The governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has broken his silence on the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the shooting incident that occurred at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, last year.
In a speech delivered on Tuesday, Mr Sanwo-Olu said it is regrettable that the panel’s work and the leakage of an unauthorised version of the report have generated much tension. “Sadly, a deep wound has been reopened,” he said.
The Judicial Panel on November 15 submitted its report on the incident at the Lekki Tollgate, which it described as a “massacre,” to the State governor.
In the report, the panel said at least 46 unarmed protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullets, or assaulted by security forces at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, last year.
The panel also submitted its findings on police brutality, abuses of power extra judicial killings and other high-handedness to the government.
State governor’s reaction
Reacting to the report on the Lekki Tollgate incident, Mr Sanwo-Olu said the panel’s report reopened a deep wound.
“While I commend the panel for undertaking its task to the best of its abilities, it is however regrettable that the panel’s work and the leakage of an unauthorized version of the report have generated much tension. Sadly, a deep wound has been reopened.
“The heated exchanges among various shades of opinion on the report have unfortunately put us all at the risk of missing the larger picture; the fact that what we all seek in common is a land in which we are all safe and secure, law enforcement agents are trusted, and justice is guaranteed for all, ” he said.
The governor said apart from the chairman of the panel, Doris Okuwobi, being a respected retired jurist, various panel members, including the youths, #EndSars protesters, the police and civil society groups were represented on the panel.
“I am sure no member of the panel can claim that the state government made any attempt to influence them in any way throughout the duration of its sitting.
“As I have stated earlier, we have no intention to engage in histrionics or further inflame passion on a matter that has generated intense interest and controversy nationally and internationally. Our decisions and actions will be based entirely on the law, the weight of evidence and an unblemished respect for the truth,” he said.
Release of White Paper
Mr Sanwo-Olu further said his administration is determined that the next steps that will be taken in this process of coming to terms with the events of October 2020, must bring closure to a painful episode in the history of our state, with the release of the white paper later today.
“To be a smart city, we first must be a just one. To be a prosperous state, we must establish ourselves as a peaceful entity. And to achieve the Greater Lagos of our dreams we must learn to live in harmony, even amidst inevitable disagreement.
“In times like these, with anger and animosity too quick and fast at hand, it is easy to hide behind our own prejudices, treating them as deeper truths instead of the superficial lies they are.
“It is far too easy to take sides and choose emotion over fact, even when the truth is to be found in shades of nuance. It is easy to choose darkness over light; to take perverse delight in playing unhelpful games of cynicism and suspicion; to cling to beliefs that do not carry the weight of verifiable evidence,” he said.
The governor said the choice confronting the state is between “restoring greater harmony or doing greater harm.”
“I choose harmony over harm. As your Governor, it is my task to explain why all Lagosians should join me on this path that promises a more beneficial future,” he said.
The governor further said he has never doubted the patriotism and noble motivations of both organizers of and participants in the #EndSARS movement to see an end to the human rights abuses by the now disbanded Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS).
“I can boldly say that no state took the advocacy for police reforms and justice in the face of documented brutality more seriously than we did in Lagos. We have so far paid N420million in compensation to victims of police brutality, in line with the recommendations of the panel,” he said.
He urged the youths and the government to explore ways to establish a harmony of interests and avoid the growing tendency to focus on those things that differentiate and divide one Lagosian from another.
“It is my earnest desire that all of us — the government, the youth, protesters, the police, and other security agencies — learn the appropriate lessons from the #EndSars protests, particularly the Lekki Tollgate incident, with a view to averting any recurrence to the detriment of our dear state,” he said.
He added that he would be leading “a Walk for Peace” in December, alongside Folarin Falana (Falz), Debo Adebayo (Mr Macaroni), Dele Farotimi, Segun Awosanya and other participants, to herald the healing of the state.
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