Officers of the Nigerian Army “provocatively and unjustifiably” shot live bullets and killed several #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, and then took their corpses away, the Lagos judicial panel on police brutality has established in its report submitted to the state government.
“The Panel finds that the firing of live bullets by the Army at genuine protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, resulted in grievous injuries and the loss of lives of the protesters,” the report said.
“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,” an excerpt from the panel’s report released on Monday read.
The panel was set up by the state government in the wake of the #EndSARS protest against extrajudicial killings and police brutality in October 2020.
Having sat for a year and taken testimonies of experts, petitioners, lawyers, and witnesses, the panel found credible, the testimonies of petitioners and witnesses who appeared before the panel to give accounts of how soldiers fired shots at protesters.
The army initially denied its presence at the protest ground on October 20, but soon the Commander, 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Nigerian Army, Victoria Island, Lagos, General A.I.Taiwo admitted that the soldiers went to the toll gate with live ammunition.
Soldiers arrived at the protest ground in their vehicles, with rifles and guns containing live and blank bullets, and fired shots at protesters who sat, singing and waving the Nigerian flag. They were also denied victims immediate care, the report affirmed.
“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.”
It also established that testimonies of Babajide Lawson of Reddington Hospital and Aromolate Ayobami of Grandville Trauma Centre indicated that treatments were offered to victims shot by the Nigerian military personnel.
The panel held that it found from witnesses’ testimonies that “soldiers had their vans parked at the Lekki Toll Gate and removed as many bodies and corpses of the fallen protesters which they took away with their vans.”
“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 report further enunciated.
After the panel was set up to conduct investigations on the incident, the army refused to present officers at the panel, this, the panel described as a deliberate attempt to conceal material evidence.
“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,” it said.
John Obafunwa, a Forensic Pathologist of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, had presented autopsy reports of 99 bodies, three of which he claimed were recovered from the Toll Gate.
But the panel “finds that the fact of lack of identity of some of the other 96 corpses on the list supplied by Professor Obafunwa would not obliterate the fact that some of them could have come from the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of October 20, 2020, or that some other unidentified corpses may have been removed by their families or the military, as claimed by the EndSARS protesters, far and beyond the list tendered by Professor Obafunwa.”
“The Panel is reluctant to accept the view that a large number of the corpses tagged unknown were from the riot in Ikoyi Correctional Centre, being an institution with proper records to identify such corpses and that these may be part of the Lekki Toll Gate casualties.
Evidence also showed that operatives of the Lagos Police Command also arrived at the protest ground and killed protesters after the army left.
“After the Nigerian Army left, the Nigeria Police Force, followed up with the killing of the protesters, shooting directly at fleeing protesters into the shanties and the Lagoon at the Lekki Phase 1 Foreshore, close to the Lekki Toll Gate, floating corpse and one-shot close to Serah Ibrahim,” the report stated.
It further alleged that the LCC hampered the panel’s investigation by refusing to provide useful evidence and an attempt to conceal the incident by cleaning up the scene.
“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 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.”
A member of the panel, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, in a statement on Monday, urged the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to make the panel’s findings public as promised.
“Although I have my own copy of the report of the Panel, I will trust His Excellency the Governor of Lagos State to fulfill his promise to Nigerians to make the findings and recommendations of the Panel public. That is the only way to build a true nation and avoid a repeat of the atrocious acts of security agencies against our people, especially the youths, the vulnerable, and the helpless,” he said.
Recently, Mr Adegboruwa alleged that there were plans to frustrate the panel’s findings. “There are attempts to frustrate the EndSARS Judicial Panel from reaching meaningful conclusions on investigations into the Lekki Toll Gate incident of 20th October 2020,” he said on Facebook.