[By ‘Yemi Adamolekun]
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
– Desmond Tutu (South African Cleric, Anti-Apartheid Advocate & Nobel Laureate)
On April 1, 2022, Lekki Concession Company Limited (LCC), a company 100% owned by the Lagos State Government (LASG) since 2014, resumed tolling on the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge. Its public statement said there would be two weeks of grace as they test the new technology at the Toll Plaza and toll collection will start Friday, April 15, 2022.
April 1st – April Fool’s Day. When the announcement was made in March, the message implied in the date chosen by LASG was not lost on Lagosians. There was anger, sadness, frustration and the recurring feeling of being voiceless, invisible and hopeless.
LASG had done its polling and ‘consultations’ and was confident that the backlash could be contained. The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, did some media rounds and promised there would be more engagements. Those engagements were haphazard and dishonest in intent. The decision to toll was a fait accompli.
For most citizens, the issues were two-fold:
(1) Timing: Given Nigeria’s current socio-economic reality, adding another cost that could serve as a trigger for civil unrest seemed obviously unwise. Let’s look at NIgeria’s socio-economic environment in numbers: According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) / National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment is at 33% while youth unemployment is at a staggering 42.5%; and when you add youth under-employment, you have 63.5% of youth either unemployed or underemployed. Also, Consumer Price inflation (CPI) is currently at 15.7% resulting in increasing cost of food compounded by increased cost of electricity, fuel and diesel. In addition to all of this, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on strike, meaning students are at home, with other unions threatening to go on strike.
(2) #EndSARS: While Lagos State complied with the directive to set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality, it has undermined the report of the panel and failed to engage nor make public the implementation plan of the recommendations that it accepted from the report. Of the 32 recommendations made by the panel, 11 were accepted; 6 were accepted with modifications; 14 were forwarded to the Federal Government and 1 was rejected.
When LCC announced that the Lekki-Epe Toll Plaza would be reopened in February 2021, there was an immediate response with citizen protests. The Nigeria Police had also learnt nothing from the #EndSARS protests as they tortured, humiliated, dehumanised and abused citizens they arrested, with the boldness to record their actions for public broadcast, fully confident that they will face no consequences. No police officer has been disciplined for clear illegal acts as their actions violated several laws through their abuse of power.
Therefore, as matters relating to the #EndSARS protests, which led to the termination of tolling activities in the first place are unresolved, tolling is inappropriate and disdains those who were injured or died following the army’s actions at the Lekki-Epe Toll Plaza. I have heard the stories of some of these citizens who died and I have seen the pictures and videos that were presented as evidence before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry. Some of them are:
- Jide, whose name appears as number 3 on the Panel Report Proven Casualty List.
- Kenechukwu Ugoh, whose name appears as number 39 on the Panel Report Proven Casualty List.
- Adesanya Abiodun, whose name appears as number 40 on the Panel Report Proven Casualty List.
- Ajasa Olamilekan Abideen, whose name appears as number 35 on the Panel Report Proven Casualty List.
However, as discussions continued on the tolling issue, other issues were added:
- Lekki Concession Company is NOT a Private Company
During the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality, LASG and LCC had separate legal teams to give the impression that they were different entities. During the panel, the Head of Service for LASG, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, admitted that LCC was owned by Lagos State while the MD of LCC, Yomi Omomuwasan, said LCC was a private enterprise. Both statements were made under oath.
The deceit continued during Mr Omomuwasan’s Zoom Meeting with Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association (LERSA) members and other stakeholders including a traditional ruler on Monday, March 14, 2022. In the meeting minutes captured by Gbemi Adelekan for the LERSA Secretariat, “… the MD stated that LCC is a private company that has continued to incur costs including maintaining over 500 workers in employment, providing essential services to the community including ensuring sanity on our roads. He mentioned that the Company was being considerate by not introducing toll fare on the 2 tollgates, by providing an alternative road for users that would want to avoid paying toll on the Link Bridge, until the ongoing road dualization of the Oniru alternative road is completed.
