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Unsafe at home, abroad, or anywhere, and nobody cares

WHAT would be sadder than the wanton killing of Nigerians, anywhere they go, is the indifference with which our governments treat the reports. They are not about to change not minding the meaningless words heaped on mountains of unkept promises.

Nigerians are unsafe at home, abroad, and anywhere else. Only the fact that nobody cares beats that melancholic debacle. It means nothing to our governments that Nigerian lives are lost with seeming official approval.

Official reactions to the report of the #EndSARS panel suggest nothing will be done about abuses perpetrated at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on the night of 20 October 2020. Evidences that government and its agencies would do everything to see the report gather dust in shelves are everywhere.

Nigerians are being warned about discussing the report. In place of apologies that retired Justice Dorcas Okuwobi and the panelists recommended to be rendered publicly to Nigerians, we are getting excuses, explanations and threats.

Lagos State Government panel report has destroyed officially preferred version that nobody died at the Lekki Toll Gate; that soldiers and the police killed people at Lekki, brutalised others, and denied the injured access to medical services.

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

The report of the panel the members of which were Honourable Justice Doris Okuwobi, chairperson; Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, representing Civil Society; Frederick Taiwo Lakanu, retired deputy inspector-general of Police, Ms. Patience Patrick Udoh representing Civil Society, Mr. Segun Awosanya, Human Rights Activist, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Odusanya , Director of Citizens’ Rights, Ministry of Justice, Mr. Lucas Koyejo Esq. representative of the National Human Rights Commission, and Mr. Majekodunmi Temitope Oluwaseun, representing the Youth, was lucid and emphatic. Babajide Boye was the secretary and Jonathan Ogunsanya legal counsel to the panel.

“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’s report read. The shot civilians were unarmed.

Soldiers of the 65 Battalion of the 81 Garrison Division, Bonny Camp, led by Sanusi Ovada Bello, a Lieutenant-Colonel, on the invitation of the Lagos State Government to disperse the protesters, attacked the peaceful gathering.

Also indicted was Lekki Concession Company, a Lagos State government company, for “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.” The company also manipulated video footage of the incident on the night of the massacre, the panel’s report stated.

“The protest at Lekki Toll Gate according to eyewitnesses that testified and from the video footages submitted by witnesses and LCC was very peaceful on all the days including the 20th of October, 2020 until the arrival of men of the Nigerian Army. Protesters had cleaners to clear the environment of debris, stones and any other dangerous object. The Panel finds that the modus of the protest was that they had tents, some brought their cars and some other slept on the bare grass. The protesters had cordial relationship with LCC personnel and gave them food in their various offices.

“They had private security men and bodyguards, they also had ambulances to attend to health issues, they had welfare officers who took care of feeding the protesters and they had an effective sanitation team that cleared the protest ground daily through consistent sweeping with zero tolerance for dangerous items and weapons such as stones, sticks, guns, machetes, etc. They also had an effective crowd control mechanism,” according to the report.

“One of the protesters who was shot and taken for dead, Olalekan Sanusi, who eventually escaped to narrate his ordeal and experience stated that 11 corpses were in the van, where he was placed in and presumed dead. Miss Dabira Ayuku also corroborated the above by stating that she saw about 7 dead bodies placed in one of the military trucks at the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of 20th October 2020,” the panel listed measures taken by the soldiers, police and officials of the Lagos State Government to cover up evidence of the massacre.

“It was alleged and corroborated that soldiers picked bullet shells on the night of October 20 and policemen followed up in the morning of October 21 to pick bullet shells. 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,” it stated.

The report reacted thus to claims of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu that no drop of blood was found on the ground of the protest, “Three (3) 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.”

“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.”

Our governments misread the public’s disgust with its management of safety, security, and sanity of Nigerians. Government’s reactions to Lekki Toll Gate report should not confirm a lack of concern about Nigerians and a determination to continue on that journey.

Finally…

WHAT would justice mean for Itunu Babalola, the 22-year-old who died in Ivorien jail after serving two years? She was jailed wrongly and no help came from the Embassy in Abidjan, or the government back home though they all knew about her case and of thousands of other Nigerians detained abroad, often wrongly. The government knew about her case more than eight months ago. Why was nothing, absolutely nothing done?

TWO under-aged friends Monday Oni, 17, and Femi Ayomide, 15, were freed after nine months in Ado-Ekiti prison. They were accused of stealing eye drops for Femi’s dad who has sight challenges. Police arrested them when a search in their home produced an eye drop that they did not have its receipt, charged them to a magistrate court, 49 kilometres from Ikole Ekiti their home, and abandoned the case for lack of evidence. Tope Tomekun, their lawyer, said a neighbour who accused them of bringing things home, instigated the arrest. Do we assume police in Ekiti do not know that persons under 18 years should not be detained in prisons? If the teenagers had money or could hire a lawyer their fate would have been different.

.Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues

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