A demonstrator holds a placard to protest against abuses by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) at the Lekki toll Plaza in Lagos, on October 12, 2020. - Nigerians protested to pressure the government to follow through on disbanding a feared police unit after authorities made the rare concession in the face of widespread anger over abuses. Around 2,000 people blocked one of the main highways in the country's biggest city Lagos, demanding officials make good on an announcement on October 11, 2020, that the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was being scrapped. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP) (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images)

The Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution’s Year Long Report Condemns Military For 2020 Lekki toll Massacre

Late last year, Nigerian protesters took to the streets of Nigeria to protest (peacefully) demonstrators for nearly two weeks over widespread claims of kidnapping, harassment, and extortion by a police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). On October 20th, 2020 during one of the protests, particularly at the Lekki Toll Gate, the Nigerian military in an act to disperse protesters shot at and killed numerous civilians.

Despite an abundance of video evidence, the Nigerian government denied numerous times that protesters were shot. Last month, on the one-year anniversary of the shooting, Nigeria’s Minister of Information Alhaji Lai Mohammed described the incident as a “phantom massacre”.

After much outcry about the situation to the Nigerian government, a Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution at the Lagos Court of Arbitration was charged with investigating last year’s notorious Lekki toll gate shooting in Lagos. The investigating panel was initially set up in October 2020 by the Lagos state government to look into cases of alleged police brutality — and the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad — and later tasked with investigating the toll gate incident.

The Panel 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. The Army was also found not to have adhered to its own Rules of Engagement. The Panel found that the Nigerian Police Force deployed its officers to the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of the 20th October 2020 and between that night and the morning of the 21st of October, 2020, its officer shot at, assaulted,, and battered unarmed protesters, which led to injuries and deaths. The police officers also tried to cover up their actions by picking up bullets.

In the same vein, the panel identified police officers, mainly from the nearby Maroko police station, as also culpable of the massacre of the night. It found that the police also tried to hide evidence of their dastardly action.

According to the Judicial report after a year-long investigation — the panel accuses Nigerian Army officers of having “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.” The panel also found “the conduct of the Nigerian Army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances render medical assistance to victims who required such assistance. The Army was also found not to have adhered to its own Rules of Engagement.

Contrary to the claim of the Governor. Sanwo-Olu, that no drop of blood was found on the ground of the protest, the panel found that: “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.

This will help in proper restitution and compensation for everyone who must have been wronged. I want to assure you, a white paper will be issued. I am going to constitute a committee to review the document between two weeks and bring out a white paper.

Lagos Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has said the Lagos state government would implement the panel’s recommendations, according to local media.

The report concludes that “the cases of death or injured protesters (w)as credible and uncontroverted.”

The Panel of Inquiry was chaired by Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge. Members of the panels include Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a senior lawyer, Fredrick Taiwo Olakanu, a retired deputy inspector general of police and Patience Udoh. Other members of the panel include Segun Awosanya, Oluwatoyin Odusanya, Lucas Koyejo, Temitope Majekodunmi. Babajide Boye is the secretary to the panel while Jonathan Ogunsanya is its legal counsel.

Adedayo Laketu

Adedayo Laketu is a creative inventor who's interested in curating a New Age for Africa across all mediums.

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