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Leaked EndSARS report: Fire & Fury

AGF Malami, Lai Mohammed still under heat

They should be sanctioned –Falana
We’re waiting for states’ reports, Buhari tells US
By Seyi Odewale and Olanrewaju Olusegun
Barely five days after the submission of the report by the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi’s panel of inquiry on cases of human rights violation perpetrated by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units to Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, reactions have continued to trail a leaked report.

Otherwise known as Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters, its report was submitted on November 15, barely a year after its inauguration.

However, the report, which was said to have been leaked, as the Lagos government had yet to release a white paper on it, has been viciously contested.

According to page 309 of the leaked report, nine protesters were confirmed dead while four were presumed dead.

The report listed 48 names as those who were casualties of the Lekki EndSARS protest, which allegedly claimed the lives of people. Among the 48, 24 were said to have sustained gunshot injuries, while 15 others were said to have been assaulted by soldiers and the police.

The panel also noted that 96 other bodies were presented by a Forensic Pathologist of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Prof John Obafunwa.

According to the report, the protesters were killed by suspected policemen and soldiers.

It read in part: “The evidence before the panel shows that after the Nigerian Army left, 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.

“Several unidentified bodies were removed by security agencies and LASEHMU (Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit) and deposited at various hospital mortuaries in Lagos State.

“Three trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki Toll Gate in the morning of October 21st October 2020 to clean up the scene of bloodstains and other evidence.

“The testimony and report of Professor John Obafunwa, a Forensic Pathologist of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, showed that three 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 Prof Obafunwa.”

They should be sanctioned- Falana
To some of its protagonists, it was appropriate as its recommendations would heal the wounds of the relatives of the victims and soothe the pains inflicted on those injured.

According to them, it established the denial of governments (both Lagos and Federal Government) which hitherto argued that no lives were lost in the incident.

One of them was a Lagos lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, who said those that tried to cover up the incident last year must be prosecuted.

Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; the Attorney General of Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the managers of the toll gate, Lekki Concession Company (LCC), should be sanctioned for ‘complicity in trying to cover up the “crimes against humanity committed at the toll gate” during the EndSARS protests last year.

We’re waiting for states reports, Buhari tells US
However, the Federal Government has said it will allow the system to run its course and wait for pronouncements from state governments that set up panels to probe police brutality in the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who spoke yesterday at the State House, Abuja, while receiving in audience the United States (US) Secretary of State, Mr Antony Blinken said: “So many state governments are involved and have given different terms of reference to the probe panels.”

Adding: “We at the Federal have to wait for the steps taken by the states, and we have to allow the system to work. We can’t impose ideas on them. The Federal Government has to wait for the reaction of the states.”

Lagos, APC react
But to the antagonists of the report, it was another way of unleashing further misery on Lagos State, which suffered incalculable losses from the arson and destruction that followed the protest.

The ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) saw the report as anti-government and a deliberate attempt to add to the miseries of the state. Its spokesman, Seye Oladejo, disclosed this via a statement yesterday.

“Without any doubt, it is distasteful that commentators have based their utter condemnation on a leaked report which has led to some of the content being disputed by some members of the panel,” the statement read.

“The intention of those behind the leaked report should be condemned by all and sundry as it constitutes another attempt to unleash further mystery on the state. It is the height of irresponsibility and inhumanity to seek political gains from our collective trauma as a nation,” it added.

Also, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, in a statement yesterday, said the state has recognised the various reactions that have trailed the report, urging restraint in order not to nullify the good intentions of the government.

“There have been arguments in the public space over the report. There is a need for us to restrain ourselves from nullifying the good intentions of the government in setting up this Panel, which was well encouraged to do its job– a fact that was acknowledged by the panel.

“Following the Tribunal of Inquiry Law 2015, a committee has been set up to bring up a White Paper on the report to determine the next line of action. At the appropriate time, the Government will make known its views on all the issues raised by the Panel through the release of a White Paper.”

’Panel members unfairly persecuted’
Meanwhile, a member of the panel, yesterday cried out that the panellists were being unduly vilified by those condemning the report. Since the submission of the EndSARS Panel Report to the Governor of Lagos State on November 15, 2021, members of the Panel have become the subject of vicious attacks by those suspected to be agents of the government.

The member, Olu Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said: “All manners of allegations have been heaped upon Panel Members, some of whom have been called unprintable names. I can confirm that no member of the panel lobbied to be appointed into the Panel.

“As a matter of fact in my case, His Excellency, the governor of Lagos State, appealed to me to accept my appointment, which I saw as a call to national service. The primary reason the Governor gave to me then was that he wanted men and women of integrity, independent and not subject to manipulation, to be on the Panel.”

He continued: “Just today, my attention has been drawn to an interview by a Senior Counsel to the Lagos State Government, to the effect that Panel Members collected bribes in the course of the assignment. It is unfair, ungodly, and least expected of the government and its lawyers.

“The Lagos State Government asked for two weeks to enable it to release a White Paper on the report submitted to it by the panel. And we have been waiting, but it would seem that the Lagos State Government has now unleashed mindless propaganda upon panel members whilst at the same time asking for restraint from the general public.

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“I have in my custody, certified true copies of all proceedings of the Panel and all exhibits tendered before the Panel in respect of the Lekki Toll Gate Investigation. I urge the government to call its agents and lawyers to order so as not to provoke aggravated responses.

“It is unfair to seek to denigrate peoples’ hard-earned reputation on account only that they accepted to render selfless service at the behest of the government. If the government and its agents are not restrained from attacking others, nothing stops us from defending our integrity.

“I should not become a victim of an unwarranted attack just because I accepted to serve the government and the outcome of that assignment did not favour the expectations of the government.

Why Oyingbo market in Lagos was shut down – Tinubu-Ojo

“Suffice it to mention that I worked with men and women of unblemished integrity and I’m proud to be associated with them all. I, therefore, appeal to His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State, to call all agents of state to order and to keep to his promise to us to release a White Paper within two weeks and to send the unedited report of the panel to the National Economic Council.”

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