What Next After EndSARS Report?

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    EndSARS Report
    EndSARS Report

    Thisdaylive.com

    After sitting for one year and 27 days, the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS and Lekki Tollgate Incident submitted its report last Monday. Despite diverse allegations of cover-up, the eight-man panel under the chairmanship of Justice Doris Okuwobi carried out its task with a view to delivering justice to the victims of police brutality.

    The report put an end to controversies on whether officers of the Nigerian Army committed massacre against defenceless protesters at the Lekki Tollgate at the dusk of October 20, 2020. It also put an end to controversies on whether officers of the Nigeria Police assaulted and battered unarmed protesters in the night of October 20, 2020 and in the morning after.

    The 309-report confirmed the video evidence that some #EndSARS protesters were actually killed by the soldiers.

    The strength of the report does not lie in its revelations. Rather, its strength lies more in the methodology adopted to get to the roots of the circumstances surrounding the armed attack on the unarmed protesters, who were exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association as guaranteed under Sections 38-40 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

    As indicated in the report, 80 per cent of those summoned by the panel to testify or give evidence, honoured the panel’s invitations and gave evidence that eventually led it to a meaningful conclusion.

    Apart from cross-examining forensics experts, pathologists and personnel of philanthropic private hospitals that treated victims of armed operations at the Lekki Tollgate, the panel visited the scene of the shootings.

    The Managing Director of Lekki Concessioning Company (LCC), Mr. Yomi Omomuwasan conducted members of the panel around the facility.

    Despite all the institutional constraints encountered during its proceedings, the panel was able to come up with some findings, which again provided the basis for justice if the federal and state government would make good its promises to look into the report and implement its recommendations.

    Also, the report did not only expose the lies in the claim by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed that there was no massacre at the tollgate, but also debunked the insistence by the state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, that only two deaths were confirmed after the incident.

    The panel noted that the #EndSARS protesters at the tollgate were defenceless, helpless and unarmed youths, who were purely campaigning against police brutality, demanding dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and calling for comprehensive police reforms that would make officers of the Nigeria Police accountable.

    Anchored on empirical evidence provided by different stakeholders, the panel proved that both federal and state governments were aware of the status, objectives and the frustration of the #EndSARS protesters.

    By implication, according to the panel, the presence of the protesters at the tollgate did not threaten Nigeria in any way, neither could it be considered as a civil insurrection that could warrant the intervention of the military.

    Apart from firing live bullets at the unarmed protesters at the Lekki tollgate, the report established that the soldiers denied the victims of the armed attack access to rescue and emergency services, which compounded fatalities recorded. In specific terms, the solders turned back ambulances invited to render first aid and assistance to the wounded protesters. In view of its findings, the report concluded that there was a massacre at the tollgate on the night of October 20, 2020.

    Despite denying inviting the military, the panel explained how Governor Sanwo-Olu invited the Nigerian Army to the venue of the #EndSARS protesters.

    Contrary to the provision of the law, the army did not adhere to the guidelines for curfew, which Sanwo-Olu laid down in a state broadcast on October 20, 2020.

    It is obvious that the military deployment to the tollgate violated the provisions of the 1999 Constitution because the presence of the protesters never threatened Nigeria in any way.

    The panel made some far-reaching recommendations, which if fully implemented, could bring an end to the entrenched culture of brutality and impunity among security agencies. It first recommended comprehensive police reforms covering welfare, training and proper equipping of its personnel and their work environment.

    Also, the report recommended disciplinary actions for General Officer Commanding, 81 Division, Maj.Gen. Godwin Umelo and Commanding Officer of 65 Battalion, Lt. Col. Salisu Bello for refusing to honour summons on two different occasions.

    In addition, it recommended that all officers deployed to the tollgate should face appropriate disciplinary action. With the exception of Commander, 81 Division Garrison, Brig. Gen. Francis Omata, the panel demanded that all military officers involved in the operations should be stripped of their status and dismissed on the grounds that they “are not fit and proper to serve in any public or security service of the nation.”

    The panel equally recommended that the Divisional Police Officer, Maroko Police Division, Mr. Raji Ganiyu and all police officers deployed for operation between October 20 and 21, 2020 should be prosecuted for arbitrary and indiscriminate shooting and killing of the #EndSARS protesters.

    The panel also challenged the federal government to publicly apologise to the youth for abruptly undermining the protest with their state actors for the purpose of restitution, healing and reconciliation, three major pillars that would deepen the roots of social justice and internal stability.

    To preserve the memory of the #EndSARS protest, the panel also recommended that Lekki Tollgate should be re-christened ‘EndSARS Tollgate.’

    It also proposed that October 20 be adopted as the EndSARS National Day and Toll Free Day in remembrance of the fallen youths at the Lekki Tollgate.

    The panel also recommended the establishment of a special trust fund and Standing Human Rights Tribunal.

    While the former will be responsible for the compensation of the victims of the Lekki Tollgate incident and other established human rights abuses, the latter will investigate all petitions that the panel could not entertain due to time constraints.

    However, Governor Sanwo-Olu has constituted a four-man committee under the chairmanship of the Attorney General of the state and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyo sore Onigbanjo (SAN) to come up with a white paper on the report of the panel within a fortnight.

    On his part, the federal government is yet to respond almost one week after the panel submitted its report.

    While many have hailed the report as a good effort to end police brutality in the country, others have equally condemned it, describing it as a lazy and hurriedly rehashed document.

    Those who faulted the report added that it was full of contradictions and incoherence.

    But the United Nations has demanded a thorough execution of the recommendations of the judicial panel to rebuild trust and start the process of healing and reconciliation.

    Others are urging civil society organisations (CSOs), international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), diplomatic community and other international institutions to mount pressure on the federal government to implement the panel’s recommendations as a strategy to end the culture of brutality and impunity among security agencies.

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