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ENDSARS: Amnesty International, others, demand release of protesters arrested at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos

Global human rights group, Amnesty International (AI) on Saturday called for the immediate release of all Nigerians arrested for participating in the #ENDSARS protests for “solely for exercising their rights to peaceful protest.”

A total of 30 peaceful protesters including popular commedian, Mr. Macaroni, were nabbed at the Toll plaza and conveyed in a Black Maria while others escaped arrest.

Amnesty therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Femi Osinbajo, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwa-Olu and the Nigeria Police to demonstrate its commitment to protect the citizens right to protest.

According to the global body, “today, Amnesty International received reports of the arrest of some protesters #EndSARS at the #Lekkitollgate #Lagos. We call on all Nigerian authorities to demonstrate commitment to protect the right to peaceful protest.

“We are calling on all Nigerian authorities to demonstrate commitment to protect the right to peaceful protest.  Nigerian authorities must immediately end the violent police crackdown against peaceful protesters; immediately release all the people arrested solely for exercising their rights to peaceful protest.

“Amnesty International is shocked by images and reports that show police using brutal force against peaceful protesters at #LekkiTollGate, #Lagos. Today’s planned protest by #EndSars activists was met with brutal and indiscriminate use of force by the Police.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer, Tola Onayemi, who provides legal aid for #EndSARS protesters has revealed that the Police is denying lawyers access to the protesters arrested in different batches at the Lekki Tollgate on Saturday morning.

“UPDATE: Our lawyers are at Adeniji Police Station, but are denied access. They are told they can’t see anyone arrested till the Area Commander comes,” the lawyer claimed in a tweet.

And former Presidential aspirant, Adamu Garba, while adding to the calls to release all protesters arrested on Saturday at the Lekki Tollgate, said it was better to have peaceful protesters than AK-47-wielding bandits.

Garba noted that the arrested #OccupyLekki protesters have the right to seek justice for all victims of the October 20, 2020 incident which eyewitnesses claimed security forces opened fire on #EndSARS protesters.

He tweeted: “In as much as the #EndSARS protesters are not blocking the way for other citizens to move along the #Lekkitollgate, the law permits them the right to peaceful protest. After all, that is a tenet of democracy which we practice. All arrested protesters should be released immediately.

“When will we ever learn in Nigeria? Is it not better for people to express themselves in a protest than hide behind any extreme motive to seek justice? I would rather have a peaceful protester than a bandit with AK-47.

“If #EndSARS protesters promises to be peaceful, let them be. If for any reason, an iota of violence is detected from them, the authorities should quickly mobilise and disperse them.

“But as long as protesters claimed to be peaceful, we should give them their right to protest and protect them against possible hoodlums hijacking the protest.”

The protests was triggered when the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing alleged killing of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at the Lekki toll gate decided to hand over the tollgate back to its operators, Lekki Concession Company, after forensic experts submitted their report on the October 20, 2020 incident.

Four members of the panel including a youth representative, Rinu Oduala, faulted the decision of the panel but the chairman of the panel, retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, and four other members of the panel acceded to LCC’s request to repossess the toll gate.

Subsequently, hashtags such as #OccupyLekkiTollgate and counter-protest hashtags such as #DefendLagos and #DemNoBornYourPapaWell trended online.

While the #DefendLagos campaigners shelved their planned counter-protest, the # OccupyLekkiTollgate campaigners said there was no going back and insisted that the protest must hold.

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