The Lagos State Government has rejected the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters’ judgment that no fewer than nine people died on October 20, 2020, when armed soldiers rushed the Lekki toll gate to disrupt #EndSARS protestors.
This assertion was made in a 41-page White Paper presented by the state administration on Tuesday night, and it contradicted the conclusions of a commission led by Justice Doris Okuwobi, which found that nine people were murdered by gunshots at the toll gate.
The JPI had suggested that a monument be placed at the Lekki toll to honour those who had died or been injured.
The state government responded to the recommendation by saying, “This recommendation is not acceptable to Lagos State Government for the following reasons: The finding of the JPI at page 288 paragraph M is that “The evidence of the pathologist Prof Obafunwa that only 3 of the bodies that they conducted post mortem examination on were from Lekki and only one had gunshot injury and this was not debunked.
“We deem it credible as the contrary was not presented before the panel. The JPI’s finding of nine deaths is therefore irreconcilable with the evidence of Prof. Obafunwa that only one person died of gunshot wounds at 7:43 pm at LTG on October 21, 2020.
“Having held that there was no evidence before it to the contrary of what Prof Obafunwa said, the question is where did the JPI then get its finding of nine deaths? This finding of nine deaths at LTG on 20th October 2020 is even more baffling because apart from listing out their names in tabular form on pages 297-298, the JPI offered no explanation regarding the circumstances of their death.
“It is quite astonishing that in the list of eleven deaths set out at pages 297-298, two of the names appeared twice (Kolade Salami and Folorunsho Olabisi as Nos. 37 and 38).
“Furthermore, the person listed as No. 46 Nathaniel Solomon who testified as a witness and petitioned the JPI in respect of his brother who he alleged died at LTG was himself listed as having died at LTG on 20th October 2020. Remarkably, Nathaniel Solomon’s deceased brother (Abuta Solomon) was then also listed as No. 2 on the list of persons who died at LTG.
“The inconsistencies and contradictions in the entire JPI Report concerning the number of persons who died at LTG on 20 October 2020 and their cause of death rendered the JPI’s findings conclusions thereon as totally unreliable and therefore unacceptable,” the White Paper read in part.
The state government, on the other hand, said it would forward the #EndSARS panel’s recommendation that disciplinary measures be imposed on military officers deployed to disperse protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate to the Federal Government, the National Economic Council, and the Nigerian Army to the Federal Government, the National Economic Council, and the Nigerian Army.
According to the JPI report, the panel recommended disciplinary charges against Lt. Col. S. O. Bello and Major General Godwin Umelo for refusing to honour the panel’s summons in order to sabotage the inquiry.
The Lagos State Government also praised all medical professionals and hospitals, especially Reddington Hospital, for treating protesters who were injured. It disagreed, however, that on October 20, 2020, the hospitals treated patients with LTG gunshot wounds.
The panel called the Lekki tollgate incident a massacre in context, alleging that security forces killed at least nine people when they stormed the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020, to disperse stubborn teenagers protesting police brutality and illegal killings.
The panel named 48 people as casualties, including 22 protestors who were shot, and 15 others who were beaten by military and police.
On November 15, 2021, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu received the panel’s findings and stated that the White Paper will be released in two weeks, which elapsed on November 29, 2021.
In summary, the government accepted 11, rejected one, and accepted six with modifications out of the 32 recommendations made by the judicial panel of inquiry, while 14 recommendations fall outside the powers of the Lagos State Government and will be forwarded to the Federal Government for consideration.