Lagos govt White Paper picks holes in EndSARS panel report
•Report that nine protesters were killed at Lekki an assumption, it says •Accepts 11 out of 32 recommendations, to forward 14 to FG •Sanwo-Olu calls for harmony, invites Falz, Macaroni, Segalink, others for peace walk •Falz, Macaroni, Farotimi, Kuti decline invitation
LAGOS State government on Tuesday released the White Paper on the judicial panel of inquiry report on the #EndSARS protests that took place last year, rejecting that there was ever any form of massacre at the Lekki tollgate during the incident.
The White Paper made available to newsmen affirmed that the findings of panel that nine people died at Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020 from gunshots fired by the military were based on assumption and speculations.
The government, in the White Paper, said the inconsistencies and contradictions in the entire report concerning the number of persons who died at the tollgate on the fateful day and the cause of death rendered the panel’s findings and conclusions thereon as totally unreliable and, therefore, unacceptable.
It said, “The only victim of gunshot injury from Lekki tollgate was picked up at 7:43 p.m. on October 21, 2020 after the curfew commenced (see page 99). Furthermore, there was no shred of evidence regarding who shot him.”
The White Paper further posited that “This finding of nine (9) deaths at Lekki tollgate on October 20 is even more baffling because apart from listing out their names in that form at pages 297 – 298, the judicial panel offered no explanation regarding circumstances of their death. The names simply sprang up at pages 297 – 298 of the report without any justification.
“It is quite astonishing that in the list of eleven (11) deaths set at pages 297 – 298 two (2) of the names appeared twice (Kolade Salam, Folarunsho Olabisi as Nos. 37 and 38).
Furthermore, the person listed at No. 46, Nathaniel Solomon, who testified as a witness and petitioned the judicial panel of inquiry in respect of his brother who he allegedly died at Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020 was also listed as dead person.
Remarkably, Nathaniel Solomon’s deceased brother (Abata Soloma), was then also listed as No.2 on the list of persons who died at Lekki tollgate.”
The White Paper further pointed out that another substantial inconsistency in the report was the award compensation to only one out of the alleged nine (9) listed as ‘deceased’ which showed that the panel itself had doubts as to the death of eight other allegedly deceased persons on its list.
Eleven out of the 32 recommendations made by the panel were accepted by the state government, while one was rejected.
The government, however, said 14 of the recommendations which it said fall outside the powers of the state will be forwarded to the Federal Government for consideration.
Notwithstanding, it accepted the recommendation of the judicial panel calling for the establishment of a standing committee to bridge the gap between the society and the police via information gathering, community engagement, youth sensitisation, prompt intervention on issues that require intelligence- led policing and community policing principles for the review and action of the state Commissioner of Police.
In accepting the recommendation, tagged: “Panel Recommendation No. 25,” it noted that it would forward it to the Federal Government and National Economic Council (NEC).
Besides, the panel also recommended that any data that might have been generated over the years on the impunity of the police across Nigeria be studied and deployed as early warning signs mechanism, which the Lagos State government noted and promised to forward to the Federal Government and the NEC.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had said the state deserved true healing after the disturbances that trailed last year’s #EndSARS protests against police brutality, declaring that only sustenance of harmony can guarantee the realisation of aspirations of all residents.
Speaking in a live broadcast held at the State House, Alausa, on the government’s position on the recommendations of the judicial panel of inquiry on #EndSARS submitted a fortnight ago, Sanwo-Olu said the state currently faced the hard choice of restoring harmony or doing itself a great harm, while calling on residents to join his administration in strengthening harmony and put the state on the path of peace.
The governor further called on residents to reject those fueling anarchy and suspicion, clinging to unsubstantiated belief that carried no weight of verifiable evidence, while choosing emotion over facts, as he assured that his administration is ready to facilitate better communication between the youth and the security machinery in order to resolve issues before they become intractable.
Governor Sanwo-Olu said he would be leading ‘A Walk for Peace’ in December to herald the healing of the land, while extending an open invitation to the youth, members of the diplomatic corps, civil society groups, students and the media, as well as other stakeholders to join him.
The governor specifically invited Folarin Falana (Falz), Debo Adebayo (Mr Marcaroni), Dele Farotimi, Temitope Majekodunmi, Segun Awosanya (Segalink), Adedotun (Just Detoun), Seun Kuti, Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu and the commander of Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Yinka Egbeyemi and others to join him in the ‘historic march for our dear Lagos.’
