President Muhammadu Buhari explains that the reason he has not publicly commented on the extrajudicial killing of peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll-gate area last week is that the facts surrounding the incident are still unclear.
While witnesses said at least 15 people were killed on the spot on Tuesday and some of their bodies were seized by the army, investigation by Amnesty International placed the figure at a minimum of 10. The body of one of the demonstrators, Folorunsho Olabisi, who had been missing following the incident, was later found at the mortuary of St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos, with three gunshot wounds.
Evidence has also surfaced that military trucks left the 65 Battalion, Bonny Camp in Lagos, minutes to the Lekki Toll Plaza, about 20 minutes before the shooting started. According to Sahara Reporters, the bodies of eight of the killed protesters were dumped at MRS Hospital by the military officers.
Buhari, however, said on Sunday that he had “all along avoided going into a debate about the Lekki Toll Gate incidents until all the facts are established”.
This was contained in a statement released by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
“As the Judicial panel of inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government, one of the more dozen states to do so, starts sitting on Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his full support and optimism that it will assist the nation to give justice to peaceful protesters who lost their lives, security men who were murdered and property owners whose assets were vandalised and looted,” he said.
He said Buhari appealed to Nigerians to maintain peace and allow the criminal justice system to penalise those who perpetrated murder, arson, theft, rape, and other crimes in the past weeks.
“He said it is important that the police and other security agencies move everywhere to restore calm and normalcy as quickly as possible,” Shehu said.
“President Buhari said while his administration is working hard through many pragmatic ways to reduce the hardship of the millions of our unemployed, poor citizens and those whose lives have been thrown into disarray by the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he warned that resort to widespread attacks and the organized looting and plundering of public and private property in many states are inimical to public good and stand condemned.
“A government that has launched a massive crackdown on corruption, brought in strong laws for a decisive battle against corruption, pursues loot recovery at home and abroad, and taken strong decisions against those who thought they were above the law, will not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into free-for-all vandalism and looting.”
The president also condemned the wave of looting across different states in the country.
“What is more, is that criminal actions as we have so far witnessed can weaken and erode the confidence of our people and that of foreign businesses in investing in the economy. Looting and vandalism will hurt trade and investment growth in our country, both large and small industries, as well as our hardworking people in the informal sectors of the economy,” he argued.
“These incidents do not reflect well on any society. They are wrong and condemnable and should not be supported by reasonable members of the society.
“In line with this, President Buhari commends the decision of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to prosecute 229 suspects arrested by the police for allegedly using the #EndSARS protest to destroy and loot public and private property.”
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