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Gov Fashola opposes deployment of soldiers against protesters in Lagos

BABATUNDE FASHOLA, Governor, Lagos State: Not a military affair

On 16 January, the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, expressed strong objection to the Federal Government’s deployment of soldiers on the streets of Nigeria’s economic mega-city, Lagos, to prevent protests against the government’s removal of subsidy on gasoline.

The soldiers were deployed across Lagos metropolis on the night of 15 January, especially at the open spaces where protesters had gathered for mammoth rallies all through the previous week. The soldiers had said they were doing routine security duties, but they effectively prevented protesters from gathering in large numbers at the rally venues.

In a broadcast, Governor Fashola noted that the citizens who had gathered for the protests in several parts of Lagos had “largely conducted themselves peacefully, singing and dancing while they expressed their displeasure” at the way government had taken decisions on issues that affect them.

He said “majority of these people, who represent diverse interests, had not broken any law”; and that even if they had done so, “it is the police that has the responsibility for restoring law and order if civil protests threaten the breach of the peace”.

Recalling that all those currently occupying high elective offices once “danced and sang before these same people when we were seeking their votes”, the governor said there was “no justification for sending out soldiers to a gathering of unarmed citizens”.

Describing the presence of the troops on the streets of Lagos as “disquieting”, Fashola urged President Goodluck Jonathan to reconsider his decision to deploy them and to direct their withdrawal.

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BROADCAST BY LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR, BABATUNDE FASHOLA, OBJECTING TO THE DEPLOYMENT OF TROOPS AGAINST PROTESTERS IN LAGOS, ON 16 JANUARY 2012

BABATUNDE FASHOLA Governor, Lagos State

Dear Lagosians,

For the past few days, I have monitored the developments related to the public protest against the increase in the pump price of petrol.

During that period, I have, at the invitation of my colleagues in the Governor’s Forum responded, to an invitation from the Presidency.

My role, since last Monday till date, has been to find a ground of compromise that stabilizes the polity, protects our democracy and prevents any loss of lives.

Inspite of these efforts, we were not wholly successful in preventing the loss of the life of a young Nigerian, Ademola Aderinto, who was sadly shot.

I am truly saddened by that ugly development. While I condole with his family, I pledge the commitment of our Government to bring the alleged perpetrator to justice.

I have decided to address you today, in view of the very disquieting developments that occurred overnight especially the deployment of soldiers across Lagos.

I have the highest respect for members of our military, especially because they have made a contract with all of us, that they will willingly lay down their lives whenever it becomes necessary to do so, in order to protect us.

This covenant is instructive, because soldiers did not sign up to stop us from expressing our grievance about things that we are displeased about.

It is not disputable that the citizens who have gathered in several parts of Lagos like Falomo, Ikorodu and Ojota, to mention a few, have largely conducted themselves peacefully, singing and dancing while they expressed their displeasure at the way that we have taken decisions that affect them.

That, in my view, should not offend those of us in Government. The majority of these people, who represent diverse interests, have not broken any law. If they have, it is my opinion that in a constitutional democracy, it is the police that has the responsibility for restoring law and order if civil protests threaten the breach of the peace. This is not justification for sending out soldiers to a gathering of unarmed citizens.

Every one of us, or at least majority of us who hold public offices, danced and sang before these same people when we were seeking their votes. Why should we feel irritated when they sing and dance in protest against what we have done?

For me, this is not a matter for the military. The sooner we rethink and rescind this decision, the better and stronger our democracy will be.

If anything, this is a most welcome transformation of our democracy, in the sense that it provokes a discussion of economic policies and this inevitably may result in political debate.

I therefore urge the reconsideration of the decision to deploy soldiers and implore the President and Commander-in-Chief to direct their withdrawal from our streets. I must also emphasize that the rights of free speech and protest are not absolute. They impose the duty not to break the law, breach the peace, endanger human life or destroy property, whether public or private.

They also impose the duty to respect the rights of others not to support our protest, and indeed to support what we oppose. At the end of the day, it is a contest of ideas in which the most persuasive will get the endorsement of the majority of the people we serve.

I am convinced that our democracy is mature enough to accommodate this. We must do our best to ensure that it does.

God bless you all.

Police arrests officer who shot youths during fuel subsidy protest in Lagos

On 9 January, the police officer who shot and killed at least one man in Lagos during protests against the removal of fuel subsidy earlier in the day, was arrested and detained on the orders of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Hafiz Ringim.

