Nigeria police arrest protesters at symbolic Lagos tollgate

AFP
Lagos, Nigeria Published: Feb 13, 2021, 05:46 PM(IST)

Protesters at Lagos tollgate Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Activists had called for new protests on Saturday after a judicial panel authorised the reopening of the city's giant Lekki tollgate, where security forces shot at protesters in October.

Nigerian police arrested a small group of protesters in Lagos on Saturday after they tried to hold a rally demanding justice for victims of a deadly shooting during demonstrations last year.

Activists had called for new protests on Saturday after a judicial panel authorised the reopening of the city's giant Lekki tollgate, where security forces shot at protesters in October.

Last year's mostly youth-led #EndSARS protests against police brutality and governance brought Africa's largest city to a standstill in October in a campaign that won backing from many high-profile celebrities.

Police on Saturday bundled around 17 protesters into a black truck at the tollgate where security forces had deployed since Friday evening, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

"Lekki tollgate should be made a museum of resistance and not a monument for money making," said Damilare Adebola, 24, who spoke from the police van where he was being held.

There were no other protesters at the gate and traffic was flowing normally, with some drivers chanting "End SARS" as they passed by.

One young protester in a red T-shirt managed to sprint away from police chasing him.

Nigeria's government this week had warned against holding new protests at Lekki, saying the rallies could descend into violence in the name of justice.

"We are calling on all Nigerian authorities to demonstrate commitment to protect the right to peaceful protest," watchdog Amnesty International said on Twitter.

The original #EndSARS protests, named after the SARS police force accused of abuses, spread even after the unit was disbanded and the government promised reforms. 

The demonstrations ended abruptly after the shooting in Lagos and a wave of looting and unrest that followed.

An investigation into last year's violence at Lekki has stalled with representatives of the armed forces failing to appear before the panel.

Security forces say they only used blank rounds to break up protesters who had defied a curfew, though Amnesty International said soldiers shot dead at least 10 people.

After October's deadly shooting, the United Nations, African Union, European Union and Britain urged the authorities to refrain from using excessive force.

The wave of protests in October had been the biggest display of people power in years in Africa's most populous nation as young people gathered to demand more sweeping changes.

The huge highway tollgate at Lekki in Lagos became the epicentre of the protest movement with musicians and celebrities joining rallies there during weeks of demonstrations.

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