Monday, September 26

Report, Lagos #EndSARS Panel Says 11 Killed at Lekki Tollgate

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•Reveals 24 injured, 15 assaulted, 96 corpses found across states

•Says Army refused to allow medical help for the wounded

•Recommends various sanctions for accused officers

•Indicts LCC for manipulation of videos

•Sanwo-Olu sets up implementation c’ttee, submits report to NEC

Segun James in Lagos and Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

In a damning report released yesterday, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry (JPI) set up by the Lagos state government to probe the October 20, 2020 #EndSARs protest has revealed that at least 11 persons were killed during the peaceful demonstration at the Lekki Tollgate and another four missing but presumed dead making a total of 15.

The report, which also called the Lekki Tollgate shootings of October 20, 2020, “a massacre,” was an incriminating indictment of heightening extrajudicial killings and unprofessionalism by Nigerian law enforcement agents

The report described as “atrocious”, the maiming and killing of unarmed, helpless and unresisting protesters, while sitting on the floor, waving their Nigerian flags and singing the National Anthem, stressing that the act could be equated to a “massacre in context.”

According to the report, aside the 11 confirmed dead, four others were presumed dead, while in all 48 were casualties of the Lekki incident which shook the entire country last year.

Of the 48 casualties listed, the panel stated that 24 sustained gunshot injuries, while 15 others were assaulted by soldiers and police, revealing that 96 other corpses were presented by a Forensic Pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Prof. John Obafunwa.

In the 309-page report, which specifically indicted the soldiers and the police, the panel stated that it unravelled the fact that after the Nigerian Army exited the scene, the Nigeria Police Force, followed up with the killing of the protesters, shooting directly at fleeing protesters who had run into the shanties and the Lagoon.

Stating that a number of unidentified bodies were removed by security agencies and the Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit (LASEHMU) and deposited at various hospital mortuaries in Lagos State, the panel stressed that trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki Tollgate in the morning of October 21, to clean up the scene and conceal evidence.

The panel comprised a retired Judge of the Lagos State High Court, Justice Doris Okuwobi as Chairperson, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Taiwo Lakanu, Patience Patrick-Udoh (Representative Civil Society), ‘Segun Awosanya and Oluwatoyin Odusanya.

Others were Lucas Koyejo, Majekodunmi Oluwaseun and Mr. Babajide Boye, who acted as secretary .

The two-volume document which were presented to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the Lagos House, Ikeja, a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY, called for the establishment of a body to look at human rights abuses in Lagos because it could not hear all the petitions submitted to it.

According to the panel, there were evidences of cover-up by the Army when they removed the corpses of the fallen protesters with their vans.

The Panel stated that Army should never have been deployed in the first place since the protest was largely peaceful. “in the light of all the above that issue of whether or not the Army kept to any particular rules of engagement is immaterial since the invitation of the Army to Lagos state and the deployment of the Army to Lekki Toll Gate in the first place was totally unwarranted. The Army should on no account be deployed against unarmed.”

The panel also found out that most of the 96 corpses for which autopsies were conducted by the state’s chief pathologist, Obafunwa, remained unidentified but were labelled #Endsars, lending credence to the belief that the shooting by security agencies resulted in mass deaths.

Specifically, it recommended disciplinary actions against one Lt. Col S.O. Bello and Major General Godwin Umelo, who refused to honour the summons of the panel in order to frustrate the investigation.

It declared that all officers (excluding Maj. Gen. Omata) and men of the Nigerian Army that were deployed to the Lekki tollgate on the date should be made to face appropriate disciplinary action, stripped of their status, and dismissed as they are not fit and proper to serve in any public or security service of the nation.

The panel stated that all those arrested in the course of the protest should be granted bail, prosecuted for any offence that may be alleged against them or where no prima facie evidence of culpability is disclosed upon due investigation, should be released forthwith.

It also recommended that the Nigeria Army should be discouraged from intervening in internal security of the country forthwith.

Panel’s terms of reference

Among others, the body was set up to identify victims of abuse, brutality and extra judicial killings in the hands of officers of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and officers of the Nigeria Police and to carry out investigative duties in respect of petitions received on police brutality and extra-judicial killings in Lagos State

In addition, it was to evaluate evidence and draw conclusions on the validity of such petitions received; to determine and recommend compensation for verifiable/deserving victims and their dependents; and to interrogate serving or dismissed officers of the disbanded SARS and the police responsible for the abuse of victims and recommend their prosecution

In summary, the panel’s duty also involved unravelling whether the Nigerian Army used live bullets on unarmed and defenceless protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on 20th October 2020 and whether the live bullets resulted in injuries or casualties on the part of the protesters.

Furthermore, it was to find out whether the police was at the tollgate on the night of the 20th of October 2020 and the morning of the 21st of October 2020 and whether they shot at unarmed and defenceless protesters.

As part of its terms of reference, the panel also probed whether the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) played any role in the events of the night of the 20th of October 2020 and generally whether the Lagos State played any role in the Lekki Tollgate incident.

Key findings

The Okuwobi-led panel noted that it found out indeed the Nigerian Army was indeed invited for intervention in the state and was deployed to the Lekki Tollgate on the said date, saying the invitation of the armed was unwarranted.

At the Lekki tollgate, it noted that during the probe, it discovered that “officers of the Nigerian Army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenceless protesters, without provocation or justification.”

It pointed out all these happened while the peaceful demonstrators, “were waving the Nigerian Flag and singing the National Anthem,” adding that “the manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre.”

