The Lagos State government has appealed to the youth to shelve the action, saying it has yet to recover from the losses incurred during the October 2020 #EndSARS protest.
The state government said although protest was a fundamental human right, anyone planning a protest at this time was not a friend of the state.
Speaking In an interview, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, stated that the government had appealed to parents and guardians to urge their wards not to protest.
He said, “We have been talking to parents and guardians, urging them to keep their wards at home. We’ve been talking to our young people, telling them that this is not the time for this kind of action. We have been to unions and civil society organisations that Lagos needs peace now more than any other time – that we don’t want to see the kind of carnage we saw in October 2020 again.
“Nobody prays for that kind of carnage again. Lagos people are known for their warmth, humanity and passion, but the carnage affected these; we don’t want it again. We want the passion back, we don’t want suspicion among Lagosians again. So anybody who is planning a protest at this time is not a friend of Lagos, and we are pleading with such people to shelve such an idea.”
On the recovery from the losses of the 2020 #EndSARS protests, Omotoso said, “I don’t think it can take Lagos less than between 5-10 years to recover in terms of the infrastructure destroyed and loss of relationship among our people.
“We had destruction on a scale beyond belief. And then people are saying we are going to recover. How do we begin to recover from this kind of thing? Lagos has never seen that kind of thing and that is why I believe that it was a war that happened in Lagos around that time,” he added.
On if the state government was behind the #DefendLagos group, Omotoso said it could never sponsor anyone to organise a counter-protest.
He said, “It sounds ridiculous. Do you need to sponsor people who have lost their businesses? Do you need to sponsor people who have lost their relatives? Do you need to sponsor even policemen who have lost their colleagues? Do you need to sponsor people who have lost their jobs?
“Millions of businesses were destroyed in Lagos; all those iconic buildings destroyed, people were working in them. People were working at Lagos High Court, City Hall, BRT buses, DNA laboratory. Do you need to sponsor them? People are angry.”
The commissioner appealed to the protesters to suspend their action, saying the government had responded to some of the demands made by them.
He said, “A panel was set up to look into what happened at Lekki. You asked for five things, and almost all of them have been attended to, yet you are still angry. If it is not your way, it has to be the high way, and the government is saying no, we need peace now, and you are now saying the government is sponsoring counter-protesters.
“We are not in a military regime; we are in a democratic regime and we have said it several times that the people have the right to protest, but what we don’t want is the disruption of the peace and livelihoods of Lagosians. Lagos State will never sponsor anyone to go and protest anywhere.”
Omotoso added that the resumption of the toll collection at the tollgate was because the company that owned it needed to resume so it could pay its over 500 employees, who were from different parts of Nigeria.
He said, “The LCC, the company that owns the tollgate, has the right just like the people who are protesting. If a landlord has a property where there was a fight and the police shut it down, and investigators found out what happened, and asked the landlord to return to his house, are you saying the landlord should not take over his property again so he can make income and pay his workers? ,,
“We can’t say the LCC should not take over its property again and pay the over 500 Lagosians/Nigerians under its employ because there was a fight. Life has to go on; there must be a closure to this matter. There is nowhere in the world where you will build that kind of road by loan and don’t collect a toll. How do you pay back?”