The officer, identified as the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) heading the Pen Cinema Police Station in the Ogba suburb of Lagos, reportedly shot at four youths who were playing football on an empty road. One of the victims who died instantly was identified as Ademola Aderitan. A second victim, who was said to have died later in hospital, was yet to be identified.

Reacting to reports of the incident, the IGP ordered that the DPO be arrested and charged with murder. The Commissioner of Police (CP) in Lagos State, Mr Yakubu Alkali, immediately carried out the order and directed men of the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) to investigate the incident in order to establish proper grounds for his prosecution.

The headquarters of the Lagos State Police Command has not yet issued a statement on the incident, but a source quoted the DPO as claiming he was compelled to shoot after one of the youths attempted to disarm him. Neither his superiors nor anyone else believes his story. The CP is reported to have said that the killer DPO “would have to carry his cross, because the command did not send him to kill any innocent Nigerian”.

University students, Police clash in Lagos: Two feared dead

On 24 August, students of Lagos State University (LASU) who were protesting the death of one of their colleagues in a motor accident, clashed with policemen on the multiple-lane Ikorodu Road in Lagos, leading to the death of a second student.

Reports said trouble started when a vehicle killed a student at LASU’s satellite campus in the Anthony Area of Ikorodu Road.

Protesting the death of their colleague, many students trooped out and barricaded the ever-busy road, causing a massive traffic hold-up. The city’s ubiquitous hoodlums soon joined the chaos. As motorists struggled to escape the hold-up, the students and hoodlums attacked them, wounding some of the fleeing drivers and damaging their vehicles.

Alerted of the degenerating situation, the police quickly drafted its men to the area to stop further violence and restore order. Those policemen walked into a chaotic environment, and soon clashed with the students and hoodlums.  

The Police Public Relations Officer for Lagos State, Mr. Samuel Jinadu, told some newsmen that the only student who died was the one killed in the accident that sparked the trouble. But some other sources said another young man, believed to be a student, was also killed in the clash, with several others wounded.

Jinadu however said the situation had since been brought under control.

Gunman kills Chinese accountant in Lagos, snatches money

Entance to ChinaTown in Lagos

On 9 August, a gunman shot and killed the Chief Accountant of Western Metal Products Company Limited (WEMPCO), in Ogba, Lagos State, making away with an unspecified amount of money. The victim was a Chinese, identified as Chun Yuen Henry.

Reports said Mr Chun was heading  from the Adeniji Jones branch of a new generation bank back to his company, when the incident happened around 5pm. The gunman, wearing a mobile (anti-riot) police uniform, had apparently trailed him from the bank.

Eye witnesses said the unsuspecting Chinese man who was riding in a white WEMPCO bus with Lagos registration number XM 318 LSD, was awaiting the green go-ahead from a traffic light on Acme Road, when the attacker walked up and shot him on the head.  The gunman then grabbed the money from the bank, which was by the victim’s seat, and fled before shocked unlookers could recover enough to challenge him.

The accounts said Chun’s driver, one Olasunkanmi Akeem, who was the only other person with him in the car, came out of the vehicle and called for public help. But Mr Chun was already dead, before anyone could start rushing him to a hospital. The police later took the corpse to a mortuary.

The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mr Yusuf Alkali, expressed concern that while his command had given WEMPCO  enough  police guards and escorts, no  policemen was detailed to accompany Mr Chun to the bank. He said the incident may have been averted, if the Chinese accountant had one of the policemen with him. However, he said his command had already stepped up its investigation of the case.

Following the growth of Chinese investments in Nigeria in recent years, there is a growing Chinese expatriate community in several urban centres across the country, especially in Lagos. A very popular Chinese market – China Town – was opened in Lagos in 2004.

Six Lagos politicians found unconscious, rescued by citizens

Unlikely saviours: Okada men in Lagos

On 29 July, six men, identified as politicians, were found unconscious and foaming from the mouth inside a minivan, along Deeper Life Road in Gbagada area of Lagos State. They were rescued by motorcycle taxi operators (known locally as Okada men) and other citizens, while police arrested the driver of the minivan to assist their investigations.

The victims were said to be ward chairmen (grassroot leaders) of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Bariga Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State. Police sources said they were returning from Ibafo, Ogun State, where they had been scheduled to hold a meeting with the chairman of Bariga LCDA, Mr. Akeem Omoyele Sulaimon. But the chairman had reportedly phoned them to say the meeting had been called off, as he was attending another important meeting at the same time.

It is not yet clear what happened thereafter, but the ward chairmen appeared to have been either drugged or poisoned, before they got unto the minivan in which they were found.

