As some Nigerians plan a rally against the Lekki tollgate reopening in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria on Saturday, another set of demonstrators have launched a counter-protest under the hashtag, #DefendLagos, Monday night.
Earlier on Saturday, the Lagos State Judicial Panel— set up to look into the events of police brutality and the Oct. 20, 2020 shooting of #EndSARS protesters— ordered the reopening of tollgate which was shut down after the shooting about four months ago.
Justice Doris Okuwobi heads the nine-man panel that ruled for the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) to repossess the tollgate. Four panel-members support its reopening for repair and insurance claims.
Members of the panel who supported reopening of the tollgate plaza included Segun Awosanya popularly known as Segalink, Oluwatoyin Odusanya, Director, Citizen’s Right, DIG Taiwo Lakanu, representing the police and Lucas Koyejo from the National Human Rights Commission.
But four other members, led by Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) opposed the decision, arguing that it was “premature” to open the tollgate.
The others were Patience Udoh, a lawyer and human rights activist (representing the civil society organisations), Rinuola Oduola and Temitope Majekodunmi (representing the youth).
The dissenters argued that the forensic examination report on the incident, which was slated for release last Tuesday, was yet to be disclosed.
This sparked outrage from many young Nigerians who took side with the dissenters on the micro-blogging website, Twitter.
They considered the development a breach of trust by the panel set up to deliver justice to police brutality victims before and after the EndSARS protests.
Calling for a rally to demand that the Lekki tollgate remains closed until full investigations and hearings were concluded, they launched the demonstration under the hashtag #OccupyLekkiTollGate.
But some hours later, some persons also launched a counter-protest under the hashtags —#DefendLagos, #DemNoBornYourPapaWell— to denounce the earlier demonstrators.
Both rallies are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, by 7 a.m.
The supporters of the counter-protest urged Lagosians to “protect what the destroyers left behind”.
They alluded to the destruction that was witnessed in state in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest.
Public and private properties were destroyed during the Oct. 2020 protest.
A month after, Babajide Sanwolu, Governor of Lagos State, signed an Executive Order tagged the “Lagos State Rebuild Trust Fund” toward rebuilding the state.
On Monday, Gboyega Akosile, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, urged Lagosians not to participate in the planned protest slated against the Lekki tollgate’s reopening in the state.
“#DontLetThemBringLagosDown,” Akọsilẹ said in a tweet on Monday. “Nobody will bring our dear Lagos State down! Their rights end where other people’s rights begin.”
Moments later, social media users rallied behind the no-destruction mantra and launched the #DefendLagosprotest.
A promoter of the counter-protest, Olusoga Owoeye, @olusogaowoeye, wrote on Twitter: “Show your love for our Lagos. Get your friends and your neighbors to be there. Join The Defend Lagos Rally at the Lekki Toll Plaza on the 13th of February. We will not cede our city to criminals and insurrectionists. Lagos is our Pride.#defendlagos #DemNoBornYourPapaWell.”
Another user, @kayleedman, said, “Lagos is our home, we must defend it at all costs. Enough is enough.”
Olabode Owoeye, @BodeOwoeye, wrote: “If they destroy Lagos, they have their states to run back to. “We don’t have anywhere to run to. “Lagos is our city. We will defend it!!!
Reactions Trail Clash Of Protests
Meanwhile, there have been reactions on the two planned protests for Saturday.
Nigerians who reacted to the developments expressed concerns about the clash of interests against the motive of the youthfully engaged #EndSARS protests, a movement with equal rage spewed against a system that permits police violence.
They feared possibly violent confrontations from the two groups of demonstrators.
A Twitter user, @sageugo said, “This is the plot, they’ll pay some Twitter influencers to trend #DefendLagos from now till 13th February, then on the D-day, they’ll unleash the same hoodlums they used to destroy Lagos during the #ENDSARS protest for a bloody clash with the #OccuppyLekkiTollGate protesters.”
Samuel Ajayi,@SamdGreat01, wrote: “So I can see #OccupyLekkiTollGate vs #DefendLagos.”
“You’ll have a crowd protesting different things with possibility of attack on both sides.”
“Our “big bellied” politicians will continue to reign in Nigeria so far they can have the people divided.”
Another user, Koiki Olaseni, said, “Eventually, the Police will ban all forms of protest to guarantee peace.”
A user named AjayiWizeman said; “I am sure the #DefendLagos people will not come on Saturday and be civil. They will be dressed in the police, soldiers, and DSS uniforms alongside thugs. Dem no fit face thousands who will #OccuppyLekkiTollGate Na we set the date and time!” What a huge mess!