November 30th saw Nigeria’s Lagos State government publish a ‘white paper’ in response to the Lagos State Judicial Panel that held a public inquiry into last year’s murderous assault on #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos. This ‘white paper’ sought to completely undermine the Judicial Panel’s conclusion that the Nigerian army attacked the protesters and at least nine died at the toll gate. The Youth Rights Campaign, a campaign platform of the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI Nigeria), issued the following widely reported statement on December 1.
The Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) hereby condemns the white paper issued by the Lagos State government on the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel Inquiry set up to look into allegations of shooting and killing of protesters at Lekki Tollgate on 20th October 2020 following the #EndSARS protest last year. We demand that the white paper on the second report of the panel on the victims of SARS and police brutality, in general, as well as maiming and killing of #EndSARS protesters outside Lekki, must also be made public.
The released white paper attempts to water down and sidestep the main recommendations of the panel, rejecting the crucial findings of the panel that a massacre occurred at Lekki tollgate. In many ways, the white paper tries to neuter the main thrust of the panel report which was meant to ensure justice for victims of the state repression last year. It is to this extent that we consider the white paper an attempt to whitewash of the truth.
The white paper is a product of a so-called “formal committee” headed by the Attorney General of Lagos State. We think it is not only undemocratic but also an insult to the enormous sacrifices of the judicial panel of inquiry as well as a host of witnesses, lawyers, security and medical experts, victims, and, by extension, the many Nigerians who anxiously waited for the panel’s report for over one year, for the Lagos State government, whose actions were a subject of the panel’s investigation, to constitute a secretive bureaucratic committee to cherry-pick the panel’s findings and recommendations. We insist that what the Lagos State government did by setting up a secretive bureaucratic committee headed by the State Attorney General to evaluate the final outcomes of an independent and publicly acknowledged panel of inquiry that held all its proceedings openly, transparently, and fairly, is illogical and rape of justice. This is democracy turned on its head. This is what the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti once called “Government Magic”.
It is not surprising that the language of the white paper is not so different from the dubious argument deployed by the Federal Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and the Federal Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, to discredit the panel report. In fact, the arguments canvassed in the white paper to discredit the key panel findings are borrowed straight from the “misinformation playbook” of Lai Mohammed who called the incident of October 20, 2020 “a massacre without bodies”. This shows to what extent the Lagos and Federal governments are working together towards the objective of ultimately covering up the truth.
The white paper reeks with hypocrisy, all through. For instance, the same Lagos state government which had for many years declared the 12th of June of every year a democracy day under the banner of “true federalism” cynically proposed to forward the recommendation of the panel for the 20th of October to be declared as a “#EndSARS day nationally” to the Federal Government under the specious argument that it has no such powers. Granted that a national public holiday is not within the powers of a state, yet the Lagos state government using its powers under section 2 (2) of the Public Holidays Act (2004) can affirm 20th of October of every year a public holiday in Lagos state to memorialize the victims of the #EndSARS protest including those killed by state forces of repression at Lekki tollgate and elsewhere in the country. This would be seen as an appropriate step for a state which was not only the epicenter of the #EndSARS protest last year but also witnessed the most horrible, outrageous, and blood-curdling use of state repression in recent times to disperse mass protests. Apparently, these discredited “democrats” and “progressives” only remember to scream the battle cry of “true federalism” only where their class interest is solely concerned.
On the basis of all the aforesaid, we hereby demand the full implementation of the recommendations of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry. As far as we are concerned, the continuous denial by both the state and federal government that a massacre or mass killing occurred at the Lekki tollgate, despite the findings of the judicial panel of inquiry, is ridiculous and outrageous. Why set up a panel of inquiry in the first place if its findings would be rejected? Apparently, the state and federal governments were hoping for a favorable outcome but only to be startled by the courage of the panel members in insisting on the truth. We demand the immediate prosecution of security personnel and all those found to have been responsible for maiming and killings of unarmed protesters both on 20th October 2020 and during the entire #EndSARS protest. We also demand the immediate release of the #EndSARS protesters still unjustly detained across the country.
In this regard, the Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) commends #EndSARS front-liners like Falz, Mr. Macaroni, Seun Kuti, and others who have publicly rejected the dubious invitation of the Lagos state government for them to join Governor Sanwo-Olu in a so-called “Peace Walk”. There can be no peace, without justice. We call for an urgent meeting of all youth organisations, activist groups, and civil society to discuss this attempt by the Lagos State government and the Federal Government to upturn the truth and decide on an appropriate collective response. As far as we are concerned, there would be a need for firm collective actions in the following weeks including a clear detailed rebuttal of the white paper’s claims in order to counter the government’s propaganda offensive, mass protests, and demonstrations to show to the government that its effort to whitewash the truth will not be tolerated.
We also call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to show solidarity with the radical youth by issuing public statements condemning the actions of the government and also demanding that justice must be done. This must be followed up with direct and active involvement of the labour movement in the activities of the #EndSARS protesters and the radical youth in general with a view to not only fight against police brutality and state repression but also to jointly struggle to defeat all anti-poor policies including the planned removal of fuel subsidy and further hike in electricity tariff which threaten to gravely affect the already terrible living conditions of Nigerian workers and the youth. This can help lay the political basis for class solidarity of workers and youth to emerge aimed at building a mass political alternative to end capitalism and enthrone a socialist Nigeria.