However, the tide bagan to turn towards their rescue, when the minivan (a Nissan Quest van marked LT 286 AAA) knocked down an Okada man at Gbagada roundabout.

As the man who was driving them sped off, showing no concern for the Okada operator he had hit, other motorcyclists gave him a hot chase until a commuter service bus eventually blocked him. Scores of the ubiquitous Okada men and passersby quickly gathered around the two vehicles and soon noticed that six of the seven men in the back of the Nissan van were unconscious. Only one, later identified as Elder Emmanuel Otekaye, was still conscious.

The Okada men, widely notorious for their rough and ready ways, forced the driver to take his van and strange passengers to the Ifako Divisional Police Station in Gbagada. Once there, the unconscious men were given emergency medical attention from a nearby clinic. Some of them reportedly threw up as they regained consciousness, suggesting they may not only have been heavily sedated but probably poisoned.

Some of the men told the police that they were all ward chairmen from the Bariga branch of the ACN, the ruling party in Lagos State. They were able to recollect that they were coming from Ibafo after a cancelled meeting. They could not, however, explain at what point and in what circumstances they lost consciousness, how they got into the van from which they were rescued, and how they ended up at the police station. The driver was detained by police to help in the continuing investigations.

The victims were still in hospital late in the day. Medical staff barred family and friends from getting to them, insisting they needed to be stable before receiving visitors.

As news of the incident spread, a large crowd converged on the police station, apparently trying to catch glimpses of the victims. Fearing that the swelling crowd could eventually storm the station to lynch the driver of the minivan, the police called in Mobile (anti-riot) policemen to disperse the crowd and keep the peace. The anti-riot men, who arrived letting off shots into the air, caused a stampede in which some fleeing citizens sustained injuries.

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s wife, 2 others arrested with marijuana in Lagos

NAJITE, in the 1970s: Fela's "last queen"

On 23 July, the widow of the late Afro beat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and two others were arrested by officers of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), over alleged possession of 340 grammes of marijuana (Indian hemp) in Ikeja, Lagos.

The NDLEA said Mrs Najite Anikulapo-Kuti, 45, was arrested with 50 grammes of the substance; another woman, Helen Richard, 36, was allegedly arrested with 170 grammes, while Mr. Mike Arinze, 26, was found with 120 grammes.

Announcing the arrests, the Commander of the NDLEA in Lagos State, Alhaji Sule Aliyu, said the agency acted on a tip-off. He said Najite and the other two suspects were found with the dried weed at her residence on Gbemisola Street, Ikeja. He added that the weed had already tested positive to marijuana.

A tearful Najite told newsmen she had been selling drinks at her residence, but was pressured into drug sale as a result of domestic needs.  The second suspect, Helen, once also a Fela dancer but now a single mother, similarly said she was pushed to sell marijuana out of necessity. The third, Mr Arinze, said he had been selling marijuana in night clubs, as his source of livelihood. He said he was drinking beer at Najite’s residence when the NDLEA officers apprehended him and found the weed in his pocket.

Najite was one of the 27 dancers, composers and singers Fela married in a highly-controversial mass wedding in 1978, to mark the anniversary of the attack on his Kalakuta Republic a year earlier by the military government of Gen Olusegun Obasanjo. However, when Fela was later jailed by the General Muhammadu Buhari regime in 1985, most of the wives left. After his release from prison in 1986, Najite was one of the only four that remained with him until his death in 1997. But the other three, Iyase, Funmilayo and Fehintola, died in 2000, 2005 and 2006 respectively. Najita is therefore often referred to as Fela’s “last queen standing”.

The NDLEA said she and the other suspects will be charged to court shortly, once investigations are completed.

Muslim rights group, MURIC, condemns bombing of churches, tasks security agencies

National Mosque, Abuja

On 12 July, a Muslim rights group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), condemned the 10 July bombing of All Christian Fellowship Church, Suleja, Niger State, and urged security agencies to arrest the attackers.

In a statement by its Director, Dr Ishaq Akintola, MURIC said it “totally and unreservedly” condemned the attack on the church and “all violent attacks”.

MURIC observed that: “There is nowhere in the scripture of Islam where Muslims are enjoined to violently attack Christians. The Qur’an forbids the use of force except when Muslims are attacked (2:190). There is no evidence that the Christians inside the Suleja church had attacked Muslims”.

Denouncing “the recklessness and audacity of those behind the bombing of churches”, the group said they “cannot be genuine Muslims”, but “anarchists who are out to throw Nigeria into an orgy of religious killings”.

