Nine years ago, ahead of the planned commencement of toll collection at the Lekki toll gate, on the 18 of December 2011, I joined hundreds of protesters as we stormed the Admiralty Plaza, Lekki toll gate in protest against the tolling. That same toll gate where soldiers shot at peaceful protesters in October 2020. Heavily armed policemen led by the then commander of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, who is now the State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, fired shots and tear gas at the protesters.
The State government in their characteristic modus operandi as we also saw at the #EndSARS protests in Alausa, brought in thugs in two white/green painted commercial buses to join the police in attacking us. The reigning NURTW area boys king that time was not MC Oluomo. It was one Alhaji Olumegbon. The government called in the Olumegbon Boys who arrived in white/green colored commercial buses with den guns, machetes and cudgels to join the Police in brutalizing us. While the Police were tear gassing and firing at us, the thugs also joined in beating us up and reports had it that one person later died as a result of bullet wounds he sustained during the incident.
The Police later claimed to have fired gunshots “into the air” to disperse the protesters because they were armed; without providing any evidence. Like security forces are denying the lekki massacre, the police denied killing anyone then. No fewer than 18 people were arrested by the Police and taken to Maroko Police Station before they were transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Panti, where some slept till the following morning. Two video cameras belonging to Mr. Sunday Alamba of Associated Press, AP, and Mr. Maxwell Kupe of Silver-Bird Television, STV were seized and damaged by the thugs and Police.
A legal practitioner and human rights activist who is incidentally a member of the judicial panel set up by the lagos state government to investigate the 2020 Lekki massacre, Ebun Olu Adegboruwa SAN, was there on the road 9 years ago with us and we scampered from the bullets and tear gas together. He even bought water and snack for me when we finally got a place to take some breath. The MD of Inspiration FM, Azubike Osimili, the News Manager of Radio Continental then, Charles Kalu, AIT senior correspondent then, Tokunbo Oyetunji were all on the road and we all were scampering for safety and scaling barbed wires together. I was thoroughly beaten and stripped half naked by the Police and it was Tolu Ogunjobi of TVC who later rescued me and took me home in his vehicle. Richard Akinnola wasnt on the street that day but he was one of the first person to condemn the police brutality meted out on protesters.
In the same familiar script, Governor Fashola then dispatched his Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Alhaji Lateef Raji of blessed memory, to go round media houses debunking that nobody died in the process. Raji said that the governor had ordered an investigation into the alleged death and brutality of the protesters with a view to determining the veracity of the claims as well as bringing the culprits to justice. Till date, none of the two happened.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy at the time, Mr Aderemi Ibirogba, also claimed the police only stepped-in to restore law and order because the protest was politically motivated. Instead of speaking the truth that the cash flow and business interest of someone was threatened.
Fortunately for me, I lived to see the part two of the killings and brutality at Lekki toll gate again in 2020. This time I still participated actively in the events and I am also witnessing how the aftermath is turning out the same, to wit: Protesters gather peacefully. Government has no idea how to break them. Use lethal force. Some die. Some disperse. Deny the deaths and brutality vehemently in the media. Set up committees to buy time and cool the tension. Do nothing about the reports of the investigation until next crises.
So even as comrade Ebun Adegboruwa sits on that judicial panel, I would not expect anything until they prove me wrong.
Citizen Agba Jalingo.