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Lagos EndSARS panel report and social media tales

By Yemi Adebowale

A disgraceful report by a disgraceful panel. For me, this sums up the report submitted this week by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and other matters to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The report failed to resolve the issue of whether there was a “massacre” at the Lekki Tollgate during the protest or not.

This supposedly investigative panel simply reported allegations instead of investigating the allegations. It failed to do a dispassionate investigation required to support a conclusion. The panel published virtually all the allegations on social media about the alleged massacre instead of conducting an inquiry.

No wonder it concluded that what transpired on the night in question “can be equated to a massacre in context.” To equate something to a massacre is not the same thing as a massacre. The panel was desperate to use the “massacre” narrative of the #EndSARS protesters. An investigative panel should be unflustered and assertive. Going by the definition of “massacre”, there is evidently no evidence of a massacre at the Lekki toll gate on the night of October 20, 2020.

The panel reported that nine protesters were confirmed dead. It reported further that four were “presumed dead,” instead of investigating if they are indeed dead. This means that the investigative panel could not say for certain the exact number of people killed. The families of those supposedly killed did not come forward? Those allegedly killed have no mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and family members. This is exactly what this panel is telling Nigerians. The fact that the panel listed Nathaniel Solomon, a man who is alive and granted video interview to a national newspaper, as among those killed at the Lekki Tollgate, has completely destroyed this report. The video interview of Solomon was used by the online edition of a national newspaper on September 11, 2021.

The panel also listed one of those killed simply as “Jide” without a surname. This is disgraceful. It could not even properly investigate and identify a man it claimed was killed at the toll gate. I’m surprised that the family of “Jide” did not come out to identify him. This panel obviously followed social media claims that “Jide was killed at the toll gate” and included it in its report.

Still reporting social media narratives about the alleged killings, the panel submitted: “It was alleged and corroborated that the soldiers had their vans parked at the Lekki tollgate and removed many bodies and corpses of the fallen protesters, which they took away with their vans.” Who verified this? Was it not the same #EndSARS protesters? The panel did not claim the verification. It did not state that there was an independent verification. It did not list anybody as verifying this independently.

The panel continues with its speculative report thus: “The panel finds that the fact of lack of identity of some of the other 96 corpses on the list supplied by Prof 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.”

The story about this is that Prof. John Obafunwa, a forensic pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, reported 96 other unclaimed corpses in the hospital. He did not say that they were brought from the Lekki toll gate. But surprisingly, the panel submitted that the lack of identity of the 96 corpses “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.” This is outrageous. This panel just supported the claims of the protesters in social media, even when the facts are not there.

The Lagos panel failed to lament the scores of policemen killed by #EndSARS protesters. I guess the policemen are not human beings to it. They don’t have wives and children. They have no families. They are inconsequential. That’s what this Lagos panel is telling us. The panel did not lament thousands of people whose shops or businesses were burnt or looted by the brigands called #EndSARS protesters. Most of these shop owners have not recovered and may never recover.

I am not sorry to say that the Lagos #EndSARS panel’s report is only fit for the dustbin.
In view of the #EndSARS report submitted, I will update the questions I have been asking for over one year regarding these alleged killings: Where are the families of those said to have been confirmed dead at the Lekki toll plaza on the night of October 20, 2020? This is food for thought for all of us today.

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