Richard Ginika Izuora
All the soldiers and Policemen deployed to the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of October 20, 2020, at the heat of the EndSARS protest across Nigeria have been recommended for dismissal and prosecution.
This was contained in the report by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters which also indicted two senior officers of the Nigerian Army.
The Panel in its 309 page report made 32 recommendations.
The document, was submitted to the Lagos State Government on Monday, November 15, 2021.
The panel, which was inaugurated on October 19, 2020, found that Nigerian Army troops deployed to the Lekki Toll Gate on the evening of October 20; fired live rounds at unarmed protesters; leading to the deaths of several protesters with many others injured.
The panel relied on testimonies of witnesses and protesters who were at the scene of the incident; as well as the evidence of medical personnel who attended to victims of the shooting.
The Panel also declared that soldiers deployed to the scene of the incident failed to abide with their rules of engagement; even as it held that the soldiers not only fired live rounds at the protesters; but also prevented first aid responders from getting to the injured a development it said led to the increased death toll from the shooting. Also, the panel found that Policemen notably from the Maroko division had followed up when the soldiers departed; shooting at and injuring some of the protesters while also threatening others.
Consequently, the panel instituted by the Lagos State Government, after careful consideration indicted two Army officers; while also calling for sanctions against other officers and Policemen deemed culpable in the killing of unarmed protesters.
‘‘The Panel recommends 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.
‘‘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 DPO of Maroko Police Station along with policemen deployed from Maroko Police Station on the 20th and 21st of October 2020 should be prosecuted for arbitrary and indiscriminate shooting and killing of protesters.’’
The panel called for the release of all those arrested in the course of the #EndSARS protest; prosecution of those that may have committed any offence that may be alleged against them; or their release where no prima facie evidence of culpability is preferred against them.
Members of the panel include a Retired Judge of the Lagos State High Court, Hon. Justice Doris Okuwobi; who served as Chairperson of the panel. Other members include Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN (Representative of the Civil Society); Rtd. D.I.G. Frederick Taiwo Lakanu; Patience Patrick Udoh (Representative Civil Society); Mr. ‘Segun Awosanya (Human Rights Activist); Mrs. Oluwatoyin Odusanya (Director, Citizens’ Rights); Mr. Lucas Koyejo, Esq. (National Human Rights Commission); Majekodunmi, Temitope Oluwaseun (Youth Representative Nominated by the Youth) and Mr. Babajide Boye (Secretary).