By Paul Dada
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and member of of Lagos Judicial Panel on police brutality, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has cautioned against protests and counter-protests being planned to hold on Saturday in Lagos over the reopening of the Lekki Tollgate Plaza.
The panel had on February 6 resolved that the Lekki Concession Company regain the control of the plaza as the forensic analysis of the scene where the military allegedly shot at #EndSars protesters had been concluded.
This decision had, however, not gone down well with some youths who took to Twitter to call for an #OccupyLekki Tollgate protest to hold on Saturday at the plaza.
Reacting, another group of youths, said it would embark on #DefendLagos, a counter rally.
But Adegboruwa said while it is true that the constitution guarantees the citizens of the country freedom of expression, it would not augur well to hold the protest and counter protest at this time.
“It is reported in the news media that there are calls for protest and counter-protest, at the Lekki Toll Gate, slated for Saturday, February 13, 2021.
“And the 1999 Constitution, in its section 39, has granted to every person, the right to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and to impart ideas and information, without interference.
“Nevertheless, I will like to plead most passionately, that the protest and counter-protest be shelved, at least for now,” he said.
Giving reasons for his appeal, the lawyer said,
“the Judicial Panel of Inquiry is still sitting and it is yet to make any finding or recommendations, on the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of 20th October, 2020, beyond the majority and dissenting decisions of 6th October, 2021, all of which are purely interlocutory.
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“The alleged bloodshed, mayhem, repressions and violence of October 2020 in general, should not be encouraged to be repeated.
“The Panels of Inquiry that were set up were all done in response to the EndSARS five for five demands. It will be good to await the decisions of these Panels.
“A protest or counter-protest at this time, may work to jeopardize the overall work of the Panel, the witnesses appearing or to appear, the testimonies, the investigations or even affect its ultimate assignment.”
Adegboruwa also said he was concerned about the security and health consequences of protests being planned to hold in the same location despite the rising wave of COVID-19.
He further stated “the points made for and against interlocutory decisions of the Panel have been noted and they will be collated for necessary action, in consideration of the final report of the Panel.
“While the assignment of investigating the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of 20th October 2020 is yet to be concluded by the Panel, it will be premature to proceed on it, as the basis of renewed calls for protest and counter-protest.”
He said “it is safer for now, for the Lagos State Government and its agencies, the EndSARS group and indeed all those concerned with the Lekki Toll Gate Incident, to await the final report of the Panel.”
He, however, cautioned the security agencies to respect to respect the fundamental rights of all citizens, “including protesters, counter-protesters and non-protesters alike.”