The United States government has said it awaiting a response from President Muhammadu Buhari government and Lagos authorities about the conclusion of work by the Lagos State Panel for victims of SARS related abuses and other matters.
The judicial body investigated petitions on Police brutality as well as Army’s invasion and shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, during End SARS protests.
The panel chairman, Justice Doris Okuwobi (retired) submitted the report at the Lagos House, Ikeja, on Monday.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu received the findings, recommendations and set up a four-member committee.
The team led by Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), will come up with a White Paper in two weeks.
Sanwo-Olu promised that the state government’s action would be guided by the law and in the public interest.
In a statement on Tuesday, the US Mission in Nigeria said America awaits the response from President Muhammadu Buhari government and Lagos authorities.
The Embassy noted that official actions are part of a process that represents an important mechanism of accountability regarding the EndSARS protests and events at the toll gate.
“Those events led to serious allegations against some members of the security forces”, the statement reads.
“We look forward to the Lagos State and federal governments taking suitable measures to address those alleged abuses as well as the grievances of the victims and their families.”
Newsflash Nigeria had earlier reported that the Lagos State Judicial Panel on #EndSARS revealed the names of nine peaceful protesters who were shot dead by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Tollgate last year.
In its report obtained on Monday, the panel listed names of nine people (all male) who were shot dead at the scene of the protest last year.
Their names are; Victor Sunday Ibanga; Abuta Solomon; Jide; Olalekan Abideen Ashafa; Olamilekan Ajasa; Kolade Salami; Folorunsho Olabisi; Kenechukwu Ugoh and Nathaniel Solomon.
Four others: Abiodun Adesanya; Ifeanyi Nicholas Eji; Tola and Wisdom were missing and presumed dead.
The report noted that 39 other persons either sustained gunshot injuries, were assaulted, or were victims of the stampede that occurred following the military invasion.
The panel further noted, “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.
“A massacre has been defined as the killing of multiple individuals, which is considered to be morally unacceptable especially when perpetrated by political actors against defenceless victims.”—Wikipedia
“The Panel considered whether what took place at the Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th October 2020 was a MASSACRE. According to the learned authors of Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, one of the meanings of MASSACRE is ‘the act or instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty.’
“Against the above ‘contextual’ definitions, the Panel considered the following evidence before it: The EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate were defenceless members of the civil populace, youth, and young adults;
“Both the Lagos State Government and indeed the Federal Government were well aware of their status, objectives and the nature of their protest;
“The presence of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate did not threaten the territorial integrity of Nigeria and could not be considered as a civil insurrection to warrant the intervention of the Nigerian Army; some top officials of the Lagos State Government met with the youths at the Lekki Toll Gate around 12-1 pm of October 20, 2020, seeking selected representatives to discuss an urgent matter with them with a view to persuading them to leave the Lekki Toll Gate; Officers and soldiers of 65 Batallion of the Nigerian Army, led by Lt. Col Bello, left their base with blank and live ammunition to confront and disperse youths holding only their national flags, with live bullets;
”The soldiers actually shot blank and live bullets directly and pointedly into the midst of the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, with the deliberate intention to assault, maim and kill;
“The soldiers turned back ambulances that were invited to render first aid and assistance to the wounded protesters.”
The panel further found, “From the evidence of General A.I.Taiwo (Commander, 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Nigerian Army, Victoria Island, Lagos) on pages 6, 7, 21, 22, the Panel finds that both blank and live bullets were fired by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, for the following reasons:
“Apart from the military men in uniform, the Army left its base with vehicles, rifles, and guns, which contained both live and blank bullets. General Taiwo admitted on page 22 that the Army went to the Lekki Toll Gate with live ammunition.
“As of October 30, 2020, when the Panel visited the Lekki Toll Gate for its on the spot assessment, it was still able to recover two bullets shells which were duly analyzed by the forensic expert hired by the Panel, Sentinel, who is very familiar with weapons used by the Nigerian Army. These bullet shells were said to be the same as or similar to the ones normally used by the Nigerian Army and they have expended shells, meaning they were fired live at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“Petitioners and witnesses appeared before the Panel to give vivid accounts of shootings by the Army into the crowd of protesters. The Panel finds their testimonies credible being eyewitness accounts and would ascribe probative value to their testimony over that of General Taiwo who was not physically present at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“The Panel finds as credible, the case of the EndSARS protesters that soldiers shot directly at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, as confirmed by Lagos State Ballistic Expert, Willie-Harry on page 244 that some video evidence indicates “… instances where troops were seen to be re-arming their weapons before either discharging them to the air or purposely in the direction of the protesters …”
“The Panel believes that the deliberate absence of officers of the Nigerian Army who were present at the Lekki Toll Gate and who were summoned by the Panel was a calculated attempt to conceal material evidence from the Panel and verily believes that their presence would have damaged the case of the Nigerian Army.
“The Panel finds the evidence, presentation, and report of the Ballistic Expert engaged by Lagos State as too general and unrelated to the specific evidence before the Panel on the Lekki Toll Gate Incident. The said report was based largely on extraneous materials that were not produced or tendered before the Panel in order to determine their source or relevance.
“The witness admitted that he did not work with any document or video admitted before the Panel, he did not speak with any of the protesters or petitioners, the doctors or the pathologists or indeed any other relevant witness is known to the Panel.”
On injuries from Lekki Tollgate, the Panel “finds that the testimony of Dr Babajide Lawson of Reddington Hospital as to the nature of treatment offered victims of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident in relation to gunshot wounds which were high velocity ‘entry and exit’, all indicate injuries from military weapons, consistent with the bullet shells recovered by the Panel during its visit and the witnesses that testified before the Panel”.
It also “finds corroboration of the case of gunshot wounds in the testimony of Dr Aromolate Ayobami of Grandville Trauma Centre, where several victims of gunshot wounds were treated comprehensively and discharged.
“The testimony of the EndSARS protesters, especially Miss Serah Ibrahim, Mr. Onileowo Legend, Miss Dabira Ayuku, Miss Kamsichukwu (all of whom were personally present at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20), as to the fact that the Army shot live bullets, video evidence of casualties, fatalities, etc, all lend credence to the fact that the Army shot at the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, which resulted into deaths and other physical injuries.”
“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 the 20th October 2020 and between that night and the morning of the 21st of October, 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 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 the 20th of October 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 the 20th of October.
“The Panel found that there was an attempt to cover up the Incident of the 20th of October by the cleaning of the Lekki Toll Gate and the failure to preserve the scene ahead of potential investigations.”