BusinessDay

#EndSARS: Panel report resonates with Nigerians

Nigerians said yesterday that the judicial panel report on the Lekki Toll Gate #EndSARS protest resonates with them, as youths say the findings of the report vindicate them.

An excited Akinseloyin Emmanuel, one of the protesters, told BusinessDay that the finding confirmed the truth about the Lekki massacre as against the Federal Government’s claims.

“Even before the investigation, we knew that people were murdered that day. I am just glad that this report has confirmed that it did happen and it will go on record,” Emmanuel said.

The government should own up by punishing those who masterminded the massacre and compensate families of those killed, he said.

Similarly, Akin Olaoye, who was at the frontline of the protest that night, told CNN, “The findings are a big win and lead us on a pathway to obtaining justice for many of the innocent victims, survivors, and lost souls still lying in unmarked graves.”

The #EndSARS campaign, which started on October 5, 2020, drew worldwide attention to Nigeria as youths took to the streets to protest against police brutality and the dismantlement of the country’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Read Also: Key points from the #EndSARS Lagos State panel of inquiry report

But the aftermath of that led to a shooting on October 20, which ultimately crushed the #EndSARS campaign.

Before the report findings, there was evidence, especially video footage from the CNN, that protesters were shot but the government vehemently denied it.

Last month, on the first anniversary of the shooting, Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information, described the incident as a “phantom massacre” and continued to dismiss CNN’s investigation as fake news.

However, findings from the report show that there were 48 casualties of the shooting incident, out of which nine were killed, four presumed dead and others injured.

“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. The manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre,” the report stated.

The Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of #EndSARS Related Abuses and Other Matters also found that the conduct of the Nigerian Army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances to render medical assistance to victims who required such assistance.

“The Army was also found not to have adhered to its own Rules of Engagement. There was also an attempt to cover up the incident by the cleaning of the Lekki Toll Gate and the failure to preserve the scene ahead of potential investigations,” the report highlighted.

According to Confidence MacHarry, a resident security expert at SBM Intelligence, the most important thing from the report is that it shows the government lied.

He said, “This may lead to some sort of de-legitimisation of the state governors in the eye of the people for the fact that the state governors would come out to lie. It tells of Nigerian already established norm as a known false society and it will get difficult to trust political statements and politicians going forward.”

In her social media platform, DJ Switch, a popular disco jockey who live-streamed some of the events of that night, wrote, “Shattered so many lives, and tried to destroy mine. Only for what you desperately tried to hide to be made public… by you! The truth needs no defense! #EndSARS.”

The soldiers were found to have parked their vans at the Toll Gate and removed as many bodies and corpses of the fallen protesters.

One of the protesters who was shot and taken for dead, Olalekan Sanusi, who eventually escaped to narrate his experience, stated that 11 corpses were in the van, where he was placed and presumed dead.

Dabira Ayuku, corroborating the above, stated that she saw about seven dead bodies placed in one of the military trucks on the night of October 20, 2020.

According to the panel, the entire Police, as first responders, did not have adequate facilities, manpower, experience and training to prepare them for such a civil and orderly protest as the one that happened at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.

From the evidence of Serah Ibrahim, as well as Onileowo Legend, Dabiraoluwa Ayuku, and Kamsichukwu Ibe, who participated in the protest, the panel took their accounts as coming from that of eye-witnesses.

Evidence from the testimonies of all witnesses that appeared before the panel indicated that there were protests that emanated from opposition to alleged police brutality and perceived human rights violations and demand for police reforms.

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