The Lagos State Government has rejected the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters which said no fewer than nine persons lost their lives when armed soldiers stormed the Lekki toll gate to disperse #EndSARS protesters on October 20, 2020.
However, in a 41-page White Paper released by the state government on Tuesday night, it countered the findings by the Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel that nine persons were killed by gunshots at the toll gate saying only one person died.
The JPI had recommended that a monument memorialising the lives lost and those injured should be erected at the Lekki toll but, the state government said, “This recommendation is not acceptable to Lagos State Government for the following reasons: The finding of the JPI at page 288 paragraph M is that “The evidence of the pathologist Prof Obafunwa that only 3 of the bodies that they conducted post mortem examination on were from Lekki and only one had gunshot injury and this was not debunked.
“We deem it credible as the contrary was not presented before the panel.”. The JPI’s finding of nine deaths is therefore irreconcilable with the evidence of Prof. Obafunwa that only one person died of gunshot wounds at 7:43pm at LTG on October 21, 2020.
“Having held that there was no evidence before it to the contrary of what Prof Obafunwa said, the question is where did the JPI then get its finding of nine deaths? This finding of nine deaths at LTG on 20th October 2020 is even more baffling because apart from listing out their names in tabular form at pages 297-298, the JPI offered no explanation regarding the circumstances of their death.
“It is quite astonishing that in the list of eleven deaths set out at pages 297-298, two of the names appeared twice (Kolade Salami and Folorunsho Olabisi as Nos. 37 and 38).
“Furthermore, the person listed as No. 46 Nathaniel Solomon who testified as a witness and petitioned the JPI in respect of his brother who he alleged died at LTG was himself listed as having died at LTG on 20th October 2020. Remarkably, Nathaniel Solomon’s deceased brother (Abuta Solomon) was then also listed as No. 2 on the list of persons who died at LTG.
“The inconsistencies and contradictions in the entire JPI Report concerning the number of persons who died at LTG on 20 October 2020 and their cause of death rendered the JPI’s findings conclusions thereon as totally unreliable and therefore unacceptable,” the White Paper read in part.
Quoting the JPI’s report, it stated that the panel recommended disciplinary actions to the following officers, Lt. Col. S. O. Bello and Major General Godwin Umelo, who refused to honor the summons of the panel in order to frustrate the investigation.
The paper read, “The Lagos State Government notes and it will forward this recommendation to the Federal Government, National Economic Council and the Nigerian Army for their consideration.
“All officers (excluding Major General Omata) and men of the Nigerian Army that were deployed to the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 should be made to face appropriate disciplinary action, stripped of their status, and dismissed as they are not fit and proper to serve in any public or security service of the nation.
“The Nigerian Army is an organisation that has its own disciplinary procedures and processes as set down by law, over which Lagos State government has no control. Nevertheless, Lagos State Government will forward this recommendation to appropriate authorities for their consideration and action.”
The Lagos State Government also commended all medical personnel and hospitals, including Reddington Hospital, which treated citizens who suffered injuries during the protest but disagreed that the hospitals treated victims of gunshot wounds from LTG on October 20, 2020.
The panel listed 48 names as casualties out of which 22 protesters sustained gunshot injuries, while 15 others were assaulted by soldiers and the police.
It listed the names of the deceased as Victor Sunday Ibanga, Abuta Solomon, Jide, Olalekan Abideen Ashafa, Olamilekan Ajasa, Kolade Salami, Folorunsho Olabisi, Kenechukwu Ugoh and Nathaniel Solomon. The report also listed Abiodun Adesanya, Ifeanyi Nicholas Eji, Tola and Wisdom as “presumed dead.”
It stated, “The atrocious maiming and killing of unarmed, helpless and unresisting protesters, while sitting on the floor and waving their Nigerian flags and while singing the National Anthem can be equated to a ‘massacre’ in context.”