” According to the LCC’s website, the LASG, “… acquired the shares/equity of the previous owners of LCC in December, 2014.”
It was therefore clearly misleading that LCC presented itself to LERSA members and Lagosians through several media rounds, press statements and articles as a private company. Thus, as a public company, all the services that LCC provide in the Lekki-Epe corridor are as of right to taxpayers, not a favour from a private company! LASG has consistently fought the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011. As such the finances of the state are opaque and this includes LCC. Since it became a government entity in 2014, its revenues and expenses are unclear. How much is left on the loan and how long will it take to pay it off? The MD of LCC and Mr Governor have promised at different times to make the finances of the Toll Plazas public, but that is yet to happen.
2. Pending Court Matter
In 2012 Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa challenged the legality of tolling and judgement was found in his favour in 2014 at a Federal High Court in Ikoyi. LASG filed an appeal and an order for a stay of execution. The stay of execution was granted almost immediately and tolling continued. As of April 2022, we are unaware that Lagos has a case before the Appeal Court, therefore the stay of execution should be struck out and the judgement executed. In simple terms, it would be illegal for the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge to be tolled.
Mr Governor hosted LERSA and the Lekki Phase 1 Residents Association (LERA) to a meeting on Sunday, April 3rd, in response to LERA’s open letter and their position against the tolling. At the meeting, he stated that he was unaware of the lawsuit and asked the Attorney-General to look into it.
Call to Action
- Engage Your Public Servants
LASG and LCC have engaged Lagosians, not just Lekki residents, in a dishonest manner. The Zoom meeting LCC hosted was only accessible to 100 people! They were forced to host a town hall meeting on Wednesday, March 30th just one week before the test run of the tolling technology. I attended the town hall meeting and challenged the Commissioner of Information & Strategy that the tolling was presented as a fait accompli as none of the issues raised – ownership, transparency, court judgement and #EndSARS – were addressed.
Engage your representatives and make your position on the tolling clear.
- Babajide Sanwo-Olu – @jidesanwoolu
- Gbenga Omotosho, Commissioner of Information & Strategy – 08034004237
- Frederic Oladeinde, Commissioner for Transportation – 08068519606
- Oluremi Tinubu, Senator – 08095300251 (@oluremitinubu)
- Ibrahim Obanikoro – House of Representatives – 0801454000 (@Jidekoro)
- Noheem Babatunde – Eti Osa I – 07038698271
- Gbolahan Yishawu – Eti Osa II – 08055502154, 08099055055
- Bankole Adesegun Saheed – LG Chairman – 08026652079
- Hon. Bolaji Ogunderu, Local Government Councillor – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hon. Azeez Eshinlokun Habeeb, Local Government Councillor – email@example.com
- Hon. Maiyegun Afis, Local Government Councillor – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hon. Towolawi Abayomi, Local Government Councillor – email@example.com
2. Sign the online petition – change.org/NoJusticeNoToll.
3. Register to vote, get your PVC and engage in the electoral process.
4. Join a protest.
Rather than work to seek peace, Lagos State is actively working through LCC to inflict more suffering and hardship as it denies its citizens justice. Mr Governor and LASG can NOT ignore what happened on October 20, 2020 as it keeps its operations secret from the very people its officials swore oaths to serve.
Tolling is now supposed to start this Saturday, April 16 – Easter weekend. It’s instructive to note that #EndSARS did NOT feature in the discussions between Mr Governor and the two Lekki residents associations. The outcome was a negotiation on the “discounts” for Lekki residents.
It is clear that with elections around the corner, rising insecurity in Lagos and across the country, combined with Nigeria’s precarious socio-economic environment, any additional triggers that provide an opportunity for citizens to express their anger and frustration should be avoided. If protests are allowed to happen by LASG refusing to be wise in this situation, the residents and
businesses in Lekki will be the most affected. LASG should immediately suspend this planned resumption of tolling at the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge in the overriding interest of peace and order for ALL Lagosians.
‘Yemi Adamolekun is the Executive Director of Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria). She has an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics (LSE) and an MBA from Oxford University’s Said Business School.