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Nigerian protesters arrested for resisting reopening of the Lagos Lekki toll gate

Screenshot of arrested protester from a video by the CableNg online newspaper

Nigerian police today arrested several people who were protesting the reopening of the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria—the center of #EndSARS protests last October—Channels TV reported on their website. 

Some of the protesters, allegedly detained Saturday, February 13, 2021, at the Adeniji-Adele Police Station, in the commercial city of Lagos, were said to be “beaten and tortured”: 

Meanwhile, there are moves to secure the release of those arrested: 

One of the arrested protesters is popular Nigerian comedian Mr. Macaroni (Debo Adebayo). 

Another protester, who came to “observe” the protests, was also arrested: 

The Nigerian police had a day earlier, February 12, 2021, been deployed in their numbers across Lagos, with the clear intent of intimidating protesters who were planning to congregate at the toll gate: 

The #OccupyLekkiTollgate protesters had been threatened by another group #DefendLagos “to stay away” from the toll gate, reported the Premium Times, a Nigerian online investigative newspaper. 

Lekki toll gate is a ‘monument to memory’

The Lagos Lekki toll gate. The #EndSARS protesters were concentrated in front of the toll gate. Photo by S. Aderogba, December 15, 2018, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Nigeria witnessed the #EndSARS protests for over two weeks (October 9-20, 2020) in at least 12 of the country’s 36 states and in many Nigerian diaspora communities. During the protests young Nigerians called out the intimidation, arrest and torture inflicted on them by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a specialized unit of the Nigerian police.

READ MORE: Global Voices Special Coverage — #EndSARS: A youth movement to end police brutality in Nigeria

On October 20, 2020, Nigerian security officials opened fire on protesters in Lekki, Lagos. Amnesty International stated that “the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters” in both Lekki and Alausa, Lagos sites of the #EndSARS protests.

A bloodied Nigerian flag after a protester is shot on the night of the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre. Image released by Shadow Scribes Wikimedia Commons, October 21, 2020 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Government and security officials denied the killings despite evidence by journalists and human rights groups to the contrary. 

READ MORE: Bullets, blood and death: The untold story of what happened at Lekki Toll Gate in Nigeria (Part I & Part II)

A judicial panel of inquiry was instituted by the Lagos State Government on October 19, 2020, while the #EndSARS protests raged, to investigate cases of police brutality. 

Today’s protest is a fallout from the February 6, 2021 decision by the Lagos panel that ordered the reopening of the Lekki toll gate. 

This did not go down well with some Nigerians:

Many viewed the reopening as an insensitive affront on the memory of victims of the Lekki shootings:

On February 12, 2021, Rinuola [Rinu] Oduala, #EndSARS activist and member of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry resigned, following the panel’s decision to reopen the toll gate: 

In a series of tweets, Rinu stated that her resignation was because the Lagos State government and the operators of the Lekki toll gate “have not been cleared of collusion with elements allegedly deployed by the federal govt to target citizens on home soil during a time of peace, without provocation.”

Hence, her “stepping down from the Lagos Judicial Panel” was due to the insincerity of the government. Rinu stated that she will neither be a party to “hand wringing and lies” nor be “manipulated into gaslighting the people and attaching my name to a rubber-stamped and foregone conclusion.”

Nonetheless, no matter how this protest pans out, the Lekki toll gate has now morphed into “a monument to memory” according to Nigerian writer and culture critique, Molara Wood: 

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