Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State

Lagos releases White Paper on EndSARS Panel’s report, accepts 11 of 32 recommendations, calls ‘fatal shooting of protesters’ as imaginary

Lagos Government has released the White Paper on the #EndSARS Panel of Inquiry report.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State

In the report, the state government accepted 11 recommendations made by the panel, just as it rejected the panel’s claim on fatal shooting by the security operatives, including the military, during the Lekki Toll gate on October 20, last year, as it called it imaginary.

Lagos Government also accepted 6 modifications.

“In fulfilment of the promise made by Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu during his State broadcast earlier today, the White Paper on the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry report of Lekki Toll Gate Incident Investigation has been released.

“Commissioner for Information and Strategy Mr. Gbenga Omotoso will make the documents available to the public,” read a message from the government, Tuesday.

A leaked version of the White Paper, however, indicates that 14 of the 32 recommendations fall outside the powers of the state and will be forwarded to the Federal Government for consideration.

Details of what the recommendations are, however, yet to clear.

Briefing the press, Tuesday, Lagos Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu said his government has so paid N420 million in compensation to victims of police brutality, in line with the recommendations of the panel.

“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 youths, #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 them 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.

“We have no intention to engage in histrionics or further inflame passion on a matter that has generated intense interest and controversy nationally and internationally. Our decisions and actions will be based entirely on the law, the weight of evidence, and unblemished respect for the truth.”

Governor Sanwo-Olu, while expressing his administration’s commitment to end human rights abuses, said he has 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).

He said it is 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 and the Lagos State Government was the first to set up its own panel. 

He said: “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.

He also used the forum to invite civil society society groups and other stakeholders to a peace walk to ‘herald the healing of our land.’

“Going forward, dear Lagosians, we shall facilitate better communication between our youths and the state’s security machinery to resolve issues before they become intractable. 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.

“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.

“In December, I will be leading A WALK FOR PEACE to herald the healing of our land. Let me use this occasion to extend an open invitation to our youths, members of the diplomatic corps, civil society groups, students and the media as well as other stakeholders to join me,” the governor said.

It would be recalled that the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry (JPI) on #EndSARS submitted its report to the State Government, Monday, November 15, in which it clearly established that the Nigerian Army fired live ammunition at peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, last year.

Tagged; the  Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for victims of SARS related abuses and other matters, the anel chaired by Justice Doris Okuwobi submitted two reports to Governor Babajide 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.

32 recommendations made By #EndSARS Panel

1. The Panel recommended that the police should be adequately funded, effectively trained, and provided with the requisite accouterments and equipment. It also recommended a better and more harmonised communication system with all security apparatus of the state; and better welfare packages for police officers, including improved salary, well-equipped offices, provision of decent accommodation, and transportation

LASG says it notes this recommendation and will forward this recommendation to the Federal Government and other necessary agencies. It adds that it has supported and will continue to support the Lagos Command of the Nigeria Police Force through the Lagos State Security Trust Fund.

2. The Panel recommends disciplinary action to the following officers – Lt Col S.O Bello and Major General Godwin Umelo, who refused to honour its summons in order to frustrate the investigation.

LASG notes it will forward this recommendation to the Federal Government, the National Economic Council, and Nigerian Army for their consideration.

3. The Panel recommends that all officers (excluding Major General Omata) 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.

LASG notes that the Nigerian Army is an organisation that has its own disciplinary procedures and processes as set down by law, over which it has no control. Nevertheless, it will forward this recommendation to appropriate authorities for their consideration and action.

4. The Panel recommends that all those arrested in the course of the protest should be granted bail, prosecuted for any offence that may be alleged against them, or where no prima facie evidence of culpability is disclosed upon due investigation, they should be released forthwith.

LASG notes that the issue of grant of bail is a matter within the exclusive preserve of the Judiciary, but notes the recommendation.

