ABUJA – The federal government has vowed to crackdown on any form of protest in and around Lagos in the name of ENDSARS,this Saturday, warning conveners of such protests to desist or face the heavy arm of law enforcement agents.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture issued the warning at a press conference Thursday, in Abuja stressing that the federal government will not allow a repeat of the kind of lawlessness that snowballed to wanton destruction of scores of lives and properties worth trillions of naira nationwide.
Recall that social media platforms have been abuzz recently with agitations and flyers calling for protest against the decision to open the Lekki Tollgate for business, even as the panel investigating the alleged shooting of peaceful protesters at the tollgate last was yet to conclude its finding.
The decision of the panel to open the lekki tollgate had polarized the panel members who accused their chairman of bias.
The minister, however, warned those eager to unleash mayhem again on Lagos to desist, insisting that much as government allow people to protect peacefully, that there is no guarantee the protest this time would not be hijacked.
He said: “Some EndSars proponents have given notice of their plan to return to Lagos – Lekki Toll Gate to be specific – on Saturday, February 13th 2021. The ”Occupy Lekki Toll Gate” flyers have been circulating online, with the proponents threatening that ”Lagos will burn,” again.
“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.null
“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”.
Going forward, he stressed that the federal government will not allow act capable of destabilizing the country rear their ugly head, vowing:
“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 guiS3.
“We therefore strongly warn those who are planning to re-occupy Lekki Toll Gate on Saturday to desist. We know that many of those who have been loudest on social media in advertising the plan to reconvene in Lagos on Saturday are not even in Nigeria. They are elsewhere around the world fanning the embers of violence and inciting gullible people back home. No one should fall for their antics.CHECK THIS OUT
Recounting the October 2020 ENDSARS protest and its. Aftermath, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the federal government allowed citizens to to exercise their “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 noted that despite effort by government to meet demands placed on it by the protesters, the protest went out of control, wounds he said is still fresh.
“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. The burnt wreckage of public buses that were wantonly set ablaze by rampaging hoodlums remain in their positions as a sad and gory reminder of the unprecedented attacks. The city is still reeling from the war-like destruction.
“For those who are using justice as an alibi for another round of destruction, let me say this: As we speak, the Judicial Panels of Inquiry, set up across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings, with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units, are continuing with the assignments. In
Lagos, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry has an added responsibility of investigating the incident of October 20th at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“Like we have said many times, anyone who has any information on the alleged shooting or purported massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, including the names and addresses of those who were purportedly killed, should head to the Panel to give it such information. This is how to enhance the search for justice, not by rabble rousing or engaging in media shows.
“However, any further resort to violence in the name of EndSars will not be tolerated this time. The security agents are ready for any eventuality. A situation in which six soldiers and 37 policemen were murdered in cold blood by hoodlums will not repeat itself. The attack, looting and razing of 269 private and public property will not happen again. The killing of 57 civilians will not be re-enacted.
“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 stressed.
Asked if the decision to open the lekki tollgate for business was not insensitive especially given that the panel investigating the alleged shooting there was yet to conclude its finding, the minister said the Lagos State government has spent billions of naira to rebuild the destroyed toll gate and that opening it for business would not injure anybody.
Besides he said that the alleged killings there have not been substantiated by available.
Alhaji Mohammed also ruled out any dialogue to stop the planned , saying that those calling for the fresh protests have remained faceless.
He, however, cautioned that the federal government is keenly watching activities of these groups on social media platforms and expressed hope that lessons were learnt from recent past events.