One killed, 2 policemen injured
•4 suspects arrested, investigation ongoing —Police
•We’ll not tolerate attacks on our personnel —CP Alabi
•OPC not involved in Ojota fracas —Gani Adams
By Dapo Akinrefon Evelyn Usman & Esther Onyegbula, LAGOS
A rally organised by Yoruba Nation agitators, yesterday, turned bloody, following a clash between the protesters and the Police, which left a yet-to-be-identified man dead, in the Ojota area of Lagos.
Scores of others, among who were two policemen, sustained varying degrees of injuries, while two Police vehicles were burnt.
There were different accounts, as to how the crisis that disrupted commercial activities in the ever-busy area, erupted.
An account said that the agitators assembled around the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, in Ojota, for a rally to demand a separate nation for the Yoruba people of Nigeria.
The rally, as gathered, was peaceful, until the arrival of some policemen, who fired teargas canisters to disperse them.
Some of the agitators also alleged that the policemen shot at them and also battered some members with their batons.
Another version of the account had it that when the police arrived at the scene to ensure that the rally did not disturb the peace of the area, some miscreants, who hijacked the rally, hauled stones at the policemen, demanding that they leave the place.
The altercation, however, degenerated into a shouting match.
Yoruba Nation: OPC not involved In Ojota fracas – Gani Adams
It was alleged that there was a gun duel between both sides, leading to the death of the unidentified man, who was among the agitators.
The dead man, according to eyewitnesses, had charms and amulets tied around his waist and wrists.
However, in a viral video, one of the protesters, Sir T Igboro, denied the allegations that the protesters were violent or attacked security operatives.
Igboro said: “The deceased protester was hit by a stray bullet fired by police operatives. We didn’t attack anyone before the police shot sporadically.”
OPC not involved
Earlier reports that members of the Oodua People’s Congress, OPC, were among the agitators, were dismissed by the Aareonakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams.
Adams, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi, stated emphatically that no OPC member took part in the rally.
He said: “Let me clear the air on the crisis that had engulfed Ojota, this morning (yesterday). There were unconfirmed reports linking members of the OPC to the mayhem. I want to state clearly that none of our members was at the scene of the incident.
“OPC is not against the liberation of the Yoruba race. However, it is a fact that the struggle for the liberation of the Yoruba race is an inalienable right of all Yoruba to champion self-determination. We are not part of the peaceful rally held at Ojota.
“Our position on regionalism is very clear. It is sacrosanct because that is what we are seeking at the moment. Nigeria should be restructured to full regional autonomy, where each region will be at liberty to operate at its pace.
“It is unfortunate that the report was done in bad faith to discredit our organization. Such information was wicked, mischievous, and uncalled for and could trigger a crisis and cause unnecessary disaffection between the OPC and sons and daughters of the Yoruba race.
“This is the fourth time that such information has been spread against the OPC and it is very sad and unfortunate that the purveyors of such inciting information are doing it in bad faith.
“Information at my disposal from the visual contents of happenings in Ojota indicated a peaceful rally that later went awry, leading to the death of one of the Yoruba nation agitators. It is unfortunate that such a crisis could lead to such a fracas that eventually claimed one life.”
Corroborating Adams’s position, Otunba Wasiu Afolabi, who leads the Fredrick Fasehun faction of the OPC, said that the organisation’s initial investigations showed that no member of the OPC was involved in the disturbances and that none of its members had fallen casualty by omission or commission.
Afolabi, in a statement by OPC’s General Secretary, Bunmi Fasehun said: “There is absolutely no reason to associate OPC with what happened today in Ojota, Lagos. People were simply talking from the figment of their imagination. Just like any other person, we heard the news of the disturbances through social media. When I made phone calls to my members around the axis and elsewhere, they said they knew nothing about the crisis.”
4 suspects arrested
Giving details of the fracas, the Lagos State Police Command said four persons have been arrested.
Explaining what transpired, spokesman for the command, SP Benjamin Hundeyin said: “In the early hours of today (yesterday), miscreants masquerading as Yoruba Nation Agitators came out in their hundreds, disrupting social and commercial activities at Ojota area of the State.
“A team of police officers, comprising Alausa Division and the Raid Respond Squad, RRS promptly stepped in to disperse the unlawful gathering and prevent a breakdown of law and order. The miscreants attacked the police, shooting, and destroying two vehicles in the process.
“One person has been confirmed dead, while two police officers shot by the miscreants are currently receiving treatment. Four suspects have been arrested and investigations have commenced.”
“Lagosians are urged to go about their lawful businesses as measures have been put in place to prevent further breakdown of law and order, and keen monitoring of the situation continues.
“It is imperative to state unequivocally that the Lagos State Police Command will not allow any person or group of persons, under whatever guise, to disrupt the peace currently enjoyed in the State”, he added.
Clampdown on protest illegal —Rights activist
However, human rights activist and legal practitioner, Tope Temokun, yesterday, condemned the killing of one of the agitators as callous, illegal and condemnable.
Temokun said: “Needless to say again that the resort to violence by the Nigeria Police against peaceful Yoruba Nation protesters at Ojota, Lagos which has allegedly resulted in the killing of two unarmed citizens, is callous, barbaric and illegal and this must stand condemned by all men of conscience in this country.
“It was observed that the protest was non-violent until the law enforcement agents invited by the government descended on the protesters with bullets and batons, in their usual characteristic manner.
“Nigerian governments, at all levels, need to respect the life of the citizen and ensure there is adherence to the rule of law in their responses to agitations by citizens.
“The right to protest peacefully is a right donated by the constitution to the citizens and the Police and even the government do not have the powers to take what the constitution has given the citizens. There is no food in this country and the citizens are hungry. There is no job. There is no good road. There is no health insurance or assurance. There is no security. The only thing Nigerian citizens can truly claim to have today is their right to expression and right to protest.
“We call on the government to order the release of those arrested in the course of the protest. It is further demanded that official investigation be carried out on the alleged killings and those responsible be brought to book”.
We’ll not tolerate an attack on our personnel —CP Alabi
Following what he described as an unprovoked attack on policemen by the agitators, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, CP Abiodun Alabi, threatened that any person or group of persons found disturbing the peace of the state, under whatever guise, would be decisively dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the law.
The Command’s boss, in a statement by SP Hudenyin, said: “While the Command is not averse to people’s right to freedom of assembly and association; and expression, the Command will equally live up to its mandate of ensuring that no person or group of persons is allowed to infringe on the fundamental human rights of others, especially the rights to freedom of movement and right to dignity of human persons.”
He, therefore, called on parents, guardians, as well as opinion, religious, community, political and traditional leaders, to warn “their children, wards, constituents and followers to desist from all forms of unlawful actions as the Command will not tolerate the slightest form of attack on its personnel or the good people and residents of Lagos State.”