The State Government of Lagos has stated that the State Police Commissioner will be asked to give an account of what happened at Lekki Toll Gate on February 13, the venue for the planned #OccupyLekkiTollGate protests.
Moyosore Onigbanjo, the State Commissioner for Justice, said this while responding to reports of police dehumanisation and assault by some of the arrested protesters.
Onigbanjo, who cited breaches of the COVID-19 protocols and fears that the exercise could go out of hand as part of the crimes committed by those arrested in the Channels Television interview, argued that the government has no problem with residents exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression or peaceful protest participation.
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He added that if the protesters’ actions are seen to lead to a breakdown of law and order, that is where a crime is committed. The commissioner also warned that because the police are a legal entity of their own, the state government is not the one that gives arrest orders.
“We cannot afford the sort of vandalism we saw before. The Nigerian police force is a legal entity of its own, with its own processes.
“But the role of the police stops when it comes to prosecution.The state government will ask the CP to give an account of what happened.
“Your right to protest only extends to where the other person’s right to his own freedom of association and movement starts.
“We condemn any act of brutality and dehumanisation on the part of the police or anybody for that matter. There are three ways to address this. Firstly, is for the commissioner of police himself to set up what is known as an orderly room trial.
“Secondly, if investigation reveals that any police officer abused their authority, and these facts are sent to the DPP’s office, and the DPP says that the policeman or woman has a case to answer, appropriate charges will be filed.
“The third leg of it, even these citizens who claimed that they were brutalised also have the option to sue the police to court for this act which they alleged. “
He further defended the state government, saying that the ideally, arrests made on weekends don’t get to be brought to court until Monday, but in the case of those arrested, a mobile court was set up immediately and the arrested youths were allowed bail and released later that same day.
The commissioner added;
“In Nigeria, if you are arrested on a Friday, you are probably going to end up in a police station or whatever detention till the next week, but we made sure that the court sat late on Saturday to ensure that people that were arrested were released to go home.
“I think that in itself showed the intention of the state government to ensure that rights are protected on both sides. The state government is there for people who support it and people who don’t support it. We are bound by the law and we ensure that the law is carried out to the latter.
“It could have been very easy to say court will not sit till Monday, but we did not do that. We chose to get a magistrate there through the mobile court. We chose to get prosecutors there, and they were granted bail and all of them released. It is another thing that could have happened. They could have been granted bail and they say, ‘it is a Saturday evening, the paper work cannot be concluded till Monday.’
“But that didn’t happen, because we’re hellbent on ensuring that nobody’s right is trampled upon.”
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