It therefore charged the security agencies to “unveil the identities of these blood-thirsty extremists” and also take steps to “secure churches from future attacks”.

Stressing that “Christians and Muslims are from one Father of Faith (Abraham)” and that “religion is designed to link people in love”, MURIC called on all Nigerians to be “law-abiding, peace-loving and forgiving”.

This is the second condemnation of the on-going violence to come from a significant Muslim organisation in the last two weeks. It will be recalled that on 2 July, the widely-known organization, Nasirullahi Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), had also described the series of bombings as “reprehensible and against Islamic injunctions”, calling on government to act decisively against those responsible for the violence.

MURIC was formed in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1993, in response to the denial of certain rights to Muslims in some parts of Nigeria and elsewhere around the world. The group describes itself as “an Allah-given rights organization”, which projects, promotes and protects the rights of Muslims. Its foremost objective is: “To defend the legitimate and fundamental rights of Muslims in Nigeria and beyond”. The group says it is committed to employing “peaceful means to resolve conflicts affecting Muslims and redress wrongs committed against them, either by authorities or groups of people”. It is based in Iba, Lagos State.

[THE COMPLETE VERSION OF THE MURIC STATEMENT IS ALSO AVAILABLE ON THIS WEBSITE].

18 die as another building collapses in Lagos

Rescue work after previous building collapse in Lagos

On 5 July, at least 18 people were crushed to death when a 4-storey building in which they were living collapsed on Lagos Island, Lagos State. As the incident occurred almost at mid-night, many of the victims were trapped in the rubble all night and well into the next day, with ill-equipped rescue workers battling to save them. Many of those rescued had serious injuries and were rushed to hospitals.

Local residents say the building located at No. 4 Mogaji Street, a densely-populated area, cracked and crumbled at around 11.30pm. Groups of young men from all over the neighbourhood organised the initial rescue efforts. They were soon joined by the police and state emergency services, including the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA), Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS) and the Fire Service. Witnesses say the early response by these agencies helped to save some lives, but that their operations were hampered by the darkness and limited equipment.

Some of the rescued victims were rushed to the general hospitals on Lagos Island and Gbagada, while the bodies of the dead were taken to the mortuary of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) at Ikeja.

The General Manager of LASEMA, Dr. Oluwafemi Osanyintolu told newsmen at the scene of the incident, that his agency was doing the utmost it could to rescue those still trapped. He said he could not yet speak on the number of casualties, as the rescue operation was still underway.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Wale Ahmed, described the incident as “a big tragedy”, saying he was worried as the state government had taken several measures to end the recurrence of building collapse in the state.

MKO Abiola’s son Deji in EFCC custody, over alleged N35.5 million fraud

On 23 June, Deji Abiola, son of the late Chief Moshood Abiola, was remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an alleged N35.5 million fraud, on the orders of a High Court in Ikeja, Lagos State. He is to remain there until his arraignment scheduled for 30 June.

Deji is the second son of late legendary businessman-politician, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, acclaimed winner of the annulled June 1993 presidential election, who later died in detention in 1998.

He was dragged before the court by EFCC for alleged stealing and fraudulent conversion. The anti-corruption agency alleges that sometime in 2008, Abiola collected N35.5 million from one Mr Jide Jose, promising to supply him printing machines from Switzerland. It said he never supplied any machines to the complainant and had converted the money to his personal use.

At the proceedings, presided over by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr Omeiza Adebola, asked the court to compel Abiola to take his plea and be properly arraigned. He told the court that the matter had been before the court since 2 September 2010, insisting that the charges should be read to the accused person.

However, Abiola’s lawyer, Mr A. B. Kasumu, objected to his arraignment, arguing that they had just been notified of the process. He said the accused, who had been enjoying administrative bail granted him by the EFCC, had come to court on his own volition.

He further argued that Abiola should be granted sufficient time to consult with his lawyers before taking his plea, as guaranteed by his constitutional right to fair hearing. He therefore asked the court to grant his client bail or remand him in EFCC custody, pending the filing of the bail application to be heard at the next adjournment.

After listening to the two arguments, Justice Onigbanjo ordered that Deji Abiola remain in EFCC custody until his arraignment scheduled for 30 June.

The embattled Abiola seems to have been in multiple financial controversies since 2010. In May last year, he was reportedly arrested and questioned by the Special Fraud Unit of the police in relation to a N177 million facility which he allegedly took from Guaranty Trust Bank. At about the same time, he was also reported to be in a dispute with another company over the sum of $100,000.

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