A civil society organisation, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), has described the Lagos State government’s White Paper on the report of the Judicial Panel on the Lekki tollgate massacre as an insult to the dead and the sensibilities of victims of the shooting incident.
Another group, Youth Rights Campaign (YRC), said the white paper issued by the Lagos State government is an attempt to whitewash the truth, and water down the main recommendations of the panel, especially those pertaining to victims of the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, last year.
In a statement released on Wednesday, CAPPA said the proposed ‘Peace Walk,’ by the state governor, Babajide Sanwolu, can be likened to “dancing on the blood of victims of the Lekki shooting that have been denied justice one year after the incident.
“The white paper report is not only disappointing, but also exposes how far the Lagos government and its federal collaborators will go to deny a known truth. But Nigerians are not deceived,” Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director of CAPPA, said.
The Lagos State government in a 41-page white paper dismissed the finding of the panel that nine persons died at the Lekki Tollgate on the night of October 20, last year, and 37 other protesters shot at, maimed, abused and harassed by security personnel.
The government claimed the panel’s report was filled with inconsistencies and contradictions and is therefore unreliable and unacceptable.
The state government also accepted 11 out of the 32 recommendations made by the panel, rejected one outright, agreed on six with modifications, while 14, which it said, fell outside its powers would be forwarded to the federal government for consideration.
‘Golden moment turned into a joke’
In its statement, CAPPA said the white paper and Mr Sanwo-Olu’s remarks at an earlier briefing on Tuesday, “brush(ed) aside the most important recommendations of the report that have to do with the killing of innocent #EndSARS agitators and the need to bring the perpetrators to book.”
“The panel report mentioned names of the dead and victims that Sanwo-Olu did not even acknowledge. Last week Kamsiochukwu was attacked with machetes and Dabira Oluwa (was) threatened by so-called unknown persons. Some of the Panelists have also (been) threatened.
“Shockingly, Sanwo-Olu turned a golden moment into a joke by proposing a Peace Walk to mark his own commemoration of the shameful events of last year. We refuse such a march. The real date we mark the fallen victims of the state’s mishandling of a peaceful protest is October 20, 2020,” the group said.’
Mr Oluwafemi said the report of the judicial panel established the fact that Nigeria’s Army led by Bello, a lieutenant colonel, was at Lekki Gate on October 20, 2020, and further described the event of that day as a ‘’massacre in a context’’.
“In the 309-page report, the panel confirms the Lekki shooting and goes further to publish the list of victims and casualties of the shooting, indicting the Nigerian Army and police of complicity in the death of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate.
“Part of the recommendations of the panel included that all men of the Nigerian Army excluding Major General Omata that were deployed to the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, should be made to face appropriate disciplinary action and, or stripped of their status and dismissed, while disciplinary actions should be taken against Major General Godwin Umelo and Lt. Col S.O. Bello, who refused to honor the summons of the panel to frustrate the investigation.”
Mr Oluwafemi said the group aligns with the recommendations of the panel and reiterate their demands that criminal prosecution should be instituted against individuals found to have committed the massacre that happened on October 20, last year, at the Lekki Tollgate.
“Until the federal and Lagos State government find the courage to own up to their failures and the murders during the EndSARS protests, genuine peace and justice will be elusive. No so-called peace walk will erase the events that happened on October 20, 2020,” Mr Oluwafemi said.
In its statement, YRC said the white paper reeks of hypocrisy and is an insult to the sacrifice of the Judicial Panel over the past year.
“The released white paper attempts to water down and sidestep the main recommendations of the panel, rejects the crucial findings of the panel that a massacre occurred at Lekki tollgate and in many ways tried to neuter the main thrust of the panel report which is 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 the truth.
“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.
“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 which held all its proceedings openly, transparently and fairly is illogical and a rape of justice. This is democracy turned on its head. This is what the legendary Fela Anikulapo once called ‘Government Magic,’” YRC said.
The group demanded the full implementation of the recommendations of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, adding that the denial by the state and federal government that a massacre occurred at the Lekki tollgate despite the findings of the judicial panel of enquiry 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 20 October 2020 and during the entire #EndSARS protest. We also demand the immediate release of the #EndSARS protesters still unjustly detained across the country,” the group said.
YRC also commended the #EndSARS front-liners who have publicly rejected the “dubious invitation” of the Lagos State governor to join in a “Peace Walk”.
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