By Olajide Meseko
The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and other matters says at least eleven persons were confirmed dead at the Lekki toll plaza on the night soldiers stormed there to disperse #EndSARS protesters on October 20, 2020.
The Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel made this known in its report submitted to the Lagos State Government on Monday.
Titled, ‘Report of Lekki Incident Investigation Of 20th October 2020’, a copy of which was sighted by CKN News, the panel said at least 48 protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullet wounds or assaulted by soldiers.
According to the report, nine protesters were confirmed dead, while four were presumed dead.
The panel listed 48 names as casualties of the incident.
Among the 48, about 20 sustained gunshot injuries, while 13 others were assaulted by the military.
Those killed, according to the report, were Victor Sunday Ibanga, Abuta Solomon, Jide, Olalekan Abideen Ashafa, Olamilekan Ajasa, Kolade Salami, Folorunsho Olabisi, Kenechukwu Ugoh and Nathaniel Solomon.
The report also listed Abiodun Adesanya, Ifeanyi Nicholas Eji, Tola and Wisdom as “presumed dead.”
The panel also noted that 96 other corpses were presented by a forensic pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Prof John Obafunwa.
According to the 309-page report, the protesters were allegedly killed by policemen and soldiers.
The report read in part, “The atrocious maiming and killing of unarmed, helpless and unresisting protesters, while sitting on the floor and waving their Nigerian flags, while singing the National Anthem can be equated to a massacre in context.
“It was alleged and corroborated that the soldiers had their vans parked at the Lekki tollgate and removed as many bodies and corpses of the fallen protesters, which they took away with their vans.”
The report negates the consistent claim by the Federal Government that there was no massacre at the tollgate, a focal gathering point during last year’s nationwide demonstration against extrajudicial killings and police brutality by operatives of the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had staunchly maintained that the Lekki incident was a “massacre without bodies” and had threatened to sue the Cable News Network and another international media house that claimed otherwise.
The panel in its findings said “the testimony of Dr Babajide Lawson of Reddington Hospital as to the nature of treatment offered victims of the Lekki Tollgate Incident in relation to gunshot wounds, which were high velocity ‘entry and exit’, all indicate injuries from military weapons, consistent with the bullet shells recovered by the panel during its visit and the witnesses that testified before the panel.”
The panel stated further findings as follows; “The panel finds corroboration of the case of gunshot wounds in the testimony of Dr Aromolate Ayobami of the Grandville Trauma Centre, where several victims of gunshot wounds were treated comprehensively and discharged.
“General Taiwo was shown video clip 202010.wa0313 of Hq81D file where protesters were shouting that the Army had shot and killed. He admitted seeing someone lying on the ground with what looked like blood, but stated that the video was fake when he did not produce his own original video on behalf of the Army.
“The testimony and report of Prof John Obafunwa, a forensic pathologist of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, showed that three corpses were deposited at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba Hospital, all from the Lekki Tollgate and the autopsy conducted thereon revealed death from bleeding caused by penetrating objects or rifled weapon.
“The panel finds that the fact of lack of identity of some of the other 96 corpses on the list supplied by Prof Obafunwa would not obliterate the fact that some of them could have come from the Lekki Tollgate 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 Prof Obafunwa.”
It found that the firing of live bullets by the Army at genuine protesters resulted in grievous injuries and the loss of lives of the protesters.
“Panel also finds that the shooting of the protesters by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020 was unwarranted, excessive, provocative and unjustifiable in the circumstances of the state of the protests, which were peaceful and orderly.”
Furthermore, the panel recommended “disciplinary actions to the following officers (Lt. Col S. O. Bello and Major General Godwin Umelo), who refused to honour the summons of the panel in order to frustrate the investigation.
“All officers (excluding Major General Omata) and men of the Nigerian Army that were deployed in the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020 should be made to face appropriate disciplinary action, stripped of their status, and dismissed as they are not fit and proper to serve in any public or security service of the nation.”
It said the Divisional Police Officer of the Maroko Police Station along with policemen deployed from the Maroko Police Station on October 20 and 21, 2020 should be prosecuted for arbitrary and indiscriminate shooting and killing of protesters.
It recommended that the Lekki Toll Plaza be made a memorial site for the protest by renaming it the #EndSARS Tollgate
It recommended that October 20 of every year be made a “toll free day” at the plaza as long as the tollgate exists.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had said while receiving the panel’s report on Monday that he would set up a four-member committee to raise a white paper on the report.
The committee will be headed by the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), with the Commissioner for Youths and Social Development, Mr Segun Dawodu; the Special Adviser, Works and Infrastructure, Mrs Aramide Adeyoye; and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Mrs Tolani Oshodi, as members.