by Baron Eloagu,
Police on Saturday arrested protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate as calls for the reopening of the facility to be suspended gain momentum.
The police had earlier on Friday launched a show-of-force exercise to express its disapproval of the planned protest.
On Saturday morning, the police picked up anyone they suspected to be at the toll gate for protest.
They also prevented journalists from moving close to the van where the protesters were being held.
The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on February 6 had ordered that the toll gate be handed over back to the Lekki Concession Company for reopening.
But the panel’s decision was not unanimous as some members disagreed with the reopening since investigations into the events of October 20 were still ongoing.
The toll had been closed since October, during the #EndSARS protests, which called for an end to police brutality across the country.
On October 20, the Nigerian military shot at peaceful protesters occupying the toll, an event that was described as a massacre by some eyewitnesses.
The Nigerian government and military have denied any wrongdoing.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has called for the immediate release of protesters arrested at the Lekki Toll Gate on Saturday.
The protesters were railing against the decision of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to reopen the toll gate.
The toll gate was symbolic of last October’s #EndSARS protests.
In a statement titled ‘The Arrest, Detention and Dehumanization of Protesters at Lekki Toll Gate Are Unacceptable’, Adegboruwa, one of the members of the Lagos Judicial Panel who disagreed with the decision to reopen the toll, condemned the arrest of the protesters.
“My heart is very heavy,” he said. “I’m saddened and devastated. My soul is sorely troubled at this time.
“For decades before the advent of this administration, Nigerians have risked their lives, liberties, their times and their energies, their resources, to win back this country on the side of democracy and good government, from military dictatorship. Some have paid the supreme price with their lives.
“I have been monitoring events at the Lekki Toll Gate since morning, and I am totally overwhelmed with the images, videos and sundry evidence of police brutality of armless civilians, who ventured to protest at the Toll Gate. In one particular video, I saw citizens of Nigeria being dehumanized, striped half naked and cramped together in a rickety bus. This is totally unacceptable.
“While we are yet to come to terms with the events of October 20, 2020, it becomes worrisome that the security agencies have not learnt any positive lesson from those occurrences. I commend the protesters for their peaceful conduct.”
Adegboruwa also said he was considering exiting the panel.
“I cannot in good conscience continue to sit at any Panel of Inquiry to heal wounds and end police brutality, when fresh assaults are being perpetrated with impunity,” he said. “Consequently, I am presently consulting with my constituency within the civil society, as to my continued participation in the EndSARS Judicial Panel.
“I hereby demand the immediate release of all those arrested in connection with the peaceful protest at the Lekki Toll Gate today. On no account should anything happen to any of them while in the custody of the police.
“I appeal for calm on all sides, in order not to escalate the worsening security situation across the land. I cannot fail to point out the fact that the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is a product of protest and civil disobedience. Let history vindicate the just.”