July 25, 2023

Mass Burial: Amnesty International investigation not objective  – Gbenga Omotoso 

EndSARS Report: CSOs seek protection of victims, survivors

By Miftaudeen Raji

Former Commissioner for Information in Lagos state, Gbenga Omotoso said the investigation of the Amnesty International on the alleged killing of 103 persons linked with the ENDSARS protest was not objective.

Omotoso stated this while speaking in an interview with Arise Television on Tuesday.

He said, “In this matter, Amnesty International is not the Amnesty International that I used to know. They are not objective. They are not backing whatever they are saying with any scientific evidences or reasoning. 

“Amnesty International itself – the one I used to know – could do this investigation and come out with the truth. But, I suspect that they have been perforated by external forces. 

“So Amnesty International can just sit down in its office and begin to issue statement without taking the step to find out the truth,” he said. 

Recall that the Amnesty International Nigeria on Monday, demanded a transparent coroner’s inquest on 103 slain EndSARS protesters for whom the Lagos State Government is planning a mass burial, saying the plans should be put on hold.

This follows the emergence of an alleged leaked memo addressed to the Lagos State Ministry of Health indicating that the State Government approved N61,285,000 for the mass burial of 103 persons identified as 2020 EndSARS victims.

The memo, dated July 19, 2023, capturing steps for the processing of funds after approval by the governor, surfaced on social media Sunday morning, sparking outrage.

The Lagos State Government however maintained that the victims to be buried were not from the controversial Lekki Tollgate shooting.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr Olusegun Ogboye, while confirming the letter, insisted that the victims were from incidents of violence that occurred in the aftermath of the EndSARS protests.

Speaking on the issue, the Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, in a statement on Monday, said, “The Nigerian authorities must urgently halt their plans to carry out a secret mass burial of #EndSARS victims and instead carry out a thorough and independent investigation into the killings and ensure that those suspected to be responsible are brought to justice in fair trials.”

It added that the authorities must also carry out transparent coroner inquests and autopsies on the 103 #EndSARS victims and publish their identities and the circumstances of their deaths.

Sanusi stated, “It is appalling that the Lagos state government has not even mentioned that it has held the bodies of 103 #EndSARS victims in its custody since October 2020.

“All those detained because of their role in the #EndSARS protests must be immediately released. The Nigerian authorities must also ensure that victims and their families are provided with access to justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation.”

It noted that it had been monitoring developments across Nigeria since the #EndSARS protests began on October 8, 2020.

“In October 2020, an on-the-ground investigation by Amnesty International confirmed that Nigerian security forces opened fire on thousands of peaceful protesters, who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality, killing at least 12 protesters at Lekki toll gate and in Alausa,” director Sanusi said.

“Amnesty International was able to establish that pro-government supporters instigated violence at many of the demonstrations, providing cover for the police to use lethal force against peaceful protesters.

“On 16 November 2020, a Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up to investigate the Lekki toll gate killings submitted its report, which indicted the military and the police for killing unarmed protesters, who were sitting on the floor and waving Nigerian flags and singing.”