On Saturday, state officers arrested scores of protestors who attempted to hold peaceful rallies at Lekki tollgate. Nigerians commemorate Lekki as a bloodbath site where many innocent civilians lost their lives last year. The purpose of the strike was to prevent the reopening of activities before delivering justice to the deceased.
The rallies occurred as scheduled despite the state’s government warning that the protests could descend into violence in the name of justice.
The Peaceful Strike
From as early as Tuesday, activists called on people to join in their campaigns. Despite receiving a stern warning from the state authorities not to go ahead with the strike, they staged it regardless. One of the protestors, Jay D Boy, an artist, stated that he did not have any weapon and joined in the protests as a human rights activist. Speaking from a police van, he noted that it was not over.
Jay D remarked that even the officers knew that things were not going on well in the country. He remembers losing three of his friends at Lekki last year. And sad enough, he has not heard anything to do with bringing justice to them. For him holding peaceful protests is not a crime. After all, the Nigerian constitution does allow one to conduct peaceful strikes.
Christopher Emmanuel Ogboji also got arrested by the officers. He stated that he could not understand why the officers picked him and threw him at the back of their truck while walking. Arresting citizens without fault is unlawful and a complete violation of freedom.
Why the Peaceful Strike
The peaceful demonstrations aimed at halting the reopening of the tollgate. Many claimed that the reopening was untimely and inconsiderate to the victims of the Lekki shootings. It was last year around October when young women and men in Nigeria started protesting against the Special Antirobery Unit. Extrajudicial killings, corruption, abductions are some of the atrocities the protestors accused the unit of perpetrating.
The demonstration, which lasted two weeks, led to the government disbanding the unit. However, despite that, the strikes still went on. Only ending after the shooting in Lagos. An incident which to date is still fresh in the eyes of many.
Nigerian Government’s Reaction
Following the unrest and chaos, the Nigerian government promised its citizens reforms that would better the country. The authorities in charge opened investigations into the last year’s shootings with the hope of identifying the perpetrators of the shooting. However, it was reported that the armed forces’ representatives failed to appear before the panel in charge of the investigations.
Many controversies arose regarding the shooting. The officers claimed that they never took part in the shooting, as all they did was try to scatter away hooligans. Nevertheless, those who witnessed the shootings accused the officers of firing at the peaceful demonstrators. As such, there is no clarity on what exactly transpired at Lekki. Amnesty International also confirmed that soldiers shot dead at least ten people.
The Watchdog Amnesty International also took to Twitter to endorse Saturday’s protests. It was urging all Nigerian authorities to demonstrate the commitment to protecting the right to peaceful protest.