Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State Governor, Southwest Nigeria has inaugurated a four-member committee to look into the reports of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for victims of police brutality and the Lekki tollgate shooting incident.
In a 309-page report submitted on Monday, Nov. 15, the judicial panel said Nigerian soldiers and police intentionally shot at anti-police brutality protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos on October 20, 2020, and tried to cover up.
During #EndSARS demonstrations, protesters were calling for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit to be disbanded at the Lekki Tollgate, the epicentre of the nationwide protest, when soldiers of the 65 Battalion of the 81 Garrison Division, Bonny Camp, led by Lt. Col Sanusi Bello, fired blank and live bullets at the demonstrators intending to kill and maim.
“The soldiers shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenceless protesters, without provocation or justification, while they were waving the Nigerian Flag and singing the National Anthem,” the judicial panel said.
Amidst evidence from investigations by Amnesty International and local media, the Nigerian army denied shooting live rounds at protesters. Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, also had on several occasions denied there was murder, and described the incident as a “phantom massacre” without bodies.
But the judicial panel identified 48 casualties—11 dead, 24 missing, 8 assaulted by the soldiers and police personnel. The report corroborated HumAngle’s investigation after the first year memorial of the incident.
In the past one year, the panel had heard petitions on police brutality and investigated the contentions around the Lekki Toll Gate incident.
Sanwo-Olu assured a “proper response” to the panel’s recommendations, adding that a “white paper” would be published within the next two weeks.
According to him, the reports and recommendations will be made public and submitted to the National Economic Council for discussion.
“This process will help us start the very difficult process of proper reconciliation, restitution, and bringing together of anyone affected,” Sanwo-Olu said.
The four-member committee would be led by Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN).
Other members of the committee include; 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.
“The soldiers shot blank and live bullets directly and pointedly into the midst of the protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, with the deliberate intention to assault, maim and kill,” the report read.
The panel said, General A. I. Taiwo, the Commander, 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Nigerian Army, Victoria Island, Lagos, admitted that the Army went to the Lekki Toll Gate with live ammunition.
“As of October 30, 2020, when the Panel visited the Lekki Toll Gate for its on the spot assessment, it was still able to recover two bullets shells which were duly analysed by the forensic expert hired by the Panel, Sentinel, who is very familiar with weapons used by the Nigerian Army,” the panel said.
“These bullet shells were said to be the same as or similar to the ones normally used by the Nigerian Army and they were expended shells, meaning they were fired live at the Lekki Toll Gate.”
The panel said it chose accounts of petitioners and witnesses who appeared during its sittings, as credible testimonies with probative value over that of General Taiwo who was not physically present at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“The Panel finds as credible, the case of the EndSARS protesters that soldiers shot directly at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, as confirmed by Lagos State Ballistic Expert, Willie-Harry on page 244 that some video evidence indicates “… instances where troops were seen to be re-arming their weapons before either discharging them to the air or purposely in the direction of the protesters,” the report said.
“The testimony of the EndSARS protesters, especially Miss Serah Ibrahim, Mr Onileowo Legend, Miss Dabira Ayuku, Miss Kamsichukwu (all of whom were personally present at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20), as to the fact that the Army shot live bullets, video evidence of casualties, fatalities, etc, all lend credence to the fact that the Army shot at the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, which resulted into deaths and other physical injuries.”
According to the report, the testimony by Professor John Obafunwa, a Forensic Pathologist of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, showed that three (3) corpses were deposited at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba Hospital, all from the Lekki Toll Gate and the autopsy conducted thereon revealed death from bleeding caused by penetrating objects or rifled weapon.
This, the report said, is apart from the lack of identity of some of the other 96 corpses on the list supplied by Professor Obafunwa. This “would not obliterate the fact that some of them could have come from the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of October 20, 2020, or that some other unidentified corpses may have been removed by their families or the military, as claimed by the EndSARS protesters, far and beyond the list tendered by Professor Obafunwa.”
It said the lack of identity of the corpses lent credence to the case of the EndSARS protesters that the shootings by security agencies resulted in mass deaths.
The report added that soldiers turned back ambulances that were invited to render first aid and assistance to the wounded protesters.
The soldiers’ actions, the report said, was in line with Merriam Webster’s definition of massacre as “the act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty.”
According to the report, personnel of the Nigeria Police Force who were deployed to the toll gate on the night of the incident “shot at, assaulted and battered unarmed protesters, which led to injuries and deaths,” thus aiding the army in the commission of a massacre on unarmed civilians.
According to the report, the panel found that Lekki Concession Company (LCC) in charge of the toll gate maintenance, 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 Toll Gate on the night of the 20th of October 2020, which it tendered before the panel.
Not only these, the panel found that there was an attempt to cover up the incident by “the cleaning of the Lekki Toll Gate and the failure to preserve the scene ahead of potential investigations.”
The panel also found that there was an invitation of the Nigerian Army to Lagos State made by the Lagos State Government through the Governor before the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army deployed its soldiers to the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of October 20, as against Governor Sanwolu’s initial denial.
The report concluded that “the cases of death or injured protesters (w)as credible and uncontroverted.”
The panel of inquiry was drawn from lawyers, judges, experts and activists. It was chaired by Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge and had Babajide Boye as the secretary, and Jonathan Ogunsanya as its legal counsel.
Members include Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a senior lawyer, Fredrick Taiwo Olakanu, a retired deputy inspector general of police and Patience Udoh, Segun Awosanya, Oluwatoyin Odusanya, Lucas Koyejo, Temitope Majekodunmi.
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