LAGOS State government has rejected the resolutions of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of Sars Related Abuses and Other Matters which was recently published indicting the Nigerian authorities for killing nine unarmed youths.
Last year, millions of Nigerians took to the streets for weeks, asking the government to dismantle the Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) of the Nigeria Police Force, which had become notorious for extortion and extra-judicial killings. Embarrassed by the popularity of the protests, the Nigerian government eventually cracked down, ending it forcefully.
Soldiers and policemen were despatched the Lekki Toll Gate that had become the epicentre of the protests where they opened fire, killing dozens. For the last year, the Nigerian government has denied that any shooting took place but an official panel report into the incident published last month revealed the truth, saying no fewer than nine people were killed on the night of October 20, 2020.
This judicial panel of inquiry (JPI) headed by Justice Doris Okuwobi, recommended that a monument memorialising the lives lost and those injured should be erected at the Lekki Toll Gate Plaza. However, today, the Lagos State government has published a 41-page White Paper disputing these findings, saying only one life was lost on October 20 last year.
“This recommendation is not acceptable to Lagos State government for the following reasons: The finding of the JPI at page 288 paragraph M is that the evidence of the pathologist Professor Obafunwa that only three of the bodies that they conducted post- mortem examinations on were from Lekki and only one had a gunshot injury and this was not debunked.
“We deem it credible as the contrary was not presented before the panel. The JPI’s finding of nine deaths is therefore irreconcilable with the evidence of Prof Obafunwa that only one person died of gunshot wounds at 7.43pm at Lekki Toll Gate on October 21, 2020.
“Having held that there was no evidence before it to the contrary of what Prof Obafunwa said, the question is where did the JPI then get its finding of nine deaths? This finding of nine deaths at is even more baffling because apart from listing out their names in tabular form at pages 297-298, the JPI offered no explanation regarding the circumstances of their death.
“It is quite astonishing that in the list of eleven deaths set out at pages 297-298, two of the names appeared twice – Kolade Salami and Folorunsho Olabisi. Furthermore, the person listed as number 46 Nathaniel Solomon, who testified as a witness and petitioned the JPI in respect of his brother who he alleged died at the toll gate was himself listed as having died at Lekki Toll Gate on 20th October 2020.
Remarkably, Nathaniel Solomon’s deceased brother Abuta Solomon was then also listed as number two on the list of persons who died at Lekki Toll Gate. The inconsistencies and contradictions in the entire JPI report concerning the number of persons who died on 20 October 2020 and their cause of death rendered the findings conclusions thereon as totally unreliable and therefore unacceptable,” the White Paper read.
However, the Lagos State government, said it would forward the recommendations made by the #EndSARS panel that disciplinary measures should be meted out to military officers deployed to disperse protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, to the federal government, the National Economic Council and the Nigerian Army. Quoting the JPI’s report, it stated that the panel recommended disciplinary action against Lt Col SO Bello and Major-General Godwin Umelo, who refused to honour the summons of the panel in order to frustrate the investigation.