Lagos State Government has rejected the conclusion of a judicial panel’s report that implicated the Nigerian army and police of carrying out a massacre that killed harmless anti-police brutality protesters at Lekki Tollgate in October 2020.
A statement by Gbenga Omotoso, Lagos commissioner for information said the government’s position followed the submission of the white paper that probed the findings of the judicial panel on Tuesday, Nov. 30.
The development comes two weeks after Babajide Sanwo-Olu inaugurated a four-member committee to draft the white paper following the submission of the panel’s report on Monday, Nov. 15.
In the past year, the panel set up by the Lagos government itself was drawn from lawyers, judges, experts and activists and chaired by Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge. It heard petitions on police brutality and investigated the contentions around the Lekki Toll Gate incident.
In its submission, the panel had said Nigerian soldiers and police intentionally shot at anti-police brutality protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos on Oct. 20, 2020, and tried to cover up.
According to the panel’s report, 48 casualties were identified—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.
However, controversy has trailed the panel’s report. The Lagos government now shared the same stance Nigeria’s minister of information, Lai Mohammed has, on several occasions, upheld that no protester was killed by the security forces.
The report had said soldiers of the 65 Battalion of the 81 Garrison Division, Bonny Camp, led by Lt. Col Sanusi Bello, fired blank and live bullets at demonstrators at the Lekki Tollgate during the nationwide #EndSARS protests that called for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit.
The panel had recommended—among many other things— that the security agents involved in the massacre be prosecuted.
But according to the white paper released on Tuesday, the government said the details about the deaths recorded in LekkiTollgate were insufficient to substantiate that the listed victims in the panel’s report were killed at the Lekki tollgate.
“This finding of nine (9) deaths at LTG on 20 October is even more baffling because apart from listing out their names in that form at pages 297-298, the JPI offered no explanation regarding circumstances of their death. The names simply sprang up at pages 297-298 of the report without any justification,” the committee said.
“On the basis of the above fundamental inconsistencies in the findings the JPI regarding the nine (9) deaths at LTG, and particularly because the findings are clearly and mainly not supported by evidence before the JPI as attested to by the JPI itself, when it said there was no contrary evidence to that of Prof. Obafunwa that only one person died at LTG of gunshot wounds at LTG on 20th October 2020, the Government is therefore unable to accept the finding that nine people died of gunshot wounds at LTG on 20th October 2020.”
It added that the state government would not entertain all the recommendations in the document including the one that called for the prosecution of the security agents.
“Lagos State Government accepted 11 out of the 32 recommendations made by the JPI in its report of 15th November 2021, rejected one (1) and accepted 6 (Six) with modifications,” the document reads.
“Fourteen (14) recommendations fall outside the powers of Lagos State Government and will be forwarded to the Federal Government for consideration.”
It remains unclear when the details of the report would be made available to the public.
But Nigerians and human rights groups have called for the prosecution of the indicted security agents with some suing the Nigerian government over its denial of the report findings and possible attempt to shed the army’s long era of impunity.
Meanwhile, the Lagos governor had called on some activists to join him in a ‘peace walk’ in the state to foster what he called a reconciliation after the Oct. 2020 event that sparked a nationwide dispiritedness. His invite was promptly rejected.
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