By Babatunde Gbadamosi
Today, scores of residents of Lekki defied the ban on public rallies by the Lagos State police command as they stormed the Admiralty Way roundabout in Lekki phase, to protest against Lekki toll gate of the Babatunde Fashola administration. They were led by human rights activist, Ebun-olu Adegboruwa.
There were dozens of armed soldiers and countless police officers already stationed at the roundabout. As early as 7am, Mr Adegboruwa had taken position at the roundabout, whilst other residents joined him later. The protesters set up their musical instruments and generator right in front of the soldiers and police officers. They then commenced mass distributing handbills calling on all motorists to reject the toll fee.
The rally finally commenced at about 9:30 am, when Mr Adegboruwa mounted the road to address the gathering. There were scores of journalists present at the event. A team of policemen led by Area Commander of Ajah Police station could not persuade Mr Adegboruwa to back down on the rally, as he insisted that police could ban Nigerians from expressing themselves. Passersby and motorists were openly solidarising with protesters while some joined them in the protest. The leaders later took turns to address the crowd, urging the people to reject the toll fee and the increment in LASU school fees.
Below is the text of the address of Mr Adegboruwa delivered at the occasion.
WHY WE OPPOSE THE LEKKI TOLL GATE
Delivered at the Lekki Toll Gate on Sat Jan 21, 2012.
The Lekki-Epe Expressway was built by the Jakande administration in the 80s as a means of granting free access for the movement of people and goods, especially those in the hinterlands of Eti-Osa, Ibeju-Lekki and Epe Local Government Areas. Over the years, successive administrations in Lagos State ignored and marginalised the people of the Lekki-Epe axis in the area of infrastructure development,t to the extent that the entire axis became congested. In response to the yearnings and protests of the people of the area, the Lagos State Government decided to expand the existing road. Then suddenly, we got to know about the idea of concession. And then the toll gates.
WHY CONCESSION AND TOLLING?
It is the responsibility of government to provide infrastructure for the people, especially in the area of road construction. If government decides to evade its responsibility and transfer infrastructure development to the private sector only, then the people are in for difficult times of extortion and oppression. All over Lagos State, good and durable roads are being built for the use of the people free of any extra tax. We commend the Fashola administration for the gallant efforts made at transforming Lagos State into a mega city. All that we crave for in the Lekki-Epe axis is that these lofty developments be extended to us as is being done to other parts of Lagos State. Presently, there is no road that is being tolled in the State, so why is the government discriminating against people of the Lekki-Epe axis by taxing us to use the only access road in the area. Businesses have gradually collapsed since the introduction of tolling.
SECRECY OF THE PROJECT
Till date, Lagosians do not have or know the details of the concession agreement signed between the Lagos State Government and Lekki Concession Company. The government should have carried the people along in the planning, implementation and execution of the project, more-so as it hopes to depend upon the people to pay back money invested on the project. Huge loans have been secured on behalf of the people without the slightest information to the people. This should not be so, in a transaction that is to last for as long as thirty years, subject to renewal.
SCOPE OF THE PROJECT
The questions that we have been asking to which we have not received any positive answer are as follows:
What exactly is the project about? Who are the financiers? Who are the owners and promoters of Lekki Concession Company? How did the government and LCC arrive at the prices they have fixed as toll? How much is the cost of the project, that would require a whooping 30 years to recoup? Is it about profit or profiteering? What about the alternative route? What happened to the Coastal Road? Why three toll gates in less than 23 kilometres?
We cannot get any answer to these vital questions from the appropriate quarters, other than speculations and conjectures. This should not be the case.
When one visits the website (www.afdb.org/en/projects) of the project financier, African Development Bank, the following information is revealed:
- Rehabilitation and widening of first 23km and rehabilitation of the last 26.5km of the 49.5km Lekki to Epe expressway on the Lekki corridor in Lagos City.
- Building of a new ramp at Falomo junction to carry right turning traffic onto the Falomo Bridge.
- Building of new foot bridges along the right of way to carry pedestrian traffic hence improving on road safety for pedestrians.
- Building of the first 6km of the coastal road which itself is contingent on the construction of the coastal defences by Lagos State Government .
- Rehabilitation/building of 10 inter-connecting roads between the expressway and the coastal road.
