The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and other matters has indicted the army and police for shooting unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020.
The Nigerian government had insisted no one was killed in the attack on protesters at the Lekki Tollgate.
But the panel’s report might have vindicated the International Cable News Network, CNN which about a year ago described the Lekki shooting “a massacre.”
CNN had published an investigative report claiming soldiers fired live ammunition directly at protesters at the Lekki toll gate.
Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had vehemently protested against the CNN’s report, saying the news platform had practiced what he called “irresponsible journalism” by relying on fake videos sourced from social media to produce its report.
But reacting to Mohammed’s allegations, the CNN said it stood by its report on the alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at the Lekki toll plaza on October 20, 2020, as the report was “carefully and meticulously researched.”
However, in its report, which it submitted to Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, the panel noted that at least 48 protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullet wounds or assaulted by soldiers who stormed the Lekki toll gate.
“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,” the panel said in its findings.
The panel, which listed 48 casualties from the Lekki shooting, noted that 11 were confirmed dead, four missing and presumed dead, while others suffered gunshot injury, severe assault among others.
The Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel, which asserted that the report is a product of extensive evidence taken at the public hearings with key stakeholders and pertinent role players appearing at the hearings, stressed that it believes the testimony of Dr Babajide Lawson that the situation at the Lekki Branch of Reddington Hospital on the night of October 20, 2020, could be termed as a case of ‘mass casualty’.
The panel added that the Lagos State Chief Pathologist, Prof John Oladapo Obafunwa, in his testimony stated that “deaths of three cases came about at the Lekki but the identities of the dead were unknown.”
It added that the testimony and report of the Forensic Pathologist from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, showed that three corpses were deposited at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba Hospital, all from the Lekki Toll Gate and the autopsy conducted thereon revealed death from bleeding caused by penetrating objects or rifled weapon.
“The Panel also finds that most of the 96 corpses for which autopsies were conducted by Professor Obafunwa remain unidentified but they were labelled with EndSARS, apparently lending credence to the case of the EndSARS protesters that the shootings by security agencies resulted in mass deaths within the State,” the report added.
It said from all available evidence including video evidence of the Lekki Concession Company, LCC and those of Serah Ibrahim, it is without a doubt that the military did not just use blank ammunition at Lekki Toll Gate, but also live ammunition.
“The medical evidence on the nature of the injury sustained by the protesters and cases of death were results of the deployment of live ammunition as confirmed by the forensic experts, Sentinel Forensic limited and Oxygen consulting UK limited.
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“The evidence before the panel shows that after the Nigerian Army left, the Nigeria Police Force, followed up with the killing of the protesters, shooting directly at fleeing protesters into the shanties and the Lagoon at the Lekki Phase 1 Foreshore, close to the Lekki Toll Gate, floating corpse and one shot close to Serah Ibrahim,” it said.
The panel also berated the soldiers for turning back ambulances that were invited to render first aid and assistance to the wounded protesters.
“The denial of ambulances by the soldiers, which could have assisted in the prompt and effective treatment of injured protesters, was cruel and inhuman and it contributed immensely to the large number of deaths and casualties on the part of the protesters, especially those from the Lekki Toll Gate,” it said.
The panel in the report said the deployment of the Army to Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, in the absence of any reported violence, was totally unwarranted.
“The Panel finds that the ineffectiveness of the Police cannot be a justification for the invitation of the Army to Lagos State and the deployment of the Army to the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th 2020.
“Given the number of people gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate, an invitation of the Army to Lagos State and deployment of the Army to disperse such peaceful gathering should not be an option for a government that had already opened up dialogue with the protesters,” it said.
The panel, which asserted that the particular troop that visited the Lekki Toll Gate was from the 65 Battalion under the 81 Division Garrison led by Lt Col. Bello, noted that the representative of the military at the panel, General Taiwo contradicted himself when he stated that the protesters were pelting soldiers with stones and bottles when at the same time he said the same troops gave the protesters drinks and he could not substantiate this allegation in the video he presented when he was cross-examined on the point.
In its recommendations, the panel emphasised that all those involved in the attack on youths should be made to face disciplinary measures.
It also stated, “The Panel recommends that the Lekki Toll Plaza be made a memorial site for ENDSARS Protest: By renaming to ‘ENDSARS TOLLGATE’.
“The panel recommends that October 20th of every year, the day is made a ‘Toll Free Day’ at the Lekki Toll Gate as long as the tollgate exists.
“That for the purpose of restitution, healing and reconciliation, the federal government needs to publicly apologize to the youth for abruptly undermining the protest with their state actors.
“The government should do all it can to bridge the gap of distrust with the Youth.
“A monument memorializing the lives lost and those injured at the Lekki Toll Gate with the names inscribed on the Monument.”
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