The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has faulted the recently leaked report of the judicial panel constituted by the Lagos State Government to investigate the alleged killing of innocent protesters by security operatives during the October 2020 EndSARS protests.
On Tuesday, Mohammed, who had several times denied that protesters were killed by soldiers who invaded the toll gate to quell the protests, maintained his position during a live press conference .
The panel led by Justice Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge of the Lagos State High Court, had recently submitted the 309-page document containing its findings to the Lagos State Government.
Mohammed, whose reaction came eight days after the panel submitted the report, gave ten reasons why “the report of the panel in circulation cannot be relied on”.
The minister said, “One, the report threw away the testimony of ballistic experts who testified before it. The expert said inter alia in their testimony and I quote “the team finds that from the medical data examined, including the timeline of arrival at medical facility and the nature of the injuries sustained by the victims who were taken to the five medical facilities that no military grade live ammunition was fired at the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on 20th October, 2020.
“The same panel that said it deemed as credible the evidence of the forensic pathologist, Professor John Obafunwa, that only three of the bodies on which post-mortem were conducted, were from Lekki and only one had gunshot injuries, went on to contradict itself by saying nine persons died from gunshot wounds at Lekki.
“Three, the man whose evidence that he counted eleven bodies in a military van when he was left for dead before he escaped, was found to be crucial by the panel. He never testified in person, rather the video of his testimony in quote was played by someone else. It did not occur to the panel to query the veracity of the testimony of a man who said he was shot and presumed dead but still had time to count dead bodies inside a supposedly dark van at night.
“Four, the panel said trucks with brush underneath were brought to Lekki toll gate on the morning of October 21, 2020, to clean up blood stains and other evidence, but still found bullet cases at the same site when it visited it on October 30, 2020. The panel said soldiers picked up bullets from the Lekki toll gate on the night of October 20, 2020, yet same panel claimed that policemen came to the same spot to pick bullet cases on October 21, 2020.
“Five, the panel was silent on the family members of those reportedly killed merely insinuating they were afraid to testify. Even goats have owners who will look for them if they do not return home not to talk of human beings. Where are the family members of those who were reportedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate? If the panel is recommending compensations for the family, what are their identities and addresses? Who will receive the compensation when no family members have stood up to date?.
“Six, how will a man who reported seeing the lifeless body of his brother end up being released as the family’s deceased person.
“Seven, how can a judicial panel convince anyone that the names of some casualties at the Lekki toll gate listed as No. 3 Jide, 42 Tola and 43 Wisdom, are not fictitious names? There are no surnames and yet they were confirmed dead.
“Eight, why did the judicial panel feel compelled to call it a massacre in context? Massacre is massacre. What is massacre in context?
“Nine, the report never mentioned cases of policemen and soldiers who were brutally murdered or the massive destruction of police stations, vehicles and etc, during the EndSARS protest. Could it be that the panel don’t consider these men as human beings?
“Ten, the report did not make any recommendation on innocent people whose businesses were attacks and destroyed during the protest in Lagos, as if it was too busy looking for evidence to support its conclusion of the massacre in context.”
According to the reports, United States Government’s call for accountability in government’s response to the panel report, President Muhammadu Buhari had said that the Federal Government would not “impose ideas” on the Lagos State Government.
Buhari stated this when he received the U.S. Secretary of States, Antony Blinken, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The U.S. Government had warned that it may stop rendering military assistance to Nigeria if it continues to violate human rights.
Blinken, in an interview with CNN, urged the Nigerian Government to bring those indicted by the panel report to book.
“…If there are individuals that – as it emerges from this report – who are responsible for committing abuses, there has to be accountability in terms of those individuals. That too is vital to rebuilding trust between citizens and the state and the security services.”
On what the US would do if human rights abuses continued, he responded, “And, of course, we also have laws in place – the Leahy laws, for example – that make sure that if there are units that have committed abuses, we’re not going to provide equipment to those units.”