Caught between curfew and roadblocks, Lagos residents struggle to get home •Some protesters force commuters to disembark and trek




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LAGOS – It is now over an hour past the curfew time declared in Lagos and in some parts of the state; desperate commuters are caught between avoiding being arrested for defying the curfew, and groups of protesters still mounting roadblocks.

Along the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, at Cement bus stop on the way to Ikeja, passengers are forced to disembark from vehicles and trek for several metres ahead, and cars are violently hit as the young men who claim to be protesters say doing this is a matter of solidarity, which must be shown.

“I, therefore, hereby impose a 24-hour curfew on all parts of the State as from 4pm today, 20th October,2020. Nobody, except essential service providers and first responders must be found on the streets,” wrote Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos state Governor via his official Twitter account, following a gradual build up of violent clashes across the state.

Lagosians who are not essential service providers must be out of the streets, roads, and confined to their homes or risk being arrested by law enforcement agencies that will be out enforcing the 24-hour curfew declared.

To pass through the hundreds of roadblocks mounted by protesters across Lagos, in most cases, having leaves hung on your vehicle or cardboard reading solidarity messages placed on the bonnet will grant you passage. This of course in addition to chanting very loudly; EndSARS, to avoid the retort of ‘Soro Soke’ before being granted passage. Now, commuters are compelled to disembark and trek.

As different groups of mostly young men barricade the roads with wood fragments or metal, some demand money from motorists before they are allowed passage, others are content with seeing solidarity messages displayed either on the vehicle or on its occupants.

At Mangoro bus stop, few metres from the spot Kolade Johnson, was murdered in March 2019 by operatives of the Anti-Cultism Unit of the Lagos State Police Command, some of the young men were T-shirts bearing his portrait, while banners are hung around the road blocks, with his picture and words mourning his demise.

In the earlier parts of the day, they allowed motorists pass only after paying non-fixed amounts. This reporter would later find out part of this was to be used to secure the services of a DJ who had since been providing entertainment for the group of protesters. The appropriateness of the method in itself could be a subject of a different discourse.

Ironically, a group of protesters on the other side of the same road equally secured the services of a DJ yesterday, and when this reporter visited for observations, traffic was impeded but not completely obstructed. Cars were allowed to pass, after slowing down at the point they converged by the pedestrian bridge, and there was no demand for money.

At some point, a group of miscreants masquerading as protesters graduated from harassing stranded road users who resorted to trekking, and then robbing them of their belongings, especially mobile phones.

This group at Mangoro, as witnessed by this reporter, sent some of the youth in its fold to go and repel those turning it into an opportunity to steal, as they were also less than 400 metres away, operating around the intersection leading to Ile Zik bus stop.

Approaching Ikeja Along bus stop itself, which leads to the popular computer village, multiple groups were formed with most demanding money from motorists before allowing them pass. Many of these groups mounted their roadblocks on the BRT lane, harassing both passengers and drivers.

Not all engaged in this, however, as some groups were seen insisting only leaves being hung on vehicles or placards available by the occupants. What mattered to them was showing solidarity with their cause.

Taofeek, an elderly blind man alighted from a bus, dropped close to Ikeja Along bus stop yesterday afternoon, as the bus could not go further because of the protesters. Oblivious of all that was happening around, he was using his walking stick to guide his way through until this reporter approached him and explained the tense situation in the vicinity he was.

Determined to get to Alausa for some reason he did not disclose, this reporter had to convince him to return home. It took a while to find a bus to Toll Gate, back to where he had set out, but today, not many Lagosians will have the luxury of time to get back home on time before security agents clamp down on curfew defaulters. (BusinessDay)

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