Human rights watchdog, the Amnesty International has said it is not surprised by the dismissal of the report submitted by the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry (JPI) on EndSARS, by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Amid widespread condemnation of his persistent denial of casualties in the October 20, 2020 Lekki Toll Gate shooting incident by the military and police personnel during the EndSARS protests, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Tuesday, referred to the report submitted by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the EndSARS protests as ‘fake.’
Reacting to the panel’s report, in a statement issued after a press briefing in Abuja, Tuesday, Lai Mohammed called the report ‘fake,’ even as he insisted that the casualties listed by the panel contained unverifiable names.
According to Mohammed, ‘even goats have owners if they do not return home not talk of human beings?’
The Minister concluded that the report by the Lagos State EndSARS judicial panel failed to make any recommendation on the innocent persons whose businesses were attacked and destroyed during the protest in Lagos.
“We reject the notion that our soldiers and policemen massacred innocent Nigerians at Lekki on Oct. 20th 2020. That conclusion is not supported by the weight of available evidence. Indictment for murder is a very serious issue that cannot be done on the basis of allegations and corroborations, as the panel did. Such allegations must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The report incirculation is calculated to embarrass the Federal Government and its agencies without foolproof evidence. The Federal Government has never condoned the abuse of the rights of Nigerians by security agencies under any guise, hence it disbanded SARS and encouraged states to set up the panels to investigate reports of human rights abuses allegedly committed by the disbanded SARS personnel,” said the minister.
However, according to the Amnesty International, there should be investigation into the entire EndSARS protests across the country and not the Lekki Tollgate incident alone, as the organisation faulted the manner the government dismissed the report, even as it urged the Federal Government to verify the evidence provided by it.
Country Director, Amnesty International, Nigeria, Osai Ojigho disclosed this while reacting to the Federal Government’s comment on the Lagos EndSARS probe panel report on a television programme, Tuesday.
“I think the first thing is for us to establish the fact that there are different layers of government. So what has been presented to the Lagos State Government, as we all know, is easy for the governments to communicate with themselves across board.
“I think the minister, with his position in government, should liaise with the state authorities to clarify or check information with regards to the panel’s work.
“That would have been an ideal step; and to allow the state government to carry out its task in this regard. It is not surprising for us at Amnesty International that the minister, Lai Mohammed, continues to deny that unfortunate incident that happened on October 20, 2020, at the Lekki Tollgate.
“We have seen in the last one year the constant attacks, the constant narrative that is geared toward gas-lighting the victims, survivors and witnesses, and create an impression that people are just up to no good,” Ojigho said.
It would be recalled that the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry (JPI) on EndSARS submitted its report to the State Government, penultimate Monday, in which it clearly established that the Nigerian Army fired live ammunition at peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, last year.
The panel chaired by Justice Doris Okuwobi submitted two reports of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for victims of SARS related abuses and other matters to Mr Sanwo-Olu on Monday at the Lagos House, Ikeja.
The two reports submitted by the Panel to Lagos State Government are on investigation on petitions on several abuses and killings by the Nigerian Police, especially the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the October 20, 2020 Lekki Toll Gate shootings during the EndSARS protests hijacked by hoodlums.
The panel in its reports also found the security operatives culpable in the shooting incident on account of the ‘deliberate absence of officers of the Nigerian Army who were present at the Lekki Toll Gate and who were summoned by the Panel was a calculated attempt to conceal material evidence from the Panel.’
The panel was inaugurated on October 19, 2020, to look into complaints of citizens against human rights abuses by the police, on the heels of the outrage that trailed the shooting of peaceful protesters who had converged on the Lekki Toll Gate to protest highhanded and professional misconduct of security operatives attached to the now-disbanded Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) Unit of the Nigeria Police.
Terms of Reference of the Panel was expanded to cover that Lekki shooting incident.
The Panel sat for well over one year and took testimonies of petitioners, witnesses, experts and lawyers.
The panel listed 48 names as casualties of the incident.
According to the report, 9 protesters were confirmed dead, while four were presumed dead, even as about 20 sustained gunshot injuries, while 13 others were assaulted by the military.
The 309-page report established that the protesters were allegedly killed by policemen and soldiers.