The Lagos State Government on Saturday filed charges against ten #ENDSARS protesters arrested on Saturday even as many failed to show up for the protest amid heavy presence of police who had cordoned off the Lekki Tollgate Plaza, the venue of the protest.
They were arraigned before a mobile court and were granted bail in the sum of N100,000 each.
A copy of the charge reveals that ten suspects namely Answer Harrison (m), Adekanbi Kayode (m), Yomi Orungbamila, Anjorin Joseph Seye, Paul Terkuma (m), Dayo Keshinro (m), Belema Briggs, Anisere Sodiq (m), Olanrewaju Olonta (m) and Damilare Abímbólá were charged before the Lagos State Magistrate Court, Yaba Magisterial Division.
They were charged with three counts including breach of the peace and violation of public health law of Lagos State.
The charges read:
That you the above named defendants on the 13th of February, 2021 at Lekki Toll Plaza in the Yaba Magisterial District did conspire among yourselves to commit a misdemeanor likely to cause a breach of the peace and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 412 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
That you the above named defendants on the 13th February, 2021 at Lekki Toll Plaza in the Yaba Magisterial District been a public place gathered yourselves to harass and causing unnecessary alert and panic in a manner likely to cause a breach of peace and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 168 (1) (é) and punishable under Section 168 (2) of Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
That you the above named defendants on the 13th of February, 2021 at Lekki Toll Plaza in the Yaba Magisterial district did fail to comply with the restriction, prohibition Quarantine Law which prohibit any social gathering to avoid spreading and contacting CoronaVirus disease (COVID-19) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 5 of the Quarantine Act. Q2 of Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004 as domesticated under the Public Health Law CH: P: Law of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015.
However, the charge seen by our correspondent was not signed and has yet to be filed probably because it was a weekend.
Our correspondents report that only fewer protesters showed up for the protest, many failed to show up probably intimidated by heavy presence of security operatives.
The few who braved the heavy security presence were promptly arrested.
Also on Saturday, a member of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry into alleged police brutality, Mr Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, SAN, said the arrest, detention and dehumanization of protesters at Lekki Tollgate was unacceptable.
In a statement he said: “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. Consequently, I am presently consulting with my constituency within the civil society, as to my continued participation in the EndSARS Judicial Panel.”
The State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu had earlier ordered the immediate release of the 35 arrested #OcupyLekkiProtest demonstrators.
The protesters were nabbed in the early hours of Saturday February 13 after they attempted to start a fresh protest against court ruling on the toll plaza.
The CP’s order came after two lawyers, Oladotun Hassan and Ayo Ademiluyi from the law firm of Femi Fálànà, SAN, made moves to free the arrested protesters, and ensure that their fundamental human rights are not violated.
The lawyers said: “We condemn in its entirety the conduct of the Rapid Response Squad and Lagos State Special Taskforce of the Lagos State Command of the Nigerian Police Force.”
They further accused the police of foisting an atmosphere of intimidation on the ordinary citizens of our jurisdiction.
But the police allowed those protesting under the auspices of the #Defend Lagos to go ahead as they stormed the toll plaza with fliers which they threw at journalists at the tollgate.
The flier read; “Let’s protect what the destroyers left behind while we rebuild Lagos. Join us in protecting our heritage.”
Also on Saturday, Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi warned against another protest at the Lekki Tollgate saying that the federal government would not allow unpatriotic elements to destabilise the country under any guise.
He said: “There is a basic responsibility of the government. That is to protect every Nigerian, whoever he is. We always believe that given the necessary intelligence, no agent of government will sit down and fold his hand without doing something.
“This EndSARS issue, if you recall, the Minister of Information has briefed this nation and alerted that something like this is coming. We know we are always prepared. This is our job—-to ensure internal security.
“We must plan for it. We do not want to be taken by surprise. If you want us to be taken by surprise, then, there is no need to call us protectors. If EndSARS is to take place on Saturday, we will ensure that we have peaceful counter plans that we will put in place to ensure that mistakes are not made in protecting the people.
“You know the composition of the EndSARS crowd. Over 60 per cent of them are people who do not even know why they are there. They just come to take part. Some of them are rogues, some are there to steal. They want to do whatever they think. There are few actual people.
“The genuine ones, we want to get them enlightened. They should stop doing things that will create collateral damages for the country. We need people who will seat down and use their brain. Sit down with the government and see what we can do.
“We ask them -what are your problems. In the initial one, when they said this is their problem, even Mr. President spoke. They gave 5-point demands; and they were attended to. But if some people want the country to be governed the way they want, we are not elected to serve particular people. We were elected to serve this country.
“Whoever is involved in this EndSARS issue, the military and the government will not allow it to happen. But we will be as good as any other citizen to protect this country.
“We are not going to be harsh on anybody. We will maintain the law and peace to the best of our ability. We can use force when it is required. When you use force, we don’t say you will go and start killing people. We can use minimum force commiserate with what is seen on the ground. And that is where some people are getting it wrong.
“We cannot sit down and then you shoot at somebody and we allow you to go because somebody thinks that you are one that can kill and go away. Please give us time, in this country, we are in a state where we want everybody to look up and see what he can do for this country, not what the country can do for you.”
Meanwhile, a civil society organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has called for the release of all protesters arrested at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.
SERAP also said it would pursue legal actions if the arrested protesters are not immediately and unconditionally released.
“We urge Nigerian authorities and the Nigeria Police Force to immediately and unconditionally release #EndSARS protesters detained simply for peacefully exercising their human rights. Authorities should also cease harassing people peacefully exercising their human rights.
“The United Nations and concerned governments should press the Nigerian authorities to end the crackdown on peaceful protesters, and unconditionally release those arbitrarily detained.
“We’ll pursue appropriate legal actions if the #EndSARS protesters arbitrarily arrested simply for peacefully exercising their human rights are not immediately and unconditionally released. Peaceful assembly is a fundamental right,” it said in a string of tweets.
Also yesterday, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome described the arrest, taking away in a Black Maria, and detention of Debo Makaroni and other peaceful protesters at the Lekki tollgate as patently illegal and totally unconstitutional.
In a statement he issued, Ozekhome said: “At least the Nigerian Constitution has not been abrogated by this dictatorial government of impunity. Sections 40 and 41 of the said Constitution give Debo and other Nigerians the right to peaceful assembly and association, and the right to freedom of movement.
“Even under military dictatorships, as one of the founding fathers of the CLO – the Civil Liberties Organisation – ( the first indigenous human rights organization in Nigeria founded on 15th October, 1987), I was allowed to demonstrate and protest on the streets by successive military juntas.
“Debo and the other protesters have done no wrong to protest. It has not been shown that it was violent. Is the Federal government truly saying Nigerians should no longer protest? Then, the FG should dissolve the people and select or elect another one of its choice.”
Tobi Soniyi, Segun James, Rebecca Ejifoma