Protest Turns bloody In Lagos As Police Kill One, Injure Journalists, Actresses
One person has been reported killed with several others sustaining various degrees of injury, when peaceful protesters and residents of the Lekki and Epe areas of Lagos State barricaded the toll gate on the Lekki-Epe Expressway to prevent the government from collecting tolls.
The victim, yet to be identified, was said to have choked to death as a result of the canister fired into the crowd by the police.
Hundreds of the protesters which included musicians, actors and actresses, were brutalised and arrested by men of the Nigeria Police allegedly on the order of Governor Babatunde Fashola. Journalists who were at the scene of the incident were also mal-handled and beaten with their equipment either seized or smashed.
Popular Nollywood actress, Kate Henshaw, was among those the police brutalised during the protest while journalists from the Silverbird Television, The compass newspaper and Associated Press photo journalist were brutalised and their cameras and identity cards taken away.
The police allegedly threw caution to the wind as they tear-gassed, pushed, shoved, beat protesters, leaving some of them unconscious. They also shot into the air to scare the protesters.
It had started as a peaceful protest by the residents who are not happy with the introduction of toll collection on the road and the exorbitant price fixed as tolls by the Lekki Concession Company for 30 years at three locations within 25km.
Governor Fashola, who had banned the collection of tolls on the road during his campaign for a second term, after residents of the area vowed to work against him, re-introduced it while presenting the 2012 budget.
According to him, government had spent funds running into billions of naira and needed to urgently recoup them. He had told the LCC to commence the collection of tolls on the road even though more than half of it is yet to be constructed and the company had fixed December 18 for commencement.
The Governor also introduced series of propaganda when he realised that the residents of the area had mobilised to stage the protest. When this failed, he introduced an advert campaign warning would be protesters from taking part in the protest siting some portions of the constitution to back his warning. He also warned that anyone arrested would be dealt with in line with the laws.
As the protest commenced, the state government officials suddenly appeared with uniformed men, ' Black Maria' and mobile courts. The uniformed men had hardly disembarked from their vehicles, before shooting into the air and firing canisters into the crowd, which remained undaunted.
Several Nigerians have condemned the Governor's action with some describing him as a silent dictator who is out with anti-people policies in his second term.
As at the time of filing this report, more arrests are being made with the residents vowing to fight on till the government changes its mind.