EndSARS: Lagos Panel Confirms Killings by Soldiers, Recommends N410m Compensation

EndSARS: Lagos Panel Confirms Killings by Soldiers, Recommends N410m Compensation

…Says Lekki Toll Gate Incident is a Massacre …48 Protesters Were Either Shot Dead Or Injured …Soldiers Carted Away Corpses of Fallen Protesters …Protest Was Peaceful, Had Support from Persons of Diverse Ethnic, Religious Background …Establishment of a Body to Address Human Rights Violations …We’ll Fully Implement Report…Sanwo-Olu The Judicial Panel set up by the

…Says Lekki Toll Gate Incident is a Massacre
…48 Protesters Were Either Shot Dead Or Injured
…Soldiers Carted Away Corpses of Fallen Protesters
…Protest Was Peaceful, Had Support from Persons of Diverse Ethnic, Religious Background
…Establishment of a Body to Address Human Rights Violations
…We’ll Fully Implement Report…Sanwo-Olu

The Judicial Panel set up by the Lagos Government on last year’s #EndSARS protest, which engulfed the country, has confirmed soldiers actually killed some protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, and carted their corpses away in their vans. It also recommends the setting up of a special body to look into human rights violations, stating it could not examine 40 petitions dealing with the issue.

Virtually putting the tale by the Nigerian Government on the incident on its head, the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters, led by Justice Doris Okuwobi, in its report, stated that the atrocious killing of unarmed protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos on the night of October 20, 2020, can be equated to a ‘massacre’ in context.

“It was alleged and corroborated that the soldiers had their vans parked at the Lekki Toll Gate and removed as many bodies and corpses of the fallen protesters which they took away with their vans,” the panel stated on page 295 of its report.

The panel said at least 48 protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullets wounds or assaulted by soldiers who stormed the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020.

“The atrocious maiming and killing of unarmed, helpless and unresisting protesters, while sitting on the floor and waving their Nigerian flags, while singing the National Anthem can be equated to a ‘massacre’ in context,” Page 294 of the bulky 309-page report partly read.

The report dispute the claim by the Federal Government that there was no massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate.

Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, had consistently maintained that the Lekki incident was a “massacre without bodies” and debunked the report of the Cable News Network (CNN) on the incident.

Stating the resolve of his government to fully implement the report, the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday set up a four-member committee led by Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo to raise a White Paper on the reports submitted by the Judicial Panel of Inquiry.

Other members of the committee are; Commissioner for Youths and Social Development, Mr Segun Dawodu; Special Adviser, Works and Infrastructure, Ms Aramide Adeyoye and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Mr Oshodi.

Mr Sanwo-Olu said the Committee would produce a White Paper within the next two weeks to be considered by the Lagos State Executive Council, pledging that the reports and recommendations will be made public and submitted to the National Economic Council (NEC) for discussion.

The Governor constituted the committee after receiving the two reports of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for victims of SARS related abuses and other matters presented to him at the Lagos House, Ikeja by chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (retired).

The two reports submitted by the Panel to Lagos State Government are on investigation on petitions on several abuses and killings by the Nigerian Police, especially the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the October 20, 2020 Lekki Toll Gate shootings during the EndSARS protests hijacked by hoodlums.

Governor Sanwo-Olu also reassured Nigerians, especially residents of Lagos that the government’s action would be guided by the law and in the public interest.

The Governor, expressed hope that Lagos State government’s decision on the reports would bring complete healing, reconciliation and restitution.

“I am going to constitute a four-member committee immediately, which will be headed by the Attorney-General, the Commissioner for Youths and Social Development, the Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure and the Permanent Secretary, the Cabinet office.

“The four of them will immediately 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 Inquiry.

“We will ensure that the recommendations that are coming out that will be turned into a white paper and would be made available to the public. We will do it appropriately so that history will judge us well and we will have a document that will stand the test of time. That is what the tribunal law says, so that it will be properly documented and gazetted in government’s records,” he said.

