On Sunday, a letter from the Lagos State Government Public Procurement Agency titled: Letter of No Objection – Mass Burial for the 103, the Year 2020 ENDSARS victims, circulated in the internet for several hours.
The letter revealed that the state government engaged the services of Messrs Tos Funeral Ltd, a private firm, at the cost of N61,285,000 to bury 103 bodies tagged as “Endsars victims.”
Many perceived that the bodies scheduled for mass burial were that of protesters killed by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Tollgate on 20 October 2020 during the #EndSARS protest against police brutality.
However, several hours later, the state government through its ministry of health, put out a statement to debunk what it described as misinformation to “stir public disaffection against the Lagos State government.”
The letter showed that the state government had approved 103 bodies recovered across the state for mass burial.
In Sunday’s statement, the ministry’s permanent secretary, Olusegun Ogboye, said that none of the bodies emanated from the Lekki tollgate area of the state.
The state government said it approved the 103 unclaimed bodies for mass burial three years after the incident due to the need to decongest the morgue.
In the aftermath of the #EndSARS violence, Mr Ogboye said that the office of the Chief Coroner had invited members of the public through public adverts and announcements in national newspapers who had lost loved ones or whose relatives had been declared missing between 19 and 27 October 2020 to visit the department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) to identify the bodies.
“Setting the record straight”
The state government said that the 103 bodies were picked by the Lagos State Environmental Health Unit (SEHMU) in the “aftermath of #EndSARS violence and community clashes at Fagba, Ketu, Ikorodu, Orile, Ajegunle, Abule-Egba, Ikeja, Ojota, Ekoro, Ogba, Isolo and Ajah areas of Lagos State.”
“There was also a jailbreak at Ikoyi Prison. The 103 casualties mentioned in the document were from these incidents and NOT from Lekki Toll-gate as being alleged. For the avoidance of doubt, nobody was retrieved from the Lekki Toll Gate incident.”
The state government said that during the judicial panel of inquiry, the chief pathologist of the state, John Obafunwa, was subpoenaed to testify and produce the record of the bodies recovered.
“There was not a single finding in the report or ensuing white paper attributing the death of any named citizen listed in the autopsy to the Lekki incident,” Mr Ogboye said.
What we know
During the judicial panel of inquiry adequately reported by PREMIUM TIMES, the expert witness, Mr Obafunwa, testified that at least 99 people were killed in different parts of Lagos during the #EndSARS protest and had their bodies deposited at a morgue.
Lekki tollgate killings
The shooting of unarmed protesters by soldiers on October 20, 2020 generated controversies, including about the number of people killed and injured during the incident.
Although the Nigerian Army initially denied its soldiers shot at the unarmed protesters, the multitude of evidence presented by witnesses, including videos showed that soldiers shot at the protesters.
The state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, initially said no one died from the shooting, but later said only two persons died.
The judicial panel in its report dismissed the government’s claims, and confirmed nine protesters were killed at the tollgate by state agents
The nine deceased persons mentioned in the report are Victor Ibanga, Abuta Solomon, Jide, Olalekan Ashafa, Olamilekan Ajasa, Kolade Salami, Folorunsho Olabisi, Kenechukwu Ugoh and Nathaniel Solomon.
The report described Abiodun Adesanya, Ifeanyi Eji, Tola, and Wisdom as “missing, presumed dead.” It stated that 22 persons sustained gunshot injuries and 11 were assaulted by military officers.
The report said that officers and soldiers of 65 Batallion of the Nigerian Army, “led by Lt. Col Bello, left their base with blank and live ammunition to confront and disperse youths holding only their national flags, with live bullets,” the report partly reads.
“The soldiers actually shot blank and live bullets directly and pointedly into the midst of the protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, with the deliberate intention to assault, maim and kill.
“The soldiers turned back ambulances that were invited to render first aid and assistance to the wounded protesters.”