The Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has concluded that the Nigerian Army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenceless protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.
The judicial panel presided over by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi revealed that 48 victims were identified, eleven confirmed killed, four missing to date while the remaining suffered severe injuries and assault from security operatives.
The panel also recommended in its report submitted to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Monday that the federal government should apologise to the youths for brutally assaulting them and infringing on their rights.
Its also recommended punishment and sanctions for some identified officers especially those who shunned the panel’s invitation.
The judicial panel noted that the Lekki Concession Company, LCCI, was culpable and refused to cooperate with the panel to get to the root of the incident, especially not making the CCTV camera available.
It specifically recommended that disciplinary actions be taken against Lt. Col S.O. Bello and Major General Godwin Umelo, who refused to honour e summons of the panel to frustrate the investigation.
The panel concluded that the officers and men of the Nigerian Army should be made to face appropriate disciplinary action, stripped of their status, and dismissed as they are not fit and proper to serve in any public or security service of the nation.
“That the Nigerian Army was invited or intervened in the State and Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th of October 2020. At the Lekki Toll Gate, officers of the Nigerian Army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenceless 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 acerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances to render medical assistance to those who required such assistance. The Army was 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 20th October 2020 and between that night of the 21st of October, 2020, its officers assaulted and battered unarmed protesters, which led o injuries and deaths.
“The officers also tried to cover up their actions by picking up pellets.
“The panel found that LCC hampered the panel’s investigation by refusing to turn over some vital information/evidence requested by the Panel and the Forensic Expert engaged by the panel, even where the information and evidence were by the company’s admission, available.
“It manipulated the incomplete CCTV Video footage of the Lekki Toll Gate the night of the 20th of October 2020, which it tendered before the Panel.
“The Panel found that there was an invitation to Nigerian Army 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.”
Some other recommendations of the panel are that “the entire Police Force, as first responders, did not have adequate facilities, manpower, experience and training to prepare them for such civil and orderly protest as happened at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.
“That the Police should be adequately funded, that the police should be effectively trained, that the provision of requisite accommodation and equipment be provided.
“The recommendation of a better and more harmonized communication system with all security apparatus of the state.
“The welfare of police officers particularly as it relates to improved salary, well-equipped offices, provision of decent accommodation and transportation.
“The Panel recommends that the Lekki Toll Plaza be made a memorial site for END SARS Protest: by renaming to “END SARS 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 October 20th of every year be made EndSARS day Nationally for the remembrance of our falling youth.
“That for restitution, healing and reconciliation, the Federal Government needs to publicly apologize to the youth for abruptly undermining the protest with their state actors.
“Several unidentified bodies were removed by security agencies and LASEHMU (Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit) and deposited at various hospital mortuaries in Lagos State.
“Three trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki Toll Gate in the morning of October 21st October 2020 to clean up the scene of bloodstains and other evidence.
“There was abundant evidence before the Panel that the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) indicated in its Twitter handle that it had effectively cleaned up the Lekki Toll Gate scene immediately after the incident of October 20, 2020.
“The denial of ambulances by the soldiers, which could have assisted in the prompt and effective treatment of injured protesters, was cruel and it contributed immensely to a large number of deaths and casualties on the part of the protesters, especially those from the Lekki Toll Gate.
“The Panel finds the cases of death or injured protesters as credible and uncontroverted.
“The Panel finds that most EndSARS protesters and victims of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of October 20, 2020, were largely unwilling to be identified in public for fear of persecution and harassment by the security agencies and the government generally.
“Immediately after the protest, there was palpable fear that the Army and Police were visiting hospitals to ‘finish up’ the protesters to the extent that some of them could not return home immediately. Some of the protesters received threats and some were being trailed by unknown persons.”