Panel of inquiry finds Nigerian military culpable in Lekki ‘massacre’

A panel of inquiry has discovered the Nigerian army to be culpable within the taking pictures and killing of unarmed residents protesting in opposition to police brutality within the business capital of Lagos in October final 12 months.

In its report, which was leaked on Monday, simply hours after it was submitted to the Lagos state authorities, the panel discovered that there had been 48 casualties, together with 11 individuals killed, and 4 individuals lacking, throughout what it described as a “massacre”.

The military didn’t adhere to its personal rules of engagement and its conduct “was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances render medical assistance to victims who required such assistance”, the report stated.

There was no fast remark by Nigerian authorities.

For years, younger Nigerians had cried out in opposition to the repeated and discriminate occurrences of torture, maiming, extortions, and even homicide by the hands of operatives of a rogue police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). These complaints exploded into two weeks of peaceable #EndSARSprotests throughout largely southern and central Nigeria.

On the night of October 20, 2020, a lot of peaceable youths had been at a toll-gate plaza in Lekki, an upscale Lagos district, persevering with the demonstrations regardless of a curfew.

“At the Lekki Toll Gate, officers of the Nigerian Army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenseless 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,” stated the report.

‘Open secret’

Earlier within the day, males believed to be officers of the state authorities had tampered with surveillance gear on the toll gates however the unfolding situation was captured by stay streams on social media platforms.

The subsequent morning, the committee stated “there was abundant evidence before the panel” that three Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) vans with brushes beneath had been dropped at the scene “to clean up the scene of bloodstains and other evidence”. It additionally stated cops “tried to cover up their actions by picking up bullets”.

“The outcome of the inquiry … basically confirmed an open secret that the sinister attacks on young Nigerians were orchestrated by state actors, premeditated and there was a coordinated attempt to erase the memory of the victims,” stated Adewunmi Emoruwa, lead strategist Gatefield, an Abuja-based coverage evaluation and media agency which had its accounts frozen by the authorities for offering small grants for journalists to report on police brutality final 12 months.

“Acknowledging the massacre is the first step, but the greater hurdle will be bringing the perpetrators to book, as they hold sway over the institutions that are established to serve this purpose.”

There had been different violent episodes attributed to safety forces elsewhere in Lagos that day, together with one within the densely populated low-income space of Mushin the place the police reportedly killed greater than 10 individuals and left dozens wounded.

While the fee, formally often called the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution, was commissioned by the state authorities to probe extrajudicial violence a day earlier than the Lekki shootings, the governor “​​expanded the Terms of Reference of the Panel” to cowl the incident.

The inquiry was marred by various controversies from the start.

Rinu Oduala, named as one in every of its youth representatives after being closely concerned within the protests, resigned, saying she wouldn’t “be part of a cover-up”.

Meanwhile, Sanusi Ovada Bello, the lieutenant colonel believed to have led the troops from the Bonny camp barracks solely about 5km (3.1 miles) away from the toll gates, acquired two summons however didn’t seem earlier than the panel. Other military officers additionally repeatedly didn’t heed the panel’s summons for months, regardless of a few of them submitting affidavits, as acknowledged within the report.

The authorities categorically denied that the military had fired on the protesters, regardless of witness accounts and findings by information reviews and rights teams reminiscent of Amnesty International. Information Minister Lai Mohammed who described the incident as a “phantom massacre”, threatened to sanction CNN journalists for an investigation into the matter.

Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who blamed the taking pictures on “forces beyond his control”, had beforehand stated there have been solely two fatalities throughout the incident.

The panel additionally cited a scarcity of time to completely perform its investigation, saying it “was unable to determine all Petitions arising from the Lekki Toll Gate Incident” and advisable for them to be heard by a tribunal on human rights.

Local media reported Sanwo-Olu, who named a four-person committee led by the state’s legal professional common to look into the findings and situation a white paper on the federal government’s place, promised to help “proper restitution and compensation for everyone who must have been wronged”.