Hoodlums, popularly referred to as ‘Area Boys' or ‘Agberos', smashed phones and cameras of protesters and media organisations in an attempt to disrupt the peaceful protest against the new hike in toll fare by the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) on Friday, February 9, 2018.
The protesters had gathered at Lekki Roundabout in front of Lekki Peninsula Scheme 1 gate to commence the protest around 9:30 am when they were initially stopped by the police.
After the protest was allowed to move ahead by the police, the hoodlums confronted the protesters in front of Med Plus on Admiralty Way and asked them to turn back towards the Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza.
Despite the huge police presence that outnumbered protesters, the hoodlums started harassing demonstrators by smashing the phones of people who were taking pictures as well as the cameras of media organisations covering the event.
It took agitated complaints from the crowd before the police intervened and arrested some of the trouble makers.
Friday's protest was organised by the Eti-Osa Development Forum which has spent the entire week mobilising support via WhatsApp and other social media platforms.
During the protest, demonstrators called for a reversal of the new rates and some even urged the state government to scrap the toll gates entirely.
Protest cut short by Police
Despite promising to stage protests at the affected toll gates on Friday, protesters were dissuaded by the police from disrupting activities at the toll gates.
Protesters marched halfway down Admiralty Way and turned in front of Domino's Pizza to head for the Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza for the main protest.
However, after reaching the Lekki Roundabout, they were advised against proceeding as police officers appeared to withdraw their protection.
After a few agitated discussions between the organisers of the protest and the police, they decided to end it at the Roundabout where they promised to organise another protest if there are no changes.
During the protest, protesters displayed placards with different inscriptions like “Say No to Lekki toll hike”, “Switch off your ignition”, “Ambode save our souls”, among others.
Protesters also chanted statements like, “No more toll gate”, “Toll gate is a fraud”, “We want no toll” during their march.
Music of the late afro-beat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti was played loudly from a truck that trailed behind the protesters.
The Lagos State police command had warned Lagosians to shelve the planned protest.
“It has come to the knowledge of the Lagos State Police Command that some residents of Lekki/Ajah areas of the state are planning to protest the increase in toll fare by the management of Lekki Toll Plaza”, a statement from the police read.
“While the Command recognizes the right of citizens to carry out peaceful protest, the police will not standby and watch protesters take laws into their hands nor allow miscreants to hijack the protest.
“The Command is using this opportunity to inform and warn the group planning this protest for tomorrow, Friday, the 9th of February, 2018, not to block the Highway, the Expressway or any road for that matter.
“All those who want to participate in the protest must organize themselves in a peaceful manner in line with public protection and assembly law.
“The Command would not hesitate to use reasonable force to prevent any group of persons from blocking the road or breaching the public peace.
“The Command however, wishes to advise all to go about their lawful business peacefully on the Island and indeed every part of the state as adequate security is in place throughout the state”.
LCC's toll hike
The LCC had implemented an increase in the tariff that vehicle owners will pay to gain access through its Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza and the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge Toll Plaza on February 1, 2018.
According to the company's Managing Director, Mohammed Hassan, the increment is a reaction to the “current business realities and increasing cost of operation.”
He said the current economic and business realities in the country means the company has been hit with increased cost of operations and maintenance of its loan obligations.
According to the new rates at the Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza, motorcycles are now expected to pay N100; saloon cars and tricycles, N200 (eTag: 180); sport utility vehicles, N250 (eTag: 225); light trucks and 2-axle buses, N400 (eTag: 360); heavy duty trucks or buses with two or more heavy axles, N1000 (eTag: 900), and commercial danfo buses will pay N100 (90).
At the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge Toll Plaza, motorcycles will pay N200 (eTag: 180); salon cars, N300 (eTag: 270); mini vans sports utility vehicles and light trucks, N400 (eTag: 360); and light trucks and 2-axle buses will pay N1000 (eTag: 900).
Reverting to old rates
The Eti-Osa Development Forum is demanding a “revert to the old rates and possible downward review in the light of biting economic realities and what obviously has been recouped by the concessionaire thus far.
“We also insist on a transparent disclosure of all financial dealings, audited report and appropriation relating to the Lekki Concession Company tolling contracts and the current status of the Lagos State government having bought back the Admiralty Tolling Plaza contract in 2013 for N25.3B.
“We call on his Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode to intervene and proffer immediate panacea on the increased, excruciating fares”.