5. The panel recommends that the Nigeria Army be discouraged from intervening in internal security.

LASG notes that section 217(2)(c) of the constitution states that the Armed Forces may “intervene to suppress insurrection and also to assist civil authorities to restore lawful order” which had clearly broken down in Lagos between 19th – 21st October 2020. Such intervention must however be with clear rules of engagement, it adds.

6. The panel, having found that the use of social media played significant role in escalating the crises and appeals for restraint in spreading unverified pieces of information to the general public.

LASG agrees with this recommendation and notes that the incident at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, was exacerbated by indiscriminate dissemination of unverified accounts of the events of that day. It says it will launch a campaign to sensitise the public on the use of social media and the inherent dangers in its abuse.

7. The Panel commends several hospitals and all the medical personnel that attended to the victims of gunshot wounds at the Lekki Toll Gate and treated all of them free of charge. The Panel recommends them for special awards by the Lagos State and Federal Governments.

LASG notes that it commends all medical personnel and hospitals that treated citizens who suffered injuries during the protest. However, it disagrees that hospitals treated victims of gunshot wounds from Lekki Toll Gate in the light of the evidence before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry (JPI), that only one person suffered gunshot injury from Lekki Toll Gate at 7:43 pm on October 21, 2020.

8. The Panel recommends that the commitment made to the hospitals by the Lagos State Government through the Governor and the Commissioner for Health for the payment of the hospital bills of the #EndSARS protesters should be fulfilled.

LASG notes that it has paid all hospitals. It however commends Reddington Hospital which rendered its services free of charge.

9. The Panel recommends that the DPO of Maroko Police Station along with policemen deployed from the station on October 20 and 21, 2021 be prosecuted for arbitrary and indiscriminate shooting and killing of protesters.

LASG notes that even though the evidence before the JPI does not establish arbitrary and indiscriminate killing of protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, it will request the police to further investigate the matter and furnish the Director of Public Prosecutions in Lagos State with the case file of the matter within 90 days. It also enjoined members of the public who have credible evidence of the allegations against the DPO of Maroko Police Station and policemen deployed from there to submit such evidence to the office of the DPP within the same time frame.

10. The Panel recommends that a Grievance Address mechanism should be improved upon to engender speedy attention and action.

LASG accepts this recommendation and will intensify its effort to engage the youths as it has been doing through the Youth/Police Dialogue and Youth Peaceful Conflict Resolution programme.

11. The Panel recommends that Government should engage regularly with youths and be proactive and responsive when tense situations arise.

LASG accepts this recommendation and will intensify efforts to engage the youths and be proactive in all situations. It adds that dialogue with youths is ongoing and is a continuous process.

12. The panel recommends that curfew regulations should be widely publicised.

LASG accepts this recommendation.

13. The panel recommends reorientation and training of police and security personnel on the handling of crime scenes.

LASG notes that it will forward the recommendation to the Federal Government for consideration and also reaffirms its commitment to resuscitate the Lagos DNA & Forensic Centre (one of whose components is a Crime Scene Lab) looted and destroyed during the October 21, 2020 carnage.

14. The Panel recommends that Coroner inquests and autopsies should be done in cases of suspicious death within a maximum of one month of occurrence of the incident.

LASG notes that there is already in place a robust Coroner Systems law in the state.

15. The Panel recommends that there should be guidelines and standard procedures for mortuaries on information to be requested and documentation is done in cases of bodies brought to them.

LASG says it notes that it has in place standard operating procedures for mortuaries, but in the light of lessons learned during the protests and its aftermath, it will improve on its SOPs in line with best practices.

16. The Panel recommends training of health officials, particularly LASEHMU.

LASG says it accepts and will provide further training and capacity building for its health officials, particularly Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit (LASEHMU).

17. The Panel recommends training and retraining of all security officials, including Civil defense, Police and the Army on rules of engagement and management of protest.

LASG notes it will forward the recommendation to the Federal Government for consideration. It adds that it is committed to continuous training of its law enforcement agencies.

