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Lagos reacts to controversy over EndSARS panel report

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The Lagos State Government has reacted to the controversy that greeted the leaked report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters.

After the report leaked on Monday, many Nigerians have expressed divided views.

Some of them doubted the contents of the report, pointed out loopholes and asked the Lagos State Government to reject it.

However, others are jubilant, hailing that the report for declaring that a “massacre” happened at Lekki tollgate and protesters were killed.

In a statement by Lagos Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, the state government said it has good intention for setting up the panel.

The statement read, “The Lagos State Government has noted the various reactions that have followed the submission of the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters. There have been arguments in the public space over the report.

“There is need for us to restrain ourselves from nullifying the good intentions of the government in setting up this Panel, which was well encouraged to do its job – a fact that was acknowledged by the Panel.

“In accordance with the Tribunal of Inquiry Law 2015, a committee has been set up to bring up a White Paper on the report to determine the next line of action. At the appropriate time, the Government will make known its views on all the issues raised by the Panel through the release of a White Paper.◦

The panel had said at least nine persons were confirmed dead at the Lekki toll plaza on the night soldiers stormed there to disperse #EndSARS protesters on October 20, 2020.

The Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel made this known in its report submitted to the Lagos State Government on Monday.

Titled, ‘Report of Lekki Incident Investigation Of 20th October 2020’, a copy of which was made available to The PUNCH, the panel said at least 48 protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullet wounds or assaulted by soldiers.

According to the report, nine protesters were confirmed dead, while four were presumed dead.

The panel listed 48 names as casualties of the incident.

Among the 48, about 20 sustained gunshot injuries, while 13 others were assaulted by the military.

Those killed, according to the report, were Victor Sunday Ibanga, Abuta Solomon, Jide, Olalekan Abideen Ashafa, Olamilekan Ajasa, Kolade Salami, Folorunsho Olabisi, Kenechukwu Ugoh and Nathaniel Solomon.

The report also listed Abiodun Adesanya, Ifeanyi Nicholas Eji, Tola and Wisdom as “presumed dead.”

The panel also noted that 96 other corpses were presented by a forensic pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Prof John Obafunwa.

According to the 309-page report, the protesters were allegedly killed by policemen and soldiers.

The report negates the consistent claim by the Federal Government that there was no massacre at the tollgate, a focal gathering point during last year’s nationwide demonstration against extrajudicial killings and police brutality by operatives of the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force.

It found that the firing of live bullets by the Army at genuine protesters resulted in grievous injuries and the loss of lives of the protesters.

Furthermore, the panel recommended “disciplinary actions to the following officers (Lt. Col S. O. Bello and Major General Godwin Umelo), who refused to honour the summons of the panel in order to frustrate the investigation.

“All officers (excluding Major General Omata) and men of the Nigerian Army that were deployed in the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020 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.”

It said the Divisional Police Officer of the Maroko Police Station along with policemen deployed from the Maroko Police Station on October 20 and 21, 2020 should be prosecuted for arbitrary and indiscriminate shooting and killing of protesters.

It recommended that the Lekki Toll Plaza be made a memorial site for the protest by renaming it the #EndSARS Tollgate

It recommended that October 20 of every year be made a “toll free day” at the plaza as long as the tollgate exists.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had said while receiving the panel’s report on Monday that he would set up a four-member committee to raise a white paper on the report.

The committee will be headed by the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), with the Commissioner for Youths and Social Development, Mr Segun Dawodu; the Special Adviser, Works and Infrastructure, Mrs Aramide Adeyoye; and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Mrs Tolani Oshodi, as members. ,,,,

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