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Reopening the Lekki Toll Gate

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

All over the world, as civilization has cruised on with history hot on its heels, monuments have come to stand to moments in the making of people and places. Monuments have come to stand as testaments to the times when different territories were marked by triumph or trouble. Spots have been smeared by blood just as squares acquired new associations as pangs swept by, powered by the passage of history.

In 2020, as protests which started as ripples of discontent raged across the country, rapping the knuckles of Nigeria`s complicitly complacent leaders and summoning and invading the attention of the international community, state actors lost sleep.

When wave after wave of soft pressure on the protesters which included the deployment of street urchins to scuttle the protests failed to make their mark, brute force was deployed.

On the night of October 20, 2020, while young Nigerian protesters sat at the Lekki Toll Gate, wrapped in the national flag singing the national and the national anthem on their lips, a hail of bullets cut loose from guns procured with their taxes, felling about eleven of them in the process while leaving others with horrific injuries.

About a year later, responsibility for the bloodbath which effectively ended the protest was placed at the doorstep of the Nigerian police and the Nigerian army. In scorching findings penned by the Justice Doris Okuwobi judicial panel of inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government to investigate the disturbances, the killings were poignantly described as a massacre. But that was not before the Lekki Concession Company, operators of the Lekki Toll gate, where the killings happened, was indicted. The panel was unequivocal and unsparing in its findings that the company lent a leprous hand to those who carried out the massacre.

Recently, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information Mr. Gbenga Omotosho recently announced plans by the Lagos State Government to open the Lekki Toll Gate closed for over eighteen months since the massacre. Pegging the planned opening for April 1, 2022, Mr. Omotosho said the operators of the facility had huge debts to pay.

Mr. Omotosho put the debts at N11.6 billion to local lenders and about $31.1 million to foreign lenders. He also announced that about 500 workers with families to feed had been affected by the closure.

But Mr. Omotosho said nothing about the blood debts owed by the Lekki Concession Company for its complicity in the killings of October 20, 2022.This, Mr. Omotosho, conveniently glossed over.

He said nothing about how the lights went off before the abominably indiscriminate shootings that silenced a historic protest; Mr. Omotosho said nothing about the findings by the panel set up by the government he serves to the effect that the Lekki Concession Company tampered with what the cameras and videos captured about that night that the panel sought to examine.

It is all a part of Nigeria`s degeneration into a society where life plays second fiddle to the mundane that so many people die in Nigeria under extremely disturbing circumstances and not enough is done to bring the perpetrators and their collaborators to book.

Because different events in the country have shown that Nigerian lives are expendable, those who trade in human lives are able to show the full repertoire of their skills when trampling on Nigerian lives.

If the Lekki Concession Company had refused to freely lend a hand to the killers of young Nigerians on that ugly night, it would not have been smeared with so much blood, and many Nigerians would not have believed it had snakes in the levers of its operations. Those who carried out the killings would also have had a much tougher time and perhaps a life or two would have been spared.

Instead, when it opens whenever it finally opens, a blood debt which it can never really repay will be hanging on its neck while it churns out what would be tantamount to blood money to keep a business that personifies commerce without morality running.

 

 

Kene Obiezu,

keneobiezu@gmail.com

 

 

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