•History’ll judge us—Sanwo-Olu
•As Adegboruwa tasks gov on report
By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Henry Ojelu & Gabriel Olawale
THE report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution on Lekki Toll Gate Shooting Incident and Cases of Police Brutality as well as human rights violations has indicted the Nigerian Army and the Police of complicity in the death of protesters at the Lekki Toll gate in 2020.
The 309-page report, obtained by Vanguard, detailed how the Army and Police disregarded their rules of engagement during the protest.
The report in its executive summary, said: “The panel in its report found that on October 20, 2020, at the Lekki Toll Gate, officers of the Nigerian Army shot, injured and killed unarmed, helpless and defenseless protesters without provocation or justification, while they were waving the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthem and the manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre.
“The panel also found that the conduct of the Nigerian Army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances render medical assistance to victims who required such assistance. The Army was also found not to have adhered to its own Rules of Engagement.
“The panel found that the Nigerian Police Force deployed its officers to the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of October 20, 2020, and between that night and the morning of October 21, 2020, its officer shot at, assaulted and battered unarmed protesters, which led to injuries and deaths. The police officers also tried to cover up their actions by picking up bullets.
“The panel found that LCC (Lekki Concession Company) 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 October 20, 2020, which it tendered before the panel.
“The panel 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. The panel found that there was an attempt to cover up the Incident of October 20, by the cleaning of the Lekki Toll Gate and the failure to preserve the scene ahead of potential investigations.”
Panel makes 32 recommendations
The Panel also made a total of 32 recommendations, which include “holistic Police Reforms covering welfare, training and proper equipping of Policemen and their working environment; Sanctioning of the officers of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force respectively who participated in shooting, injuring and killing of unarmed protestors at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20 and 21, 2020;
“Development of more robust engagement between the Youth and the Government;
“Setting up of a Standing Committee/Tribunal to deal with cases of violation of human rights by security agencies and a trust fund to settle compensation awarded by such committee/tribunal;
“A public apology to ENDSARS protesters, who were killed, injured and traumatized by the Incident of October 20, 2020, and the memorialisation of the Lekki Toll Gate and the October 20, going forward.”
Panel presents report to Sanwo-Olu
Earlier, the panel presented its report to Governor Bababjide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State for further action and implementations.
The submission of the report came on a day the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said that he didn’t know the whereabouts of the video camera he recovered at Lekki Tollgate.
Governor Sanwo-Olu, who received the report from the panel at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, pledged to treat the report appropriately, saying history will judge the state government well or otherwise.
The panel was led by Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge, while other members comprised Ebun Adegboruwa, SAN, Patience Udoh, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Taiwo Lakanu; Segun Awosanya, human rights activist, Olutoyin Odusanya, Director, Lagos Citizens Mediation Center, and Temitope Majekodunmi, a youth representative.
While receiving the report at the presentation ceremony, Governor Sanwo-Olu constituted a four-man committee, led by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, to prepare a White Paper.
Other members of the committee are Commissioner for Youths and Social Development, Mr. Segun Dawodu; Special Adviser, Works and Infrastructures, Mrs. Aramide Adeyooye and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Mrs. Tolani Oshodi.
Sanwo-Olu vows to release White Paper
Sanwo-Olu, who promised to release the White Paper within two weeks for public knowledge, said: “The committee will very quickly, 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 enquiry.
“We will ensure the recommendations that are coming out will be turn into a white paper and 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’s what the tribunal law says, so it will be properly documented and gazetted in government’s records.
“We hope the report would bring healing, reconciliation and restitution.”
We received 235 petitions — Okuwobi
In her remarks, Chairman of the Panel, 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 being on the alleged Lekki shooting incident.
She said: “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 with our rules, so in this report, we made recommendations for a body to take over human rights abuse cases in Lagos State.”
Adegboruwa tasks Sanwo-Olu on report
But a member of the panel, Mr. Adegboruwa, threatened to release contents if the promises made were not fulfilled.
Adegboruwa, in a statement titled: ‘Lagos EndSARS Panel Submits Report,’, said: “The Lagos State Judicial Panel on #EndSARS has today (yesterday), November 15, 2021, submitted its report to the Lagos State Government, in a brief ceremony at Government House, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.
“The Panel sat for well over one year, listening to testimonies of petitioners, their witnesses, experts and lawyers. The Panel divided its assignment and report into two principal segments to cover general cases of police abuses and the special case of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident.
“Compensation was paid to deserving cases of police abuses, while a special case was made for victims of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of October 20, 2020.”
“True to his word, the Governor of Lagos State granted total independence to the Panel, as we worked according to our conscience and based upon our common convictions.
“Specifically for the Lekki Toll Gate Investigation, we set up certain crucial issues for determination, as to whether:
“There was any protest at the Lekki Toll Gate, the nature of the protest, the presence and mission of soldiers at the Lekki Toll Gate, whether blank or live bullets were shot by the soldiers, whether there was any death and if so, the numbers involved, whether there was any massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, and if so, what evidence is available in proof thereof, whether the police were at the Lekki Toll Gate and if so, whether they shot and killed the protesters, among others.
“The Panel answered these questions truthfully, frankly and courageously, based on the evidence led before it, believing that the crimes against humanity that took place at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, would never happen again in our nation.
“The Panel made far-reaching recommendations concerning the major actors that were found culpable, in order to achieve true healing and reconciliation.
“Although I have my copy of the report of the Panel, I will trust His Excellency the Governor of Lagos State to fulfill his promise to Nigerians to make the findings and recommendations of the Panel public. That is the only way to build a true nation and avoid a repeat of the atrocious acts of security agencies against our people, especially the youths, the vulnerable and the helpless.
“It is my view that Lagos State having appeared before the Panel as a party, having tendered documents before the Panel and led witnesses to take a position on the Incident of the Lekki Toll Gate, it will be unfair and improper for Lagos State to be a judge in its own cause, by seeking to review the report of the Panel.
“However, the Governor explained to me that this would only be done to enable the government implement the findings and recommendations of the Panel and not to tamper with it or mutilate it. I believe His Excellency.
“I will however, keep observing the turn of events and at the appropriate time, one may be forced to state the FULL contents of the report if the promises made are not fulfilled.
“I can never and will never subscribe to anything that would amount to covering up the report of the Panel.
“We have done our work in the best way that we could. Nigerians should demand for justice against all culprits who have been named in detail, in our report.”
I don’t know what happened to ‘Lekki camera’ —FASHOLA
Meanwhile, Mr. Fashola, who spoke on Arise Television, insisted that he handed the camera to a Lagos State government official.
A year ago, when Fashola alongside other government officials visited the scene of Lekki Shootings he “found” a video camera and the event went viral.
He said: “You should not be asking me. You have the tapes showing that I handed it over to the government of Lagos. So you have all the recordings. I think your people were there.
“So don’t ask me what happened to the camera. I don’t know.”