RE-OPENING LEKKI TOLLGATE BEFORE CONCLUSION OF INVESTIGATION IS AN ATTEMPT TO COVER UP THE OCTOBER 20 KILLING
BY ITS DECISION, THE PANEL IS GUILTY OF PLACING VALUE ON PROFIT OVER HUMAN LIVES
WE RESTATE OUR DEMAND FOR AN INDEPENDENT PANEL OF INQUIRY
The Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) strongly condemns the decision of the Lagos state panel of inquiry on the Endsars protest to return possession of the Lekki toll gate to the Lekki Concession Company (LCC). For us, this decision undermines the demand for justice by Nigerians as the issues surrounding the tragic events of October 20, 2020 have not been resolved; it is therefore an attempt to deny us justice. Before now, the Youth Rights campaign (YRC) has always stressed that the Lagos state panel, on the basis of lacking independence and democracy, is not capable of ensuring justice and bringing to book all those culpable in the Lekki shooting and killing of protesters around the country before and on October 20 2020.
What clearly motivated this decision of the panel is the revenue loss being experienced by LCC due to the closure. As far as we are concerned, the human lives lost at the toll gate is far more precious and valuable over the profit of a few murderous fat cats who from available evidence colluded with the murderous government to drown the youth revolt in blood. We hereby demand a reversal of this decision. Instead, we call for expeditious conclusion of investigation in order to ensure justice is speedily done in the interest of families and friends of victims of the October 20 killings.
However for the duration of the closure of the tollgate, we demand no loss of pay or jobs for the tollgate workers. Given the enormous profit the company has generated since 2011, it should have enough stored away to guarantee the pay and jobs of its workers. We call on the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) or their affiliates to immediately commence collective bargaining process with the management of LCC in order to guarantee the workers’ rights.
Arguments about how the closure or opening of the tollgate does not affect the cause of justice miss the point. Aside its reopening in the course of investigation serving as an insult to the memory of the departed, the Lekki toll gate itself is a perfect example of the bad governance and the official corruption of the rich and powerful that the October 2020 EndSARS protest was essentially against. Recall that in 2011 under a very dubious Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement, the erstwhile Governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Raji Fashola, in a classic case of a government abdicating its duties and responsibilities, handed over the Lekki-Epe road to private interests to build three toll plazas and charge tolls for 30 years for simply upgrading and expanding the existing 49km two-lane dual carriageway, originally built with public resources by the then Lateef Jakande regime in the 1980s, to a three-lane highway. Since 2011, billions of naira from daily tolls have been extracted from citizens who still have to pay multiple taxes. If this is not corruption and exploitation, then what is?
Therefore in our opinion, it is not wrong but actually legitimate, for Nigerians to demand the permanent closure of the Lekki tollgate which was in the first place illegitimately and corruptly acquired, as a monument of exploitation and the burial ground of the nation’s youth cut down in their prime. This would be a good restitution not just for the direct victims of the October 20, 2020 shooting but many others who identify with the spirit of the EndSARS struggle.
However, in making this opposition, we are aware of the opposition of the youth representatives at the panel and some members of the panel to this erroneous decision of the panel. Clearly, the panel did not only shun logic, it also did not recognize the dissent of members. This clearly shows how undemocratic the panel is and such a panel is incapable of delivering justice. A point we have stressed from the period of formation of the panel. The Lagos panel was formed by the Lagos state government under whose watch innocent protesters were killed and injured. For instance, it took the confession by the military, after its earlier denial, for the Governor of Lagos state to confess that he did invite the military to enforce the curfew he unscrupulously called. Aside this, there are mountainous evidences pointing to the involvement of the Lagos state government in the killing and injuring of innocent protesters. Even the military, after initially testifying, has now subsequently withdrawn from the panel with the panel saying it has no power to make them come back. It is for this reason and many more that we think there are better chances of snow falling in deserts than this panel meeting the aspirations of Nigerian youth and masses for justice. It is, therefore, imperative for the youth representatives and everyone interested in getting justice to begin the process of forming an independent and democratic panel of enquiry composed of elected representatives of youth, activists, labour movement, professional groups like NBA, media etc. It is only such a panel constituted in the defence of justice that can resolve the issues the ruling class is desperately trying to cover.
The experience with the Lagos state panel vividly shows that the desire of the youth and working masses for justice as well as for end to police brutality and better society cannot be achieved within the framework work of institutions of the ruinous ruling class and the capitalist system. To achieve a better order of society requires a system change. In the Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) we strongly believe that the capitalist system which has placed the resources of society in the hands of a tiny majority and thrown mass majority into penury and devastation must be replaced with a socialist system where resources will be placed in the hands of the working masses and used to put an end to poverty and misery in the midst of abundance.