Lagos State Government: #NoJusticeNoToll, by ‘Yemi Adamolekun
It is clear that with elections approaching, growing insecurity in Lagos and across the country, combined with Nigeria’s precarious socio-economic environment, any additional trigger that provides opportunities for citizens to vent their anger and their frustration must be avoided. If the protests are allowed by the LASG refusing to be wise in this situation, the residents and businesses of Lekki will be the most affected.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu (South African cleric, anti-apartheid advocate and Nobel laureate)
On April 1, Lekki Concession Company Limited (LCC), a company wholly owned by the Lagos State Government (LASG) since 2014, took over tolling on the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge. His public statement said there would be two weeks of grace as they tested the new technology at Toll Plaza and toll collection would begin on Friday, April 15.
April 1st – April Fool. When the announcement was made in March, the message implicit in the date chosen by LASG did not escape the people of Lagos. There was anger, sadness, frustration and the recurring feeling of being voiceless, invisible and hopeless.
LASG had done its polling and “consultations” and was confident the backlash could be contained. The information and strategy commissioner, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, made some media rounds and promised that there would be more commitments. These engagements were random and dishonest in their intentions. The toll decision was a fait accompli.
For most citizens, the problems were twofold:
(1) Calendar: Given Nigeria’s current socio-economic reality, adding another cost that could trigger civil unrest obviously seemed unwise. Let’s look at Nigeria’s socio-economic environment in numbers: according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment is at 33%, while youth unemployment is at a staggering 42, 5%; and when you add youth underemployment, you have 63.5% of youth either unemployed or underemployed. In addition, Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) is currently at 15.7% resulting in an increase in the cost of food compounded by the rising cost of electricity, fuel and diesel. On top of all this, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on strike which means students are at home with other unions threatening to go on strike.
(2) #EndSARS: While Lagos State complied with the directive to set up a judicial commission of inquiry into police brutality, it undermined the commission’s report and did not initiate or publicize the implementation plan. implementation of the recommendations it accepted in the report. Of the 32 recommendations made by the panel, 11 were accepted; 6 were accepted with modifications; 14 were forwarded to the federal government and 1 was rejected.
When the LCC announced that the Lekki-Epe toll plaza would be reopened in February 2021, there was an immediate response with protests from citizens. The Nigerian police had also learned nothing from the #EndSARS protests as they tortured, humiliated, dehumanized and abused the citizens they arrested, with the audacity to record their actions for public broadcast, fully convinced that they would suffer no consequences. No police officers were sanctioned for manifestly illegal acts as their actions violated several laws through their abuse of power.
Therefore, as the issues surrounding the #EndSARS protests, which led to the halting of tolling activities in the first place, remain unresolved, the tolling is inappropriate and dismissive of those who have been injured or died as a result of the Army actions at the Lekki-Epe toll plaza. I heard the stories of some of these deceased citizens and saw the photos and videos that were presented as evidence before the Judicial Inquiry. Some of them are:
- jide, whose name appears as number three on the panel report’s list of proven victims.
- Kenechukwu Ugoh, whose name appears as number 39 on the list of confirmed victims in the panel report.
- Adesanya Abiodun, whose name appears as number 40 on the list of confirmed victims in the panel report.
- Ajasa Olamilekan Abideen, whose name appears as number 35 on the list of confirmed victims in the panel report.
However, as discussions continued on the toll issue, other questions were added:
- Lekki Concession Company is NOT a private company
During the Inquiry into Police Brutality, the LASG and LCC had separate legal teams to make it look like they were different entities. During the panel, LASG Department Head Hakeem Muri-Okunola admitted that LCC was owned by Lagos State, while LCC Chief Executive Yomi Omomuwasan said that LCC was a private company. Both statements were made under oath.
The deception continued during Mr Omomuwasan’s Zoom meeting with members of the Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association (LERSA) and other stakeholders, including a traditional leader, on Monday March 14 2022. In the minutes of the meeting captured by Gbemi Adelekan for the LERSA Secretariat, “… the DM said LCC is a private company that has continued to incur costs, including keeping more than 500 workers employed, providing essential services to the community, including ensuring mental health on our roads. He mentioned that the company was considerate in not introducing tolls on the 2 tolls, providing an alternative route for users who would like to avoid paying the toll on the connecting bridge, until the ongoing road dualisation of the Oniru Alternate Route is complete.”
