At least 99 people were killed in Lagos during the #EndSARS protest and had their bodies deposited at a morgue in the state, an official has said.
The victims include three that were killed in Lekki during the shooting by soldiers at unarmed protesters on October 20, 2020, the Chief Pathologist of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), John Obafunwa, told a Judicial Panel of Inquiry.
He said autopsies were done on the 99 dead bodies which were brought to the morgues between October 19 and 24, 2020. He, however, did not present the details of the autopsies.
Mr Obafunwa, a professor of Medicine and Head of the Department of Morbid Anatomy at the Lagos University College of Medicine, spoke on Saturday while giving evidence to assist the judicial panel in its investigation of the October 20, 2020, Lekki tollgate shooting incident.
The don told the panel that only three corpses were recorded to have been from Lekki, and 96 other bodies from different parts of Lagos.
While giving evidence on the number of dead bodies received from Lekki on the day of the shooting incident, Mr Obafunwa said LASUTH has only three records.
He presented the pictures of three bodies from Lekki to the panel, showing different degrees of injuries.
“Those are the three bodies I was told were from Lekki as recorded by the people who brought them in,” he said.
While being cross-examined by Olumide Fusika, a counsel to some #EndSARS protesters, Mr Obafunwa disclosed that a total of 99 bodies were recorded between October 19 and 24.
“I want to prove to this panel that the claim that only three dead bodies were brought in from Lekki is not true,” Mr Fusika said, while questioning the pathologist.
Mr Fusika, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, requested that the panel order the chief pathologist to present the records of all 99 cases recorded during the period.
“Since he was told that only those three are from Lekki, he might have been told the wrong thing,” Mr Fusika said.
Mr Obafunwa explained that the bodies were deposited by the Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit (SEHMU), an agency in charge of recovering dead bodies.
“I don’t go about scavenging for dead bodies. It is when they are brought in that we are told and it is recorded where they were taken from.”
The chief pathologist said according to their records, the bodies were recovered from different parts of Lagos including Ikorodu, Lagos Mainland, Yaba and Mushin.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how the Lagos State Chief Coroner, Mojisola Dada, called on members of the public whose family members went missing between October 19 and 27 to contact the Department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine, LASUTH for the bodies.
“This is to notify the General Public that the Chief Coroner of Lagos State, Hon Justice M. A. Dada (Mrs.) pursuant to Section 15, Coroner’s System Law of Lagos State, 2015 the Pathology Team would want all those who have lost loved ones between 19th – 27th October 2020 (that is, next-of-kin of the victims) to provide relevant information that would assist the identification exercise,” the public notice read.
However, there have been several testimonies from witnesses of the Lekki tollgate shooting incident that many protesters were shot dead by soldiers
Sarah Ibrahim, one of the protesters, told them panel that at least 10 persons died in the incident.
Mr Fusika requested that the chief coroner be ordered to produced records of the 99 deaths to the panel, including the autopsy reports.
In her ruling, Doris Okuwobi, the chair of the panel, ruled that the chief pathologist should produce a record showing the 99 deaths at the next adjourned date.
However, she said, autopsy reports will not be required as that would expand the work of the panel beyond the terms of reference.
The matter was adjourned till June 19.
The shooting of unarmed protesters by soldiers on October 20, 2020 generated controversies, including the number of people killed and injured during the incident.
Although the Nigerian Army initially denied its soldiers shot at unarmed protesters, the multitude of evidence presented by witnesses, including videos showed that soldiers shot at protesters.
The state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, initially said no one died from the shooting, but later said only two persons died.
Several protesters have appeared before the judicial panel to give evidence that many people were killed at the Lekki tollgate and many others injured.
The protesters said some of the corpses were taken away by the soldiers.
It is still unclear the number of people that died from the shooting incident, but several protesters have come forward with different degrees of gunshot injuries sustained during the shooting.
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