Opinion

FG must deal with the consequences of reckless denials, and bring perpetrators of the Lekki massacre to justice without delay

Access to Justice welcomes the news of the report submitted by the Judicial Panel of Inquiry (JPI) on the #ENDSARS protest, especially those relating to the events that transpired at Lekki toll gate on the night of 20th October 2020. We also salute the courage of the panel in putting on paper such bold findings.

On the 20th of October 2020, many young Nigerians who made peaceful camp at Lekki toll gate, singing the national anthem while calling for an end to police brutality became casualties from the bullets of those who had sworn to protect them. The report has rightly described the event of that day as a massacre. The report also puts to rest the many denials from the government, the army, the police, and even some sections of the civil society that the massacre never happened.

Key issues in the report include:

· There is undeniable evidence that there was a shooting at the Lekki toll gate on the night of 20th October 2020.

· Forty-eight (48) Nigerians were casualties of the Lekki incident. (The report identifies the casualties by their names). The Report further confirms that 11 (eleven) people are confirmed dead, 5 (five) people are missing and presumed dead and 32 (thirty-two) others were shot at or suffered varying degrees of assault.

· The Nigerian army and the Nigeria Police are complicit in the Lekki incident, contrary to their separate testimonies denying their involvement.

· There was an attempt to cover up evidence of the massacre by security and law enforcement agencies.

The free reign of police brutality as well as the use of violence by security and law enforcement officials on hapless Nigerians has been a thorny issue for far too long in Nigeria and has cost the lives of thousands of young Nigerians. Nigeria needs to urgently address the widening culture of impunity so clearly demonstrated by the military role in the Lekki massacre.

Access to Justice, therefore:

1. Notes that for accountability, the Lagos State Government kept faith with its responsibilities as a government by setting up the Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the Lekki toll gate incident and applauds the Lagos government for doing so. Access to Justice also commends the Judicial Panel of Inquiry for undertaking the assignment diligently and making findings that bring clarity about what transpired at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20 2020. Now the Federal Government must urgently set up a mechanism to implement the recommendations of the report to give a sense of justice and closure to the victims and families of the deceased.

2. Calls for the immediate resignation of the Minister of Information for showing wanton and brazen contempt for the many lives of young Nigerians lost during the protests, denying that there was any loss of lives even before the government had conducted any credible investigation and for encouraging the culture of impunity by security operatives.

3. Urges the Chief of Army Staff, in the light of the Panel’s revelations, to order an immediate inquiry into the conduct of soldiers who took part in the shooting of unarmed protesters. Nigeria is under a national and international obligation to hold persons who kill arbitrarily to account. Without conducting an internal disciplinary investigation into the Lekki shooting incident and identifying the role of each soldier who participated in the killings as well as holding them to account, Nigeria would fail to meet its national and international obligations. Keeping soldiers who committed gross human rights abuses in the military perpetuates the characterization of the Nigerian Army as a haven for perpetrators of gross human rights atrocities and abuses, and this will hinder Nigeria’s effort to win international solidarity and support in fighting insecurity and terrorism.

4. Requests the Lagos State Government to prosecute all the soldiers who carried out such premeditated violence against unarmed protesters, particularly Lieutenant Colonel S.O Bello of the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, who led the military contingent to the Lekki toll gate.

Joseph Otteh
Covener

Deji Ajare

Project Director

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