What the above simply means is that a Coastal Road should have been constructed before or at least simultaneously alongside the main Lekki-Epe road, to serve as an alternative road, not some single lane hidden in the Oniru Private Estate. So, the conditions for the collection of toll fee, even under the contract, have not been fulfilled.
INSENSITIVITY OF GOVERNMENT
Since the agitations and protests against the Lekki Toll Gate started, we have not received any overture from the Lagos State government towards dialogue or a resolution. The impression we get is that we do not matter to the government and that the view of the people is immaterial to government decisions. This should not be the case, since we operate a democratic system of government that is people-based. We expected that the governor will reach out to us to have a meaningful town hall meeting and a roundtable.
When labour and civil society declared an indefinite strike against the wicked policy of fuel subsidy removal, the federal government set up the Belgore Committee to dialogue with us and indeed several meetings were held directly between the government and our representatives. Eventually, the price of petrol was reduced to N97 even though we still clamour for a total reversal to N65. This is not the case in Lagos State. For over three years now, we have not been reached by the government for any possible negotiations. The House of Assembly of Lagos State has kept mute on all our agitations. It is reported that the Lagos State Government has even stopped work on the alternative Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge in order to give room for LCC to maximize profit, at the expense of the people. This is unfair.
We call on the good people of Lagos State to prevail on the government to reconsider the idea of the toll gate, as it has brought untold hardship to motorists in this area.
OUR DEMANDS ARE NOT POLITICALLY MOTIVATED
It has been reported that the government of Lagos State has purported to ban public rallies in all parts of Lagos State. That is clearly unconstitutional, as no government can deny the people their freedom of expression and the right to peacefully assemble. The governor himself confirmed this in his broadcast and he cannot now be speaking from both sides of the mouth now that a rally is being organised against his own toll policy. If it is lawful to allow rallies and protests against President Goodluck Jonathan in opposition to fuel subsidy removal, then it must be perfectly legitimate to allow Lekki residents express their opposition to the economic slavery of tolling. The people of Nigeria do not require the permit of any government to freely assembly and express themselves. So I call on all Lekki residents to ignore the purported ban on public rallies.
The Lekki rally and protest is not being organized by Save Nigeria Group, it is not a political rally and thus there is no need for any affiliation or support from any group. But we admonish all ‘activists’ to apply universal principles of equity and justice to their protests and activism and to be bold enough to attack and condemn any wicked policy of government that affects the people negatively. If indeed President Goodluck Jonathan is the bigger ‘demon’ in Abuja, then we must take care of smaller ‘demons’ in Lagos and other nooks and crannies of Nigeria to truly attain a democratic Nigeria. Wherever oppression is found, in the Peoples’ Democratic Party, in the Action Congress of Nigeria, in Aso-Rock, in Alausa and all organizations, we should be bold enough to fight it, and not apply the carrot and stick and bread and butter struggles alone. There cannot be two sides to justice and rule of law. This is a challenge to all ‘activists’, to shy away from political activism only. The struggle to free Nigeria should be total, because injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.
We sympathize with the people of Nigeria over the Kano bomb attacks, especially the families that have lost their valuable members. We do not subscribe to violence but peaceful and legitimate means of disagreement. And this is why we have now limited our rally today to that of expressing our disagreement with the toll gate. At the appropriate time and date to be announced soon, we shall converge at the State House Marina, to peacefully and formally present our grievances to the governor.
We salute your courage, in coming out to identify with the struggle to free our people from economic slavery. We are grateful, especially to our colleagues in the media, for their patriotic coverage of all our activities.
We shall continue to demand the reversal of petrol to N65, the cancellation of tolling and fencing in the Lekki-Epe axis, the reduction in the school fees of LASU, withdrawal of soldiers from Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, the trial of the cabal that has swindled Nigeria in the name of subsidy and the practice of true democracy and the rule of law in Nigeria.
Together we shall win.
EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA, ESQ.
EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA & CO.
Barristers, Solicitors, Consultants
‘Kogun Chambers, Jesus Arena Tel: 07029236716
Itedo Road, Off Admiralty Way, Lagos 08033016673, 018125050
Lekki Peninsular Scheme 1, Lekki, Lagos email:[email protected]