According to the LCC website, the LASG, “…acquired the shares/equity of the former owners of LCC in December 2014.”
It was therefore clearly misleading that the LCC presented itself to LERSA members and Lagosians through multiple media tours, press releases and articles as a private company. So, as a public company, all the services that LCC provides in the Lekki-Epe Corridor are by right of taxpayers, not a favor of a private company!
LASG has always fought the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2011. As such, state finances are opaque and that includes LCC. Since becoming a government entity in 2014, its revenues and expenses are unclear. How much is left on the loan and how long will it take to pay it off? The CEO of the LCC and Governor Sanwoolu have promised at different times to make the finances of the toll booths public, but this has not yet been done.
- Ongoing court case
In 2012, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa challenged the legality of the toll and a judgment was rendered in his favor in 2014 before a Federal High Court in Ikoyi. LASG filed an appeal and a stay order. The stay of execution was granted almost immediately and the toll continued. As of April 2022, we are unaware that Lagos has a case before the Court of Appeal, therefore, the stay of execution should be quashed and the judgment executed. Simply put, it would be illegal to charge for the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge.
Governor Sanwoolu hosted LERSA and the Lekki Phase 1 Residents Association (LERA) at a meeting on Sunday, April 3rd, in response to LERA’s open letter and its position against the toll. At the meeting, he said he was unaware of the lawsuit and asked the attorney general to investigate.
Call to action
- Engage your officials
LASG and LCC hired Lagos residents, not just Lekki residents, dishonestly. The Zoom meeting organized by LCC was only accessible to 100 people! They were forced to hold a public meeting on Wednesday March 30andjust a week before the toll technology test. I attended the public meeting and challenged the Information and Strategy Commissioner that the toll was presented as a fait accompli because none of the issues raised – ownership, transparency, court judgment and #EndSARS – n had been addressed.
Engage your representatives and clarify your position on the toll.
- Babajide Sanwo-Olu – @jidesanwoolu
- Gbenga Omotosho, Information and Strategy Commissioner – 08034004237
- Frédéric Oladeinde, transport commissioner – 08068519606
- Oluremi Tinubu, Senator – 08095300251 (@oluremitinubu)
- Ibrahim Obanikoro – House of Representatives – 0801454000 (@Jidekoro)
- Noheem Babatunde – Eti Osa I – 07038698271
- Gbolahan Yishawu – Eti Osa II – 08055502154, 08099055055
- Bankole Adesegun Saheed – President LG – 08026652079
- Bolaji Ogunderu, Local Government Councilor – [email protected]
- Azeez Eshinlokun Habeeb, Local Government Advisor – [email protected]
- Maiyegun Afis, Local Government Advisor – [email protected]
- Towolawi Abayomi, Local Government Councilor – [email protected]
- Sign the online petition – change.org/NoJusticeNoToll
- Register to vote, get your PVC and engage in the electoral process.
- Join a protest.
Rather than working to seek peace, Lagos State is actively working through the LCC to inflict more suffering and hardship by denying justice to its citizens. Governor Sanwoolu and LASG cannot ignore what happened on October 20, 2020 as he keeps his operations secret from the very people his officials are sworn to serve.
The toll is now supposed to start this Saturday April 16 – Easter weekend. It is instructive to note that #EndSARS did NOT feature in discussions between Governor Sanwoolu and the two Lekki Resident Associations. The result was a negotiation on “rebates” for the inhabitants of Lekki.
It is clear that with elections approaching, growing insecurity in Lagos and across the country, combined with Nigeria’s precarious socio-economic environment, any additional trigger that provides opportunities for citizens to vent their anger and their frustration must be avoided. If the protests are allowed by the LASG refusing to be wise in this situation, the residents and businesses of Lekki will be the most affected. LASG should immediately suspend this planned resumption of tolling at the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge in the overriding interest of peace and order for ALL Lagosians.
‘Yemi Adamolekun is the Executive Director of Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria).
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