By Prisca Sam-Duru
Since the Lagos State government released its White Paper on the report submitted by the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the government to look into issues surrounding the Lekki Toll Gate saga, which took place October 2020, debates and conversations on the issue have taken a fresh dimension.
The White Paper indicated that out of the 32 recommendations by the Panel, 11 were accepted in totality, six were accepted with modifications, one was rejected and 14 others which are outside the purview of the state, would be forwarded to the federal government for considerations. The Lagos State government rejected the findings of the panel that there was a ‘massacre in context’.
Blaming the Panel for the use of the word ‘massacre in context’ which he described as a strong word, Nigerian lawyer, Liborous Oshoma said he does not fault the Lagos State government on the content of the White Paper, saying that with the inconsistencies in the Panel Report, no reasonable lawyer would accept that as fact.
“After reading the leaked report, my first thought was, I pray this is not what was submitted to Lagos State government because with the inconsistencies on what transpired at Lekki Toll Gate, no reasonable lawyer will accept them as the gospel truth. But it turned out to be same report submitted to Lagos State”, Oshoma who was guest on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’, said
He further said, “I can’t fault the Lagos State Government because of the inconsistencies; in one breath, you accepted the evidence of the pathologist, Prof Obafunwa which indicated that 90 bodies were picked up from Lagos as incontrovertible and in another breath, you said that people died. What the Panel should have done would have been to leave out the issue of massacre and concentrate on the fact that the army was sent to the toll gate, whether with blank or live bullets and, the fact that the protesters were unarmed. If the panel had discussed it from that perspective, we won’t be having the debate on was it a massacre or not. And that’s where I consistently faulted the panel, but on every other findings, fantastic. I give kudos to the efforts of the Panel, I also believe the job was enormous, there ought to have been two panels”.
Oshoma also said that “If you remove the word massacre which is such a strong word, both parties admitted that the Army were there and shots were fired” stressing that “You admitted in one breath that the evidence of Prof Obafunwa was incontrovertible, which said three persons died at the lekki shooting out 90 bodies from over Lagos, that is enough to declare a state of emergency. “Now everybody is fixated on the Lekki issue, nobody is discussing about the remaining 87 deaths recorded in Lagos. The other people that died are also Lagosians. Even if it is one person that died we should talk about it as well as other issues that led to the EndSARS protest- the Nigerian police, the Army, and Nigerian society”.The fact that no one is talking about the other 87 deaths, he noted, could be intentional.
“The narrative has been narrowed to the lekki issue and then the panel has, with their own report, discredited whatever narrative said to have transpired at the Lekki toll gate. Now, we are left to debate that narrative until we completely forget that there were 87 other bodies that died as a result of our security operatives not being top notch in what they should do and, that we are supposed to reform our police”.
He however insisted that while discussions on Lekki shooting continue, the word massacre should be left out since the Panel Report itself had not been able to establish the ‘massacre’ because of lack of evidence. “Let’s leave out the contentious issues for another day and concentrate on the ones we all agree to and find a way to heal the land”, he added.
Oshoma also described the planned peace walk as too premature since all the issues are still hanging.
Also sharing reasons why the Panel Report was rejected, Attorney General of Lagos State and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo said the position of the Lagos State Government was based entirely on the Panel Report which was full of inconsistencies, submitted by itself. According to him, “In one instance at page 288 paragraph M of the report, the judicial panel said they found the evidence of Prof. Obafunwa, the pathologist who conducted autopsies on all the bodies picked up all over Lagos during the protest, not just in lekki and they found his evidence, credible and that there was no evidence to the contrary. “Prof. Obafunwa said of all the bodies he conducted autopsy on, three came from lekki, out of the three, only one had gunshot injury. In law, it means what Prof Obafunwa said outweighs any other evidence. Then the panel goes on to say there were nine deaths. If you look at that page were they listed out 11 deceased persons from Lekki Toll Gate, they didn’t explain how they arrived at that conclusion, how they came about the names, who and when they were shot. That’s a contradiction”. Onigbanjo argued that the Panel said nine people died but ended up awarding compensation to only one, what of the other eight persons. In law, all those contradictions make the report unreliable”.