Nigeria: Official inquiry destroys government cover-up of massacre

Lekki tollgate, Lagos, Nigeria (Photo: S.aderogba/Wikimedia Commons)

This week, a report by Nigeria’s official Judicial Panel of Inquiry into the October 20, 2020, state attack on #End SARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, blew apart the Nigerian state’s continuous attempt to cover up the killing and injuring of peaceful unarmed Nigerians demonstrating against police brutality.

The inquiry found that at Lekki 11 people were confirmed dead, 4 other persons are missing presumed dead, while many others were injured. The report’s own executive summary stated:

The panel in its report found that on October 20, 2020, 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.

The panel also found that the conduct of the Nigerian Army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances to 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 October 20, 2020, and between that night and the morning of October 21, 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.

The panel found that LCC (Lekki Concession Company) 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 October 20, 2020, which it tendered before the panel.

The panel found that there was an invitation of the Nigerian Army to Lagos State made by the Lagos State Government through the governor before the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army deployed its soldiers to the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of October 20. The panel found that there was an attempt to cover up the Incident of October 20, by the cleaning of the Lekki Toll Gate and the failure to preserve the scene ahead of potential investigations.

The Democratic Socialist Movement, the CWI in Nigeria, and its associated platform, the Youth Rights Campaign (YRC), were extremely active in last year’s #End SARS movement and have continued to campaign on the many issues arising, especially those of state repression and the continued imprisonment without trial of #EndSARS protesters.

The YRC issued today the following statement after the publication of the Judicial Inquiry’s report.

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LAGOS STATE #ENDSARS PANEL REPORT IS A DAMNING INDICTMENT ON THE PRESIDENT BUHARI-LED FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND THE GOVERNOR SANWO-OLU LED LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT WHO HAD BOTH DENIED THE KILLINGS EVER HAPPENED

  • YRC Demands Arrest and Prosecution of all those Responsible, Adequate Compensation for All Victims and immediate and unconditional release of protesters still in Detention
  • For the sack of the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed as well as all elected and appointed political office holders who tried to cover up the truth
  • For a Concerted Campaign of Youth Groups, Socialists, Labour Movement and Pro-Struggle Civil Society Organizations to Ensure Justice is Served in Lagos and nationally

The Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) welcomes the fact that the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on restitution For Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters has irrefutably confirmed that the Nigerian army and the police, acting on the instructions of the President Buhari led Federal Government and the Governor Sanwo-Olu led Lagos State Government, indeed shot and killed harmless and defenseless protesters on the night of 20 October 2020 during the nationwide protest against police brutality.

We commend the members of the judicial panel of inquiry led by Justice Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge of the Lagos State High Court, for a job well done in the face of state pressure to sweep the case under the carpet and the lawyers and activists who without tiring continued to campaign for justice despite desperate efforts and measures to cover up the truth. We demand that all those identified to have been responsible directly and remotely for the killings must be arrested and prosecuted. We also demand that all victims of the shooting are adequately compensated and the release of all #EndSARS protesters numbering hundreds who are still in detention, across the country, one year after. They also must be compensated for being illegally detained.

This report is a damning indictment on the Federal government and the Lagos State government who went to great lengths to deny any killings happened. Most remarkable is the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who called the event of 20th October 2020 “a massacre without bodies” and has probably spent the most time, resources, and energy to disparage the events of that day, and Brigadier General Taiwo who lied under oath. The length to which the ‘Minister of Lies’ went to can only be explained by the desire to hide the Federal Government’s direct or indirect links to the massacre.

Under the climate of lies and propaganda forged by Lai Mohammed and the state machinery backing him to bury the truth, journalists, activists like DJ Switch, and bloggers were run aground, forced into exile or persecuted for insisting on the truth. Many left their homes and jobs never to return again for fear of retribution. A faceless hit squad reportedly prowled the streets of Lagos visiting homes and families of known EndSARS protesters to intimidate them into silence while many reportedly received death threats on their phones. All the while, the living victims of the shooting of 20th October 2020, some with their limbs amputated, and the families of those killed crouched in fear, shame, and anguish as government officials, the most prominent being Lai Mohammed, daily denied and disparaged them on the radio, television, newspapers and social media. Bank accounts belonging to prominent protest organizers were sealed while those of them who had reasons to travel overseas was subjected to harassment and humiliation at the airports. Broadcast stations like CNN were disparaged and threatened with sanctions by the government. Not least is the ban of Twitter which is justified using the event of October 20, 2020, as an example of how citizens use social media to spread lies and panic.

On the basis of the above, the YRC demands the immediate sack of Lai Mohammed as the Minister of Information. Furthermore, any elected or appointed government official seen or heard to have used the state resources at their disposal to deny or cover up the truth of what happened on the 20th of October 2020 should be similarly relieved of their positions. We also demand the unbanning of Twitter and an end to all attacks on democratic rights.

In conclusion, while the report of the panel is a victory, yet activists must not lose sight of the fact that it will take the struggle for the reports to be implemented in full and satisfactorily. That is why the YRC calls for a concerted campaign involving youth groups, Socialists, the labour movement, and activist organizations to ensure that justice is served and all those activists and protesters still in detention, not only in Lagos but also across the country, are immediately released. This will require even more mass meetings, protests, and demonstrations.

We note that one year after, the original demand of the youth revolt which is an end to police brutality is yet to be fully achieved. Instead, police brutality and state repression have even increased. We need to intensify the struggle against police brutality and attacks on democratic rights. But given the rising poverty and starvation facing many families today on account of the brutal pro-capitalist economic policies of the government, such a movement also needs to begin to fight for jobs, an end to the high cost of living, payment of living wage, end to anti-poor policies, etc.

At the moment youth unemployment is over 42% – this translates to tens of millions of graduates of tertiary institutions and non-graduates without jobs or sustenance. This is the dire situation that forces many into crime something which the state now uses to justify the need for such murderous units like Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Our struggle can only win fundamental changes when we deal with the source of our problems. Both police brutality and the rising poverty and unemployment are products of the capitalist economic system which is based on profit and corruption. We need to organize to end this system of greed and inequality by building a mass movement that fights on the day-to-day issues and a mass political alternative to bring to power a workers’ and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies.

YRC email: youth_rights@yahoo.com

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