Human RightsNews

#EndSARS: Despite Evidence, Nigerian Govt Says No Massacre, Faults Panel’s Report

Backtracking its words, the Nigerian govt says the panel's report that indicted the military of committing a massacre is false.

Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, has dismissed the leaked report of a judicial panel that investigated the Oct. 2020 military shooting of anti-police brutality protesters at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, as false.

Mohammed said the report was riddled with discrepancies to “embarrass the Federal Government and its agencies without foolproof evidence,” during a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

“What is circulating in public space is simply a rehash of the unverified fake news that has been playing on social media since the incident of October 20, 2020,” he said.

The minister said it is incredible that a judicial panel set up to investigate an incident had submitted a report laced with “the same allegations it was set up to investigate in the first instance.”

He added that never in the history of any judicial panel in Nigeria had its report been riddled with so many “errors, inconsistencies, discrepancies, speculations, innuendoes, omissions, and conclusions” that are not supported by evidence, as did the panel’s report.

He said the report had thrown away the testimony of ballistic experts who testified before it: “the team finds that from the medical data examined, including the timeline of arrival at the medical facility and the nature of the injuries sustained by the victims, who were taken to the 5 medical facilities, that no military grade live ammunition (high-velocity) was fired at the protesters at Lekki Tollgate on 20th October 2020, within the timeframe of reference (18.30- 20.34hrs).”

Meanwhile, in the 309-page report submitted on Monday, Nov. 15, the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry said Nigerian soldiers and police intentionally shot at the protesters on Oct. 20, 2020, killing at least 11 people. The military also tried to cover up the massacre, the report said.

“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, describing the incident as a massacre after naming casualties.

TOPSHOT – An aerial view shows protesters gathering at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, on October 15, 2020, during a demonstration to protest against police brutality and scrapping of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). (Photo by Pierre FAVENNEC / AFP) (Photo by PIERRE FAVENNEC/AFP via Getty Images)

But Mohammed, who had on several occasions in the past denied the military action, insisted there was no massacre.

“There’s absolutely nothing in the report that is circulating to make us change our minds that there was a massacre in Lekki on October 20, 2020,” Mohammed said at a press briefing in Abuja on Monday.

According to the report, the testimony of 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.”

The report also said the military took away corpses and cleaned up the scene of the shooting to hinder further investigations by the panel.

The report corroborated HumAngle’s investigation after the first year memorial of the incident.

Also reports from a forensics company, Sentinel Forensic Limited, confirmed that bullets fired from firearms during the #EndSARS protests in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria on Oct. 20, 2020, were from the Nigerian Army.

Mohammed’s statement comes some days after the Nigerian presidency said it would wait for the decision of the Lagos State. Babajide Sanwo-olu, Lagos State Governor, had constituted a four-member committee to look into the findings of the panel’s report. Tensions have risen since the report was leaked. Members of the panel have raised alarm on receiving death threats.

Also, a witness who shared her experience during one of the sittings of the panel was brutally attacked and macheted recently.

Nigerians, human rights groups and the international community have raised concerns around the government’s handling of human rights abuses.

On Monday, Nov. 22, Anthony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, said the Nigerian government’s response to the recommendations of the panel report will inform the Biden administration’s next line of action.

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Aishat Babatunde

Aishat Babatunde heads the digital reporting desk. Before joining HumAngle, she worked at Premium Times and Nigerian Tribune. She is a graduate of English from the University of Ibadan.

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