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Nigeria may clampdown on social media platforms over fresh protest

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EndSARS protests| Photo. Credit @_thegramboii

The Nigerian government on Thursday warned social media platforms over their role in the October 2020 protest against police brutality tagged #EndSARS.

The government’s threat came at a time when a fresh protest against the handing over of Lekki toll gate, where Nigerian forces opened fire on unarmed protesters last October, to the Lekki Concession Company (LCC).

“The Federal Government is also keenly watching the role being played by the various social media platforms in this renewed clamour for violence in the country,” Nigeria’s information and culture minister Lai Mohammed said at a press conference in Abuja, the capital.

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Mohammed accused social media platforms of encouraging the violence and destruction of properties that occurred during the #EndSARS protests in different parts of the country.

“Recall that the social media platforms that eagerly nudged on the #EndSars protesters,” Mohammed said.

Referring to the violence on United State’s Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, the minister stated that “until the situation got out of hand, (social media platforms) are the same ones that quickly pulled the plug on even their own President when the chips were down in their own country.”

Many Nigerian cities, especially Lagos State where the #EndSARS protest was held, suffered a loss of lives and destruction of properties from the violence that followed the protest.

While normalcy has since returned to Lagos, members of the judicial panel set up by the government to investigate the October 2020 Lekki shooting drew the ire of the youths, when they voted 5-4 in favor of the handing over of the Lekki Toll Gate to LCC.

Similar to the beginning of the nationwide #EndSARS protest, another protest tagged #OccupyLekkiTollGate is gathering momentum in Lagos – from social media. A counter-protest is also in the offing. Both are scheduled for Saturday, But the Nigerian government said it will resist any form of violent protest.

“No government anywhere will allow a repeat of the kind of destruction, killing and maiming wrought by the hijackers of EndSars protests last year,” Mohammed said.

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The information minister stated that sponsors of the fresh protest are members of the diaspora and described the protesters in Nigeria as “gullible people.”

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari shared Mohammed’s sentiment that social media and members of the diaspora community incited young people against the government.

Buhari said there was a deliberated “spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular, that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour.”

Days before Buhari’s speech, Nigerian security forces were at the Lekki Toll Plaza and shot live rounds at unarmed protesters. The army initially denied the involvement of its personnel at the protest scene. Six days later, the army said it was invited to the scene by the Lagos State Government but denied shooting at protesters.

Amnesty International said on October 21 that at least 12 persons were killed at Alausa and Lekki. Both locations are in Lagos – also scheduled to host the #OccupyLekkiTollGate protest on Saturday, February 13.

Although, Mohammed said the government is aware that it is the constitutional right of citizens to protest but it would not tolerate violence under the guise of any form of protest.

“Security agents are ready for any eventuality,” Mohammed said.

Lagos State police commissioner Hakeem Odumosu said the command will resist any planned protest in the state.


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