Activists arrested at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria, for rallying against the reopening of the tollgate on Saturday, have regained freedom.
The #OccupyLekkiTollgate protesters had gathered to protest the ruling by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to reopen the Lekki tollgate while an investigation into the shooting of protesters at the tollgate plaza on Oct. 20, 2020, is yet to be concluded.
HumAngle reported how police officers’ phalanxes in full riot gear harassed and arrested protesters at the tollgate, following a government directive against protests on Thursday.
While the right to protest is a fundamental human right in Nigeria, authorities denied permission for the demonstration, citing fear of sabotage by foreign forces.
The arrest of the peaceful protesters has been widely condemned by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and many others who see it as a crackdown on free expression.
The police charged the protesters to the Magistrate Court in Yaba, Lagos State for flouting COVID-19 protocols, HumAngle learnt.
They were arraigned on a three-count charge for failing to comply with the COVID-19 protocol prohibiting social gathering, breaching public peace, and raising unnecessary alarm to the public.
The arraigned protesters were Debo Adebayo, a comedian popularly known as Mr Macaroni, Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka, Damilare Adenola, Anjorin Joseph, Paul Terkuma and Anisere Sodiq.
According to a court document signed by the prosecuting counsel, A.O. Adekunle and seen by HumAngle, the defendants “did conspire among yourselves (themselves) to commit a misdemeanour to wit conduct 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 of February, 2021 at Lekki Toll Plaza in the Yaba Magisterial District being a public place, gathered yourselves to harass and causing unnecessary alarm and panic in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 168 (1) (e) and punishable under Section 168 (2) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.”
Lastly, they were charged with failure to comply with “Quarantine Law which prohibits any social gathering to avoid spreading and contracting of Coronavirus Disease and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 5 of the Quarantine Act Q2 Law of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004 as domesticated under Public Health Law CH: P: Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015.”
Earlier this month, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed the COVID-19 law to ensure citizens’ compliance with the protocol measures to help curb the spread of the virus.
Pleading not guilty, the defendants were granted bail in the sum of N100,000 each, with sureties in like sum.
Lateef Layeni, the magistrate, ordered the defendants to undergo COVID-19 test after being crammed in a Black Maria vehicle.
The case was adjourned till March 2.