The Lekki Concession Company (LCC), the company in charge of the Lekki toll plaza, has appealed to Nigerian youth to refrain from the planned #occupyLekkitollgate protest and the #DefendLagos counter-protest slated to hold at the Lekki Tollgate.
In a statement released by the company on Friday, Yomi Omomuwasan, the managing director of LCC urged “leaders of movements planning a protest at its destroyed Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza to give peace a chance.”
He added that LCC not returning to full operations within the shortest possible time would result in loss of jobs for the LCC’s over 500 direct staff and thousands of others across its business value chain.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how youth, using the #occupyLekkitollgate, plan to hold a protest at Lekki Tollgate on Saturday, to express their displeasure over the reopening of the toll plaza.
In response to the call for protest, a counter-protest tagged #DefendLagos surfaced on social media to counter the former.
Speaking on the planned protests, Mr Omomuwasan said LCC was distressed by the reactions as there is need to halt further losses being incurred by the company as an aftermath of the October 20, 2020 incident.
“Last weekend’s decision by the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to return the Tollgate to the LCC had generated strong reactions from youth movements with a group threatening to occupy it and another pledging to defend it.
“We are distressed by the reactions the decision of the Panel has elicited from some members of the public and their resolve to again forcefully take over the already destroyed Plaza on Saturday 13, January 2021.
“It was in a bid to halt further losses, especially given our subsisting financial commitments to local and foreign lenders, including the African Development Bank (AfDB), that we approached the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for permission to repossess our facilities, ” Mr Omomuwasan said.
He added that the company approached the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to return the Tollgate to it in good faith and stem its losses.
Mr Omomuwasa said the company refrained from making comments since the Lekki shooting incident of October 20, 2020, because of the heightened temper.
The director, who referred to the shooting incident as an “unfortunate event,” said the LCC was “also a victim of the unfortunate circumstance.”
The Lekki Tollgate not has been operational since the night of October 20, 2020, following the shooting of unarmed protesters by officers of the Nigerian Army.
The Judicial Panel of Inquiry, last Saturday, however, returned the control of the toll plaza to the LCC despite that the reports of forensic examination of the event scene are yet to be out.
The ruling to reopen the Lekki toll plaza, which was dissented to by some members of the panel, has generated controversies among Nigerian youth, with protest and counter-protest slated to hold at the Lekki toll gate on Saturday.
Mr Omomuwasan, who described the LCC as a ”peace-loving organisation” empathised with individuals and businesses that suffered losses, adding that the LCC is “an institutional victim” in the October 20, 2020 event.
“To set the records straight, LCC never prevented the protesting Nigerian youths from occupying our plaza before the unfortunate incident of Tuesday, October 20, 2020, even as we incurred huge losses from the forced closure of the facility by the protesters who chose to make our facility their protest ground.
“LCC had nothing to do with the protest against police brutality, which was the central point of the youth agitation. As an organisation, we were unlucky to have been caught in the web,” he said.
Mr Omomuwasan appealed to well-meaning Nigerians from across the divide to sheath their swords and give peace a chance.
“We appeal to the leaders of the protest movement to cooperate with us as we gradually restore and commence operations. To every sored heart and scared body, we at LCC ask for divine comfort and speedy healing. As we grieve together, let us find warmth in the embrace of one another with a common resolve to rebuild a better Lagos upon the ashes of our yesterday,” he said
Despite pleas from the Lagos State government, the Lagos police and other quarters, some youth have insisted on going ahead with the planned protests on Saturday.
Meanwhile, a police truck, police vehicles and several police officers have been positioned at the Lekki toll gate as of Friday morning.
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