Officers attached to the Lagos Police Command have encircled the Lekki Toll Gate Plaza in the Lekki area of Lagos State ahead of the planned activities to commemorate the first anniversary of the #EndSARS protest.
The mobilisation of security operatives is coming a day before the October 20 demonstrations expected at the gate.
In October 2020, Nigeria had witnessed nationwide protests led by Nigerian youths across the country, demonstrating against police brutality committed by the now-disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police Force.
It, however, came to an agonising end on October 20, 2020, after some soldiers of the Nigerian Army shot at a crowd of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate Plaza in Lagos State.
To mark the anniversary, some activists had suggested a walk to the toll gate at Lekki.
However, the Lagos State Police Command had earlier said that “to forestall breakdown of law and order, the police will use all legitimate means within their constitutional powers to suppress the planned protest”.
The protesters have, however, changed tactics and announced that have decided to opt for a car procession, instead of physical convergence, to pay respect to those who were victims of the shooting at the toll gate on October 20 to avoid confrontation with the police.
But this has not stopped the police from surrounding the toll gate with Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), water cannons and tons of vehicles filled with police officers.
The Lagos Police Command in a statement issued by its Public Relations Officer, Adekunle Ajisebutu, on Tuesday insisted that no protests will be allowed at the toll gate because there may be a breakdown of law and order.
The statement partly read: “The police will only allow an indoor and virtual event in commemoration of the EndSARS anniversary and will provide adequate security at the venue (s) if known. This is in recognition of rights of every Nigerian to express his or her interest.
“We wish we could permit such street protests. However, intelligence at our disposal has revealed plans by some faceless groups or individuals to stage an anti-EndSARS anniversary protest in the state the same day.
“In view of the conflicting interest between the pro and anti- EndSARS anniversary groups and threat to cause mayhem, the Command once again warns both groups against any form of street protest between now and 20th October, 2021 and beyond.
“It is acknowledged that citizens have the right to peaceful protests. However, in this instance having carried out a critical security assessment and intelligence report at the disposal of the Lagos Command in respect of the planned protests and attendant implications on public safety, the Command considers it inappropriate to allow such protests to hold. It will not stand aloof and allow the breakdown of law and order which the protests may cause.
“To avoid a recurrence of the gory protests of last year during which some innocent Nigerians including police officers were gruesomely murdered, private and public property plundered and maliciously destroyed, the police will not abdicate their responsibilities of protection of lives and property by allowing such avoidable incident happen again in the state
“Therefore, in the interest of security and public safety, the Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu, wishes to warn the organisers of the protests that the police will deploy all legitimate means to stop or neutralise the planned protests.”