The police in Lagos on Friday embarked on a show of force across major areas of the state ahead of a planned Yoruba Nation rally scheduled to hold at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, on Saturday.
The rally had in the past taken place in Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti and Oyo states.
According to pictures released by the command, hundreds of heavily-armed police officers were seen in different locations within the state.
Muyiwa Adejobi, the Lagos police spokesperson in a statement obtained by SaharaReporters stated that the show of force was to send a warning signal to the “organizers of the said mega rally or any group of persons planning to stage any rally or procession in the state despite the warnings issued during the joint press breifing by the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu and the Hon Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lagos State, Mr Gbenga Omotoso.”
The police and the state government had earlier announced a ban on protests, saying the move was to forestall violence in the state.
“The Command and other security agencies, including the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps and Department of State Services have however put measures in place to prevent any act of lawlessness, oppression and intimidation, of any kind, in the state on the said date, 3rd July, 2021 and beyond as Lagos State cannot afford to record and experience the violence orchestrated by some individuals during the 2020 EndSARS protest that led to massive destruction of lives and properties in the state.
“The command still reiterated its stance that anyone caught participating or facilitating the so-called mega rally in Lagos State will be dealt with within the ambits of the law,” Adejobi said.
The move SaharaReporters learnt is an attempt to intimidate protesters with organisers saying the action of the police is a violation of citizens rights to violence-free protests.
Meanwhile, the umbrella body of Yoruba self-determination groups, Ilana Omo Oodua, has said that the pro-Yoruba Nation’s rally will go on as scheduled.
The group, which is headed by a renowned historian and Second Republic member of the Nigerian Senate, Emeritus Professor Banji Akintoye, made this known in a statement on Friday.
The statement made available by the group’s spokesperson, Maxwell Adeleye said it “is the duty of police to ensure the rally is not hijacked by hoodlums”.
The statement read, “Our rally scheduled to hold on Saturday will still hold without any fear or intimidation and we promise to be peaceful like we have always been.
“We have been peaceful, orderly and lawful at everywhere we have visited, therefore, we call on the Lagos State Police Command to ensure that the rally is not hijacked by hoodlums.
“We are happy that the police already know that hoodlums are likely to hijack the rally. Now, we call on the police to ensure such does not happen like it didn’t happen in Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Ogun States respectively where we’ve held our rallies.
“It is the duty of the police to safeguard our peaceful demonstration and protect us. On our own part, we promise to cooperate with the police towards ensuring that the rally is peaceful and orderly.”