No fewer than 50 policemen on Wednesday evening reportedly stormed the secretariat of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association.
The NBA Ikeja said in a statement on Wednesday evening by its chairman, Adesina Ogunlana, that the squad, which invaded its secretariat at about 4pm, was led by “the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mohammed, supported by OC SARS.”
According to the statement, the mission of the police was to invite Ogunlana.
“Further investigations and enquiries revealed that the intention of the force was to stop the fixed protest against the GATT, the toxic tax regime of the Ambode-led Government of Lagos State,” the statement added.
The police invasion came few hours after Ogunlana addressed a press conference stating the resolve of the NBA to return to the streets on Thursday in continuation of its protest against the new Lagos State Land Use Charge 2018.
During the press conference, which held at 1pm, Ogunlana had said the NBA protest rally would hold on Thursday despite that Lagos State would be playing host to President Muhammadu Buhari.
He added that the public holiday declared by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to allegedly scuttle the protest rally would not deter the NBA members.
Ogunlana, however, clarified that unlike the first protest rally that took place in the morning of March 13, the lawyers would on Thursday wait till afternoon before taking to the streets, so as to allow Buhari to visit the new Lagos Bus Terminus in Ikeja and declare same open.
He explained that though after the first NBA protest rally, the Lagos State House of Assembly invited the association to a public hearing on a review of the new Land Use Charge, the demands of the NBA were not met.
He said, “Our demands are simple. The Lagos State House of Assembly should, within seven days ending March 27, 2018, publish in the print and electronic media, the copies of the proposed amendment to the law in question.
“That the public hearing on the amendment be deferred till the first week in May 2018 to allow for proper examination and evaluation of the law.”
Ogunlana said the House of Assembly, however, shunned the NBA’s demand that the public hearing “be postponed to allow for adequate and positive response by stakeholders.”
He said the association had therefore been left with no other option but to hold another protest rally against the “atrocious, obnoxious, obscene, unreasonable, visionless, anti-people and anti-progress Land Use Charge 2018.”
Ogunlana said, “We want to go for some walk, the modalities of how we are going to go about it will be that give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Our protest will take place 2pm tomorrow (Thursday). We give the Lagos State up to that particular time and that is fair enough.
“After the government masquerade has left the scene, the people’s masquerade will enter the market.
“I want to restate our commitment to the peace, progress and financial development of this state. The development of this state must be like what that billionaire said – developmental projects must be in accord with the needs of the people and it is not going to be by taxing them out of existence. Paradise is not meant for dead people.”
Meanwhile, few hours after the press conference, the Lagos State Police Command issued a press statement, threatening that it would arrest and prosecute the lawyers if they went ahead with the planned protest against the Land Use Charge.
The command’s spokesman, SP Chike Oti, said in the statement that the police believed that the planned protest was an attempt by some mischief makers, being used by the association, to compromise the security put in place by the police for Buhari’s visit.
He said, “For the avoidance of doubt, the Lagos State Police Command will not tolerate any protest from the NBA or from any group or individual for that matter during the visit of Mr. President, whom Lagosians are ready to receive warmly. The NBA and any group wanting to protest at this time are warned to jettison the idea or face dire consequences which may include arrest and prosecution of participants.”