#OCCUPYLEKKITOLLGATE: WHERE NEXT FOR THE STRUGGLE
Nothing exposes the real basis of the constitution of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Compensation into SARS-Related Abuses by the Lagos State Government following the incident of the 20th October 2020 Lekki Shooting and killings other than the Ruling delivered by the Chairman of the Panel, Honourable Justice Doris Okuwobi (Retired), ordering the repossession of the Lekki Toll Plaza to the Lekki Concession Company(LCC) on 6th February 2021. The Ruling of the Chairman was handed down as a “Majority” Ruling as the Panel splits into two with a numerical but legal “Minority”, which had the two youth representatives. Also, without at least one youth representative present in the sitting of the panel, the Panel cannot form a quorum; and the two youth representatives were not seated during the ruling. This puts the legality of the Ruling into question.
Yet if anything must be noted, it is that an #EndSARS protest has greatly hurt the Big Business Empire of Bola Tinubu and all of his other business fronts in Lagos, with a huge depletion of funds from the toll collection.
The judgement of the panel is an indication of one of the roles it was set up in the first instance to achieve. But for the working masses and Commuters, they will continue to be eternally grateful to the #EndSARS protest, for bringing an end to toll collection at the Lekki TollGate and the traffic that ensues from it, even if only temporary. The Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA) will continue to insist that Government fully takes over the operation of the toll gate, brings to an end the management of the toll plaza by the LCC, and even go further to demand the opening of the accounts of the LCC, to see how much has so far been made, and if need be expropriate all the funds in their accounts into the coffers of the state. This is the least that should be expected from the Panel, as part of honouring the memories of those slaughtered at the Toll Gate, not endorsing a reopening.
The 6th February 2021 decision has however fueled anger especially among the advanced layers of youth that led the #EndSARS protests. As with all movements and resistance against repression, the advanced layers jump ahead of the other layers first into the arena of struggle, which explains why on the 13th February 2021, scores of youth, under the aegis of #OccupyLekkiTollGate defied the threat from the government and the police to protest against the reopening of the TollGate.
And true to type the promised heavy repression by Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu, Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr Moyo Onigbanjo, was on offer at the toll gate, with scores of protesters arrested, and beaten up. Stripped half-naked and jampacked into a bus to a state of suffocation. Of course, this was met by a louder outcry from the populace which ultimately forced the government to release all the 40 protesters arrested by nightfall.
Seven days later, on 20th February 2021, the 120th Day after the 20th October 2021 Lekki Shooting, a Memorial Walk was staged and was put down again by the Police. Six Memorial Walkers were arrested and spent five days in custody of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) before being released. This unleashing of terror on protesters will not hold the people down forever, even though protest has not been held on the issue since 20th February 2021.
However, this does not suggest that that the anger against the repossession of the Lekki Toll Gates has subsided. The Lekki Estates’ Residents Association in a statement opposed the reopening of the Lekki Toll Gates and called for its scrapping. The Lekki Estates’ Residents’ Association (LERA), which is the Association of landlords and dwellers in the Lekki sub-region issued a press statement after the Ruling has been delivered, opposing the reopening of the Lekki Toll Gate and demanding for its scrapping. This music of the future is here already, as commuters continue to savour this cherished gain of the #EndSARS protests. But sustaining it will demand a systematic campaign of residents, communities and youth to refuse to pay the Tolls in the event the Lekki Toll Gate is reopened
THE US DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S REPORT
An interesting twist was introduced into the investigation of the Lekki Shooting with the publication by the United States Department of State, which stated that there was no available evidence of fatalities from the Lekki Shooting. This has exposed US imperialism for what it is: the Big Brother of the Nigerian government in police brutality as evidenced by the repeated killings that sparked the Black Lives Matter protests in the US itself. It has equally helped to remove illusions held by a lot of advanced layers in imperialist judicial institutions such as the International Criminal Court among others, as a refuge to seek justice for the victims of the Lekki Shooting.
The US Report stated that it is awaiting the outcome of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Compensation into SARS-Related Abuses. Is this not laughable, even with the overwhelming evidence that the Government was involved based on a pronouncement the military made at the panel, what kind of evidence is the US awaiting from the Panel, when it is clear that those who set it are only using as camouflage to exonerate themselves from the crimes committed?
With the tenure of the panel extended by another three months for it to submit its report, it is obvious that even if given another whole year, the panel is not capable of bringing the Nigeria military, the Lagos State Government and indeed the Federal Government guilty of all the crimes of police brutality and the killings of innocent citizens, for the singular reason that the state is constructed with all of its instrument of coercion to bring repress the common people. This much is clear to US Imperialism, which is merely solidarizing with a partner in crime against the working masses and youth.
For the MSA, the Panel remains a device of the ruling class to divert anger for a period. But as the Panel unfolds its numerous contradictions, it will be clearer to the working-class and youth elements that there is a need to return to the barricades. This does not preclude engaging the Panel legally and politically. MSA comrades are playing a leading role in all these processes. The MSA will also help to provide leadership to the much-needed joint mass movement of residents and youth to defeat the reopening of the Lekki Toll Gate.
The movement of young people against police brutality and anti-poor tolling needs working-class support and socialist ideas. The MSA works in the young people’s movement to build the best fighters that are newly entering into the arena of struggle into all-rounded socialists and provide links for the youth movement with the working class to fortify a united movement on the ground. The MSA also strives to link the movement to the agenda for a clear-cut working people’s political alternative. This will be needed in the coming period to defeat capitalism, which is behind the misery and poverty facing youths in Nigeria amidst abundance.