The panel also found that the conduct of the Army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances render medical assistance to victims who required such assistance and did not adhere to its own rules of engagement.

“The panel found that the Nigerian Police Force deployed its officers to the Lekki tollgate on the night of the 20th October, 2020 and between that night and the morning of the 21st of October, 2020, its officers shot at, assaulted and battered unarmed protesters, which led to injuries and deaths. The police officers also tried to cover up their actions by picking up bullets.

“The panel found that the LCC hampered the panel’s investigation by refusing to turn over some useful and vital information/evidence as requested by the panel and the forensic expert engaged by the panel, even where such information and evidence was by the company’s admission, available. It manipulated the incomplete CCTV video footage of the Lekki Tollgate on the night of the 20th of October 2020, which it tendered before the panel,” the report said.

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It stated that there was indeed an invitation of the Nigerian Army to Lagos State by the state government through the governor before the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army deployed its soldiers to the scene on the said night.

It added that there was an attempt to cover up the incident by the cleaning of the Lekki scene and the failure to preserve the scene ahead of potential investigations.

Recommendations

In all, the panel made a total of 32 recommendations, which included sanctioning of the officers of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force respectively who participated in shooting, injuring and killing of unarmed protestors at the Lekki tollgate on the 20 and 21st of October 2020;

It also called for the development of more robust engagement between the youth and the government and the setting up of a standing committee/tribunal to deal with cases of violation of human rights by security agencies and a trust fund to settle compensation awarded by such tribunal.

It added: “There should be a public apology to #ENDSARS protesters who were killed, injured and traumatised by the incident of the 20th of October 2020 and the memorialisation of the Lekki Tollgate and the 20th of October going forward.

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“The recognition of hospitals and medical doctors who played heroic roles following the Incident of the Lekki tollgate on the 20th of October 2020 thereby saving lives and minimising the impact of the injuries suffered by the victims, most of which were on a pro-bono basis.”

The panel further recommended various sums of compensation to victims of the Lekki incident, which must be expeditious in order to accelerate the healing process, insisting that any data that may have been generated over the years on the impunity of the police across Nigeria be studied and deployed as early warning signs (EWS) mechanism.

The panel stated that it had the cooperation of most stakeholders save for the Nigerian Army and some others who ignored summons issued by the panel and lauded those represented by their counsel , including, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) , counsel to the various groups of ENDSARS protesters, counsel to Lagos State Government, and counsel to the Nigeria Police Force.

It listed its greatest limitation as time, as it had to undertake its investigation into the Lekki tollgate incident alongside other petitions in respect of police brutality related matters.

The panel also recommended that the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the Maroko police station along with policemen deployed from Maroko should be prosecuted for arbitrary and indiscriminate shooting and killing of protesters.

Sanwo-Olu Sets up implementation committee, submits report to NEC,

Following the report, the governor has vowed that his government would implement the recommendations of the panel.

Speaking when he received the report of the panel, Sanwo-Olu immediately constituted a four-member committee led by Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo to raise a white paper on the report within two weeks.

According to him, the committee was expected to produce the document to be considered by the Lagos State executive council, pledging that the reports and recommendations would be made public and submitted to the National Economic Council (NEC) for discussion.

The committee has the Commissioner for Youths and Social Development, Mr. Segun Dawodu; Special Adviser, Works and Infrastructure, Mrs. Aramide Adeyoye and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Mrs. Tolani Oshodi as members.

“The four of them will very quickly, look through and bring forward a white paper within the next two weeks that will be considered at the Lagos State Executive Council and would be gazetted as a white paper coming from the panel of enquiry,” he stated.

The governor assured that all the recommendations in the submitted reports would be treated, even as he expressed optimism that the government’s decision on the reports would bring healing, reconciliation and restitution.

“We will ensure that the recommendations that are coming out that will be turned into a white paper will be made available to the public. We will do it appropriately, so that history will judge us well.

“We will have a document that will stand the test of time, that’s what the tribunal law says, so that it will be properly documented and gazetted in government’s records” he said.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Panel, Okuwobi ,expressed appreciation to the state government and all the stakeholders who appeared before the panel and the team for uncommon resolve and good team work.

Okuwobi, who disclosed that the panel awarded a total of N410 million to 70 victims of police brutality, said 235 petitions were received with only 14 being on the alleged Lekki shooting incident.

“As much as the panel desired to have taken all petitions, the ones that were not taken by the panel were those that did not comply with our rules. So, in this report, we made recommendations for a body to take over human rights abuse cases in Lagos State” she said.

Monetary Cost of the Year Long Investigation, N800 million

Sources within Alausa yesterday hinted to THISDAY the cost implication of the year’s long investigation. It cost the state government a whopping N800 million to ensure the panel did not experience any funding issues that might have hindered the conclusion of its enquiry.

A competent source within Alausa told THISDAY last night that, Sanwo-Olu had immediately matched his promise with action by flying to Abuja after receiving the report to submit it to the National Economic Council (NEC).

“So two things the governor promised, he is already doing; one to set up a panel to review the report and come up with a white paper that will give teeth to government action and two, he promised to submit the report to NEC, which he did yesterday, after receiving the panel’s report. He flew to Abuja to submit it to NEC. So, action is already being taken. As you can see there was complete independence of the panel,” the source added.

Sanwo-Olu had on October 19, 2020, inaugurated the panel to investigate alleged cases of brutality and human rights violations

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