Soldiers take over Lagos roads

Lagos, which has witnessed massive but peaceful protests in the last one week, woke up Monday to an unexpected intrusion by gun wielding military officers. Armoured tanks with truckloads of military officers were positioned at strategic spots in Nigeria’s commercial city, leaving a very uneasy and pensive calm across the city.This is coming after an early morning national address by President Goodluck Jonathan where he announced a reduction in the price of fuel from N141 to N97. The President hinted of the crack-down in his speech.

“Government will not condone brazen acts of criminality and subversion. As President, I have sworn to uphold the unity, peace and order of the Nigerian State and by the grace of God, I intend to fully and effectively discharge that responsibility,” he said adding that ‘government is desirous of further engagement with the groups’.

Although military road blocks were mounted right from Mile 12 on one end of the popular Ikorodu Road continuing to every other major bus stop on the highway and other parts of the city, pockets of defiant protesters still came out on the streets on the cold harmattan morning in Lagos to express their displeasure at the President’s announcement.

The Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Square which has been the muster point for peaceful protesters throughout last week was completely cordoned off by the military who were joined by the police, civil defence corps and mobile policemen. Everyone moving towards the major road along the park were thoroughly searched and asked for their destination before being allowed to proceed. They weren’t allowed to move in more than a team of ten.”The instruction is that you should sit at home. I do not want to see a gathering of more than two or three people,” a mobile police officer said. “Most of the boys you see out here are touts and hoodlums trying to hijack the protest to cause chaos. They only want to loot and rob and that’s why they are trying to cause a fracas with us,” a military officer, with the name tag K. Olajide, told Premium Times.

“The protesters that are gathering at Fadeyi must not get here. I do not know how you will do it. I don’t care if there are TV cameras there, you just must not let them get here – Ojota/Ketu, because the GOC will soon be here,” Mr. Olajide said over the phone to another colleague manning a different bus stop where people were obviously gathering.In other parts of the city, soldiers had confrontations with angry youth. A female protester was seen daring the soldiers.

“Shoot me, I am ready to die, we will all fight for the second independence of this country from corrupt and inept government,” she shouted. Reacting to the deployment of military, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Nigeria’s major opposition political party, strongly condemned the deployment, describing it as ‘one of the most egregious and anti-democratic actions taken by President Goodluck Jonathan since assuming office’.

The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, stated that the President ‘outdid the brutal military dictators of the past by using the military as an instrument to suppress a peaceful protest by unarmed citizens.’

The party asked the President to immediately withdraw the soldiers.

“By beating a quick retreat, he can mitigate the impact of the damage which his action has done to the psyche of the good people of Lagos, and the dent it has put on the nation’s democracy under his watch,” Mr. Mohammed said.

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