The Lagos State Police Command has debunked reports that its operatives fired teargas at sympathisers in a bid to prevent them from holding a candlelight procession in honour of the late Nigerian singer, Ilerioluwa Aloba, popularly called MohBad.
On Thursday night, several reports alleging that the police fired teargas as sympathisers in a bid to stop the candlelight procession made the rounds on social media.
However, in a statement signed by Benjamin Hundeyin, the Force Public Relations Officer, the police stated that the use of teargas was employed as the last resort in order to stop the breakdown of law and order by some unscrupulous individuals planning to hijack the procession for their clandestine motives.
According to the statement, “the Lagos State Police Command is fully aware of false narratives making the rounds in relation to the dispersal of crowds at the Lekki Toll Gate yesterday, September 21, 2023.
“It is instructive to note that the Lagos State Police Command had an agreement with the organisers of the candlelight procession that the procession was to end at 8 p.m. at the latest and should terminate at Muri Okunola, Victoria Island.
“It was clearly stated for avoidance of doubt that, in the interest of all Lagosians and considering the heavy use of the Lekki-Epe Motorway, the Lekki Toll Gate would be a no-go area.
“It, however, became disconcerting that after the procession duly ended at Muri Okunola Park as agreed, with the police providing optimal security all through, some persons started gathering at the Lekki Toll Gate with intent to manifest objectives extraneous to the #justiceforMohbad initiative.”
The statement noted that the police held talks with the organisers of the procession in order to nip in the bud the impending breakdown of law and order.
“Being a clear violation of the laid-down agreement, the Lagos State Police Command invited the procession organisers, who came back and joined the officers on the ground in persuading the people at the toll gate to disperse peacefully.
“The organisers equally sent out messages on social media asking everyone to go home, clarifying in clear terms that it was not a protest but a procession that had been successfully concluded.
“This persuasion and appeal went on for hours, to which the police and organisers met defiance, both in words and action.
“At this point, all lanes in and out of Lekki had been totally blocked. Vehicular movement on the ever-busy motorway had been brought to a total standstill, leading to traffic buildup.”
The police noted that in a bid to prevent the recurrence of the breakdown of law and order that occurred at the Lekki Toll gate during the #EndSARS, protest, the force deployed the “least harmful method of crowd dispersal.”
“Having gone down this road before, having learned from previous similar encounters, and having studied the pattern in the crowd, the red flags and early warning signs of total chaos and anarchy were discernible.
“Therefore, in fulfilment of our mandate to protect life and property, maintain law and order, and prevent crimes, we adopted the least harmful method of crowd dispersal, following the failure of verbal persuasion—the use of teargas. Not a single live bullet was fired! The police adopted crowd management best practices in engaging the unruly crowd. No life was lost, nor was there any injury,” the statement stated.
The force therefore urges members of the public to desist from mischief-making. Noting that perpetrators would be made to face the wrath of the law when apprehended.
“The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, hereby warns mischief makers that any person or group of persons found disturbing the peace of the state, under whatever guise, would be promptly arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“The Lagos State Police Command also appreciates the procession organisers for keeping faith with the Command and assures all supporters of #justiceforMohbad and Lagosians at large that it will continue to prioritise their safety and security at all times.”
The force further informed the general public that “investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Mr. Ilerioluwa Aloba is progressing well. The general public is therefore requested to avoid creating unnecessary distractions and give the command a stable internal security space to undertake a conclusive and time-consuming investigation.
“In this process, it should be noted that the Lagos State Police Command has, as promised, been interfacing closely and regularly with all meaningful support groups of #justiceforMohbad. This synergy shall be sustained while the general public is assured that they will be continually updated on the progress of the investigation.”