The Lagos State Judicial Panel on #EndSARS on Monday submitted its report to the Lagos State Government, in which stated, among other things, that the Nigerian Army and police fired live bullets at peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate last year, killing scores of people and injuring many others.
The Nigerian government and military authorities had consistently denied that anyone was killed in the incident, despite video evidence and overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The Lagos panel, has, however, confirmed the killings. It also stated that the “deliberate absence of officers of the Nigerian Army who were present at the Lekki Toll Gate and who were summoned by the Panel was a calculated attempt to conceal material evidence from the Panel.”
The panel also listed names of those killed and injured by security forces on the day of the Lekki Tollgate shooting, 20th October, 2020, while recommending that those involved be dismissed.
The panel was inaugurated on October 19, 2020, to look into complaints of citizens against human rights abuses by the police, but following the October 20 incident, the Terms of Reference of the Panel was expanded to cover it.
The Panel sat for well over one year and took testimonies of petitioners, witnesses, experts and lawyers.
The report stated, among other things, that “From the evidence of General A.I.Taiwo (Commander, 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Nigerian Army, Victoria Island, Lagos) on pages 6, 7, 21, 22, the Panel finds that both blank and live bullets were fired by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, for the following reasons:
“Apart from the military men in uniform, the Army left its base with vehicles, rifles and guns, which contained both live and blank bullets. General Taiwo admitted at page 22 that the Army went to the Lekki Toll Gate with live ammunition.
“As of October 30, 2020, when the Panel visited the Lekki Toll Gate for its on the spot assessment, it was still able to recover two bullets shells which were duly analyzed by the forensic expert hired by the Panel, Sentinel, who is very familiar with weapons used by the Nigerian Army. These bullet shells were said to be the same as or similar to the ones normally used by the Nigerian Army and they were expended shells, meaning they were fired live at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“Petitioners and witnesses appeared before the Panel to give vivid accounts of shootings by the Army into the crowd of protesters. The Panel finds their testimonies credible being eyewitness accounts and would ascribe probative value to their testimony over that of General Taiwo who was not physically present at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“The Panel finds as credible, the case of the EndSARS protesters that soldiers shot directly at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 as confirmed by Lagos State Ballistic Expert, Willie-Harry on page 244 that some video evidence indicate “… instances where troops were seen to be re-arming their weapons before either discharging them to the air or purposely in the direction of the protesters …”
“The Panel believes that the deliberate absence of officers of the Nigerian Army who were present at the Lekki Toll Gate and who were summoned by the Panel was a calculated attempt to conceal material evidence from the Panel and verily believes that their presence would have damaged the case of the Nigerian Army.
“The Panel finds the evidence, presentation and report of the Ballistic Expert engaged by Lagos State as too general and unrelated to the specific evidence before the Panel on the Lekki Toll Gate Incident. The said report was based largely on extraneous materials that were not produced or tendered before the Panel in order to determine their source or relevance. The witness admitted that he did not work with any document or video admitted before the Panel, he did not speak with any of the protesters or petitioners, the doctors or the pathologists or indeed any other relevant witness known to the Panel.”
On injuries from Lekki Tollgate, the Panel “finds that the testimony of Dr Babajide Lawson of Reddington Hospital as to the nature of treatment offered victims of the Lekki Toll Gate 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”.
It also “finds corroboration of the case of gunshot wounds in the testimony of Dr. Aromolate Ayobami of Grandville Trauma Centre, where several victims of gunshot wounds were treated comprehensively and discharged.
“The testimony of the EndSARS protesters, especially Miss Serah Ibrahim, Mr. Onileowo Legend, Miss Dabira Ayuku, Miss Kamsichukwu (all of whom were personally present at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20), as to the fact that the Army shot live bullets, video evidence of casualties, fatalities, etc, all lend credence to the fact that the Army shot at the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20 2020 which resulted into deaths and other physical injuries.”
It noted that General Taiwo was shown video clip – 202010.wa0313 of Hq81D file – where protesters were shouting that the army had shot and killed.
The panel said, “He admitted seeing someone lying on 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 Professor John Obafunwa, a Forensic Pathologist of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, showed that three (3) corpses were deposited at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba Hospital, all from the Lekki Toll Gate 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 Professor Obafunwa would not obliterate the fact that some of them could have come from the Lekki Toll Gate 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 Professor Obafunwa.
“The Panel finds that most of the 96 corpses for which autopsies were conducted by Professor Obafunwa remain unidentified but they were labelled with EndSARS, apparently lending credence to the case of the EndSARS protesters that the shootings by security agencies resulted in mass deaths.
“The Panel finds that the manner of the occurrence of the incidences at the Lekki Toll Gate did not present proper procedure of cordoning off the scene, inviting forensic experts and pathologists, crime experts and others involved in such situations.
“The Panel finds that difficulty in identifying the corpses could have been avoided had Lagos State Government provided timely and adequate funding to conduct DNA tests as was done in the cases of DANA Air crash and Synagogue Church building collapse.
“The Panel is reluctant to accept the view that a large number of the corpses tagged unknown were from the riot in Ikoyi Correctional Centre, being an institution with proper records to identify such corpses and that these may be part of the Lekki Toll Gate casualties.
“In particular, General Taiwo admitted knowledge of Major Osoba Olaniyi, who put out a statement on behalf of the Nigerian Army admitting that the Army was present at the Lekki Toll Gate and they shot but not at the protesters.
“The Panel finds that the firing of live bullets by the Army at genuine protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, 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 Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 was unwarranted, excessive, provocative and unjustifiable in the circumstances of the state of the protests which was peaceful and orderly.”
The panel also noted the evidence before it “shows that after the Nigerian Army left, the Nigeria Police Force, followed up with the killing of the protesters, shooting directly at fleeing protesters into the shanties and the Lagoon at the Lekki Phase 1 Foreshore, close to the Lekki Toll Gate, floating corpse and one shot close to Serah Ibrahim.”
Also in its findings, the panel noted: “That the Nigerian Army was invited for intervention in the State and was deployed to
Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th of October 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 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.
“The panel found that LCC 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 the 20th of October 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 the 20th of October.
The panel which described the killing as a massacre, also found that the soldiers’ unprovoked violence against the protesters was worsened by soldiers’ refusal to allow ambulances to provide medical treatment to victims who needed it.
The panel said the “army grossly violated its own rules of engagement.”
“The Panel found that there was an attempt to cover up the Incident of the 20th of October by the cleaning of the Lekki Toll Gate and the failure to preserve the scene ahead of potential investigations.”