to a head on Oct. 20 when security forces opened fire and killed at least 12 protesters in Lagos, according to witnesses and Amnesty International. The army and police have denied the killings but after the Judicial panel handed over the toll gate to the management company, there’s been reaction by Nigerians to return to the toll .
Minister Lai Mohammed has said that, based on the intelligence at the disposal of the Federal Government, some Nigerian activists have linked up with others outside Nigeria, including subversive elements, with a view to destabilizing the country. We cannot and must not allow this to happen.
He noted, Never again will the Federal Government allow the kind of violence that was perpetrated across the country under the guise of the #EndSars last October.
“Never again will anyone or group be allowed to destroy cities or to kill and maim innocent citizens, including security agents, under any guise. The EndSars campaign last October started as a peaceful protest against police brutality”.
He continued, “As a government that believes in the constitutionally-guaranteed right of citizens to engage in peaceful protests, the Federal Government did nothing to hinder the protests for as long as they remained peaceful”.
He however outlined some of the steps taken by Government since the aftermath of the protest,
“Not only that, the @NigeriaGov moved swiftly to accede to the five-point demands by the EndSars campaigners which are: i) Immediate release of all arrested protesters ii) Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families.
iii) Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days.
iv) In line with the new Police Act, psychological evaluation and retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed.
v) And increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.
The minister said, “Unfortunately, despite the acceptance of the demands, the protesters misread the Federal Government’s respect for the rule of law and defiantly continued to demonstrate and occupy a public facility, even after a curfew was declared by the Lagos State Government”.
“This led to a series of actions that culminated in the hijacking of the protests by hoodlums, who perpetrated unimaginable violence in Lagos and other cities across the country”.
“The trillion-Naira destruction of Lagos, in particular, remains too fresh a wound. Hundreds, including the youth, lost their livelihoods to the wanton attacks in Lagos”.
He said, No government anywhere will allow a repeat of the kind of destruction, killing and maiming wrought by the hijackers of EndSars protests last year.
He added that, the Federal Government is also keenly watching the role being played by the various social media platforms in this renewed clamour for violence in the country.