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The Right to Protest: Legal or Not? (1)

February 14, 2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
Written by Tolu Okunade

This is the first article of a two-part piece that hopes to shed light on the Right to Protest and the Controversy surrounding the arrest of Protesters at Lekki Toll Gate Yesterday.

Protests play an important part in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural life of all societies. Historically, protests have often inspired positive social change and improved protection of human rights, and they continue to help define and protect civic space in all parts of the world. Protests encourage the development of an engaged and informed citizenry and strengthen representative democracy by enabling direct participation in public affairs.

2020 was the year that birthed Revolutions across the globe — From #BlackLivesMatters in the US to #JusticeForUwa and #EndSARS in Nigeria to #ShutItAllDown in Namibia to the Iconic Elections held in Uganda, Citizens all across the world were and are still fagged out of bad leadership and sent a clear message to terrible and insensitive Governments.

However, the focus of this piece would be on the #EndSARS protests that hit Nigeria in October 2020, which was against the incessant police brutality that had gradually become a norm. What started online moved to spaces offline across the globe. As the Arab Spring Revolution, this was one protests history books would always tell of.

When the protesters could not be deterred, hired hoodlums by state actors started destroying public and private properties, setting ablaze Police Stations and allegedly facilitating a Prison break in Benin, Edo State. All these ugly scenarios were set in motion to discredit and find a justification to violently suppress and disperse the protesters.

Nonetheless, despite the government’s tactics to disperse the protests, the citizens showed no restraint. The more intimidation they faced, the larger the protests grew moving from states in Nigeria to the countries across the globe. However, all this was brought to a forceful halt following the shooting of Peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th 2020.

The Nigerian government in a warfare style silenced the voices of the people crying in the Nigerian wilderness to prepare the way for the birthing of a new nation where bad governance, executive and legislative lawlessness and judicial ineffectiveness will be the thing of the past. The frustrated youths just like I who have lost every iota of hope in Nigeria as presently constituted and the “rulership” of president Buhari, are put in harm’s way.

The State actors however who tried to disorganize and discredit the protesters were reasonably believed to have masterminded the criminal activities of hired hoodlums who went on rampage wreaking havoc everywhere after the shooting. These hired thugs started by attacking the protesters openly injuring and killing some of them. And there was no resistance from Law Enforcement Agencies.

Since the unfortunate incident, the toll gate, which was a major source of revenue has remained shut. According to PUNCH Newspapers, the Lagos State Government had lost at least 26 million Naira each day. However, the Lagos Judicial Panel voted for the gate’s reopening this week and it sparked protests again across spaces because Justice for those who had been murdered had not been served

Only yesterday, Nigerians started the #OccupyLekkiTollGate and went out in their droves to protest yesterday and guess what they met? You guessed right. Policemen who were armed to the teeth. In that same Lagos the day before, Violence had broken out in Obalende yet we did not see that kind of intervention. But the Government brought the Calvary to meet unarmed protesters. And not just meet them, they arrested these protesters who were protesting. Notable among these protesters was Popular Instagram Comedian, Mr Macaroni. He and the 35 others who were arrested were eventually let go on bail. There has however been one question on the lips of many Nigerians — Is it Lawful to Protest or Not?

The question would be answered in the next part of this piece.

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