18. The Panel recommends that the situation of the integrity of the scene of the incident must be preserved and items of physical evidence should not be removed between the time-lapse from the incident and scene examination in any other situation.

LASG accepts this recommendation and will forward the recommendation to the Federal Government for consideration. It also reaffirmed its commitment to resuscitating the Lagos DNA & Forensic Centre.

19. The Panel recommends that the Lekki Toll Plaza be made a memorial site for #EndSARS protest, by renaming to ‘#EndSARS Toll Gate.’

LASG notes that it will designate a park in the State and name it ‘Peace Park’ to serve as a reminder to citizens of the peaceful protest all over the State against abuse of human rights.

20. The Panel recommends that October 20 should be designated as “Toll Free Day” at the Lekki Toll Gate as long as the tollgate exists.

LASG notes that in the spirit of healing and reconciliation, it accepts the recommendation.

21. The Panel recommends that October 20 should be made #EndSARS day nationally for the remembrance of our fallen youth.

LASG notes that it has no powers to declare any day as a national day and adds that the recommendation will be forwarded to the Federal Government.

22. The Panel recommends that for the purpose of restitution, healing, and reconciliation, the Federal Government needs to publicly apologise to the youth for abruptly undermining the protest with their state actors.

LASG says it notes and will forward the recommendation to the Federal Government for consideration.

23. The Panel recommends that the government should do all it can to bridge the gap of distrust with the Youth.

LASG accepts this recommendation and notes that the process has already commenced.

24. The Panel recommends that a monument memorialising the lives lost and those injured at the Lekki Toll Gate with the names inscribed on the Monument.

LASG notes that this recommendation is not acceptable to it because it is unable to accept the finding that nine people died at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020. It also notes that there was no massacre at Lekki Toll Gate, contextual or otherwise. It adds that the finding of the JPI that nine people died from gunshots fired by the Military are based on assumptions and speculations.

25. The Panel recommends 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.

LASG notes and will forward the recommendation to the Federal Government and National Economic Council.

26. The Panel recommends that the scrutiny of all disciplinary processes of the Nigerian Army and the police be made transparent and outcomes made public periodically.

LASG says it notes and will forward the recommendation to the Federal Government and National Economic Council.

27. The Panel recommends that the Complaint Response Unit of the Police at the FHQ must be reinforced to scale up its national responsibilities in prompt engagement and treating public complaints against erring officers across the country to avoid conflagration.

LASG says it notes and will forward the recommendation to the Federal Government and National Economic Council.

28. The Panel recommends that any data that may have been generated over the years on the impunity of the police across Nigeria be studied and deployed as early warning signs (EWS) mechanism.

LASG says it notes and will forward the recommendation to the Federal Government and the National Economic Council.

29. The Panel recommends that compensation to the victims in cases emanating from the Lekki incident of October 20 be facilitated and promptly distributed to ensure justice is served and seen to be served for accelerated healing to win the peace and build public trust.

LASG says it notes and will forward the recommendation to the Federal Government and the National Economic Council.

30. The Panel recommends a special trust fund for compensation of victims of the Lekki Toll Gate incident of October 20, 2020, and other established and proven human rights abuses.

LASG says it will take steps to forward the recommendation to the Federal Government and the National Economic Council.

31. The Panel recommends that the Lagos State Assembly should set up a standing Human Rights Committee or Tribunal made up of representatives of the Nigeria Police, Ministry of Justice, National Human Rights Commission, Office of the Public Defender, Legal Aid Council, CSOs, and other relevant stakeholders with a mandate to receive and make determinations in respect of complaints made against the Nigerian police and other security agencies.

LASG notes that it will take appropriate legislative actions to establish a standing Human Rights Committee comprising of members of civil society, the Nigerian Bar Association, Office of Public Defender, and security agencies.

32. The Panel recommends that all petitions filed before the panel but that could not be heard due to time constraints should be channeled through the Ministry of Justice to the Standing Human Rights Committee or Tribunal.

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