Okuwobi expressed deep appreciation to the Lagos State Government and all the stakeholders who appeared before the Panel. She also thanked members of the Panel for their uncommon resolve to bring closure to the assignment and good team work.

She said part of the recommendations of the panel is establishment of a body to take over human rights abuses in Lagos.

Justice 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 of it 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 to our rules, so in this report, we made recommendations for a body to take over human rights abuse cases in Lagos State,” she said.

The panel says, “Evidence from the testimonies of all witnesses that appeared before the Panel indicated that there were protests that emanated from opposition to allege police brutality and perceived human rights violations and demand for police reforms. The protests began on or about the 8th of October, 2020 and climaxed with the incident of alleged shooting of the protesters by soldiers and police at the Lekki Toll Gate in the evening of 20th October, 2020.

“The Panel finds that around October 8, 2020 or thereabout, the protest started as a form of campaign against Police brutality and police reforms, with protesters remaining at the protest grounds till about 8-9pm but as it gained momentum, protesters stayed till 3am and then later till the following day, coming in shifts and it thereafter became a continuous process.”

Alluding to the highly organised and very peaceful nature of the protests, the panel says,
“Protesters had prayer meetings, worship services, Jumaat Services, musical interludes, ambulance services, rescue operations, security services and they had meaningful and peaceful interactions with the Lekki Concession Company, Loatsad Promedia, the Governor of Lagos State and other top officials of the State Government and even the security agencies, prior to October 20th 2020, all consistent with peaceful and orderly conduct, not generally associated with hoodlums.

“It was largely peaceful although the panel finds that on the 12th of October 2020, there were reports of unruly behavior consisting of pelting the Governor with water sachets, as well as heckling of his deputy.

“The Panel finds that the protest had the objectives of communicating the grievances of the youths to the appropriate authorities, they had Nigerian flags and it was comprised of people from different tribes and religion, old and young.

“The Panel finds that the protesters had very cordial relationship with the security agencies and even had cause to pave way for some Naval officers who were on a mission somewhere along the Lekki Axis.

“The Panel finds that both the State and Federal Government were well informed about the protest and prominent officials visited the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, including the Governor of Lagos State and other prominent politicians. Prominent stars and musicians were able to engage the Police maturely to avoid any clash between the police and the protesters.”

Also conceding to the rights of the citizenry to peaceful protests, it says, “The right to peaceful protest is the individual and/or collective exercise of existing and universally recognized human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to participation in cultural life, the rights to life, privacy, liberty and security of a person and the right to non-discrimination.

“The right to protest is also essential to securing all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights; Rights to protest is anchored in the human rights treaties signed and ratified by Nigeria.

“International Human rights law treaties signed and ratified by Nigeria specifically International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Nigerian Constitution protect the rights of people to peaceful assembly, to freedom of expression and to association, as well as to participate in the conduct of the public affairs of their country.

“The relevant provisions can be found in Article18, 19 and 20 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18, 19, 21, 22 and 25 of ICCPR and Sections 38, 39 and 40 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

“The protest at Lekki Toll Gate according to eyewitnesses that testified and from the video footages submitted by witnesses and LCC was very peaceful on all the days including the 20th of October, 2020 until the arrival of men of the Nigerian Army.

“Protesters had cleaners to clear the environment of debris, stones and any other dangerous object. The Panel finds that the modus of the protest was that they had tents, some brought their cars and some other slept on the bare grass. The protesters had cordial relationship with LCC personnel and gave them food in their various offices.

“Panel finds that the gathering at the Lekki Toll Gate was not that of hoodlums and cultists. They were vigilant against petty thieves and miscreants who they apprehended and handed over to Policemen. They had private security men and bodyguards, they also had ambulances to attend to health issues, they had welfare officers who took care of feeding the protesters and they had an effective sanitation team that cleared the protest ground daily through consistent sweeping with zero tolerance for dangerous items and weapons such as stones, sticks, guns, machetes, etc. They also had an effective crowd control mechanism,” it says.

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