“Nobody will build this city for us. Let us show the world who we are. We are Lagosians. A people of great renown, driven by the irrepressible spirit of Lagos. It is a testimony to our strength and resilience as a people that, despite the huge losses incurred because of these terrible incidents, we have bounced back, with our economy as vibrant and virile as ever.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that our prospects are as bright as ever and the best lies ahead of Lagos State and Nigeria.
“We will make it easier for our young people to initiate formal complaints on human rights violations through the Ministry of Justice. We will also improve the coordination between the state government and the security agencies, including the police and the military.
“In this vein, we are studying how to improve security policy formulation, information sharing and clarifying rules of engagement in times of social unrest,” he said.
“Just as we have established a mechanism to compensate all those who lost homes, businesses and livelihoods to the violent destruction of October 2020, we shall also establish a detailed procedure for the just compensation of citizens with verified claims of police brutality committed during the protests,” he added.
Speaking on mixed reactions following the release of the report of the judicial panel of inquiry, Sanwo-Olu said his administration remained committed to the process that would bring a closure to a ‘painful episode’ in the history of the state.
Speaking further, Governor Sanwo-Olu said the muchexpected White Paper on the report of judicial panel of inquiry on #EndSARS would be issued later in the day.
“As a matter of good faith and a sincere commitment to uncovering the truth, we constituted a panel of individuals that we believed were independent, credible, and representative of the various stakeholder communities interested in the movement against police brutality.
“Apart from the chairman of the panel being a respected retired jurist, various stakeholders, including the youth, #EndSARS protesters, the police and civil society groups were represented on the panel. I am sure no member of the panel can claim that the state government made any attempt to influence it in any way throughout the duration of its sitting.
“While I commend the panel for undertaking its task to the best of its abilities. It is, however, regrettable that the panel’s work and the leakage of an unauthorised version of the report have generated much tension. Sadly, a deep wound has been reopened.
“The heated exchanges among various shades of opinion on the report have unfortunately put us all at the risk of missing the larger picture; the fact that what we all seek in common is a land in which we are all safe and secure, law enforcement agents are trusted and justice is guaranteed for all,” he said.
The governor promised that decisions and actions will be based entirely on the law, the weight of evidence and respect for the truth.
Governor Sanwo-Olu expressed his administration’s commitment to end human rights abuses, saying he had never been in any doubt as to the sincerity, patriotism and noble motivations of both organisers of #EndSARS protests and those who participated in the movement to see an end to the human rights abuses by the now disbanded Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS).
The governor said it was also on record that the Federal Government accepted all the demands of the protesters, including the immediate scrapping of SARS, adding that the National Economic Council (NEC) also recommended the establishment of state panels of inquiry into cases of police brutality of which Lagos State government was the first to set up its own panel.
“I can boldly say that no state took the advocacy for police reforms and justice in the face of documented brutality more seriously than we did in Lagos. We have so far paid N420 million in compensation to victims of police brutality, in line with the recommendations of the panel.
“My good people of Lagos State, you will also recall that in solidarity with the protesters, I joined our youths at various points during the demonstrations, particularly at the Lekki Tollgate and Alausa.
“I received the charter of demands of the protesters and promised to pass them on to the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I kept my word and passed on the demands to the president, who promised to act promptly on the issues raised. However, perhaps as a result of entrenched lack of trust between the government and the governed over the years, the protesters responded to the government’s concessions with skepticism and the demonstrations continued, even growing in intensity.
“Regrettably, what had been very well organised and peaceful protests were subsequently hijacked in different parts of the country, particularly in Lagos. In the ensuing descent into anarchy, many of our compatriots were caught up in the violence. Several policemen were killed. Public and private property, including critical infrastructure, were set on fire, leading to losses estimated at several billions of naira.
“At that point, I imposed a curfew to restore normalcy in Lagos. We had only one goal in mind: the maintenance of law and order and the protection of citizens going about their daily lives. This is more than a legal duty. It is a sacred obligation under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which I swore to uphold,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, four frontline entertainers and activists involved in the #EndSARS protests against police brutality, Folarin Falana (Falz), Debo Adebayo, Seun Kuti and Dele Farotimi, have declined the invitation by Governor Sanwo-Olu to join a “walk for peace”.
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