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MATTERS ARISING: After #EndSARS panel tagged Lekki shooting a ‘massacre’, what is FG’s next move?

MATTERS ARISING: After #EndSARS panel tagged Lekki shooting a ‘massacre’, what is FG’s next move?
November 17
16:33 2021

It has been two days since the much-anticipated report of the Lagos state judicial panel on police brutality appeared in the public space.

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The report has elicited a flurry of divergent reactions, given the controversy that trailed the incident, especially on the issue of the number of persons killed during the shooting.

According to the 309-page report, the killing of unarmed protesters at the Lekki tollgate could be described as a “massacre”.

The report indicted the army, police and the Lagos state government over their involvement, while noting that there were 48 victims: nine dead and four presumed dead.

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The panel said the Nigerian army was invited by the Lagos government to intervene in the protest, adding “officers of the Nigerian army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenseless protesters, without provocation or justification”.

The panel recommended that officers of the army who were deployed to the scene should be made to face disciplinary action and dismissed, while their police counterparts should be prosecuted for the indiscriminate shooting.

The federal government was also asked to publicly apologise to Nigerian youths for “abruptly undermining the protest with their state actors”.

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In the wake of the report’s release, there have been questions surrounding the accuracy of the casualty figure and some of the names on the list.

While the comparison of the shooting to a “massacre” earned the panel praise from proponents of the #EndSARS movement, the development did not sit well with some others.

As all eyes turn to the white paper committee to issue its recommendations, the big question is: will the federal government and army accept the report, after expending so much energy to deny the allegations over the past year?

FROM FAKE NEWS TO BLANK BULLETS

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Shortly after the shooting made headlines, the first response of the Nigerian army was to describe it as “fake news”.

According to the army, there were “no soldiers were at the scene”.

In a sharp U-turn barely one week later, the army said the Lagos state government invited its personnel to intervene — a position that contradicted the comment of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos.

In a timeline published in November 2020, TheCable captures the inconsistencies in the account of events by the Lagos government and the army.

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The army, in its petition submitted to the panel, maintained that no one was killed as soldiers only fired blank ammunition at the protesters.

Appearing before the panel, Ahmed Taiwo, a brigadier-general of the Nigerian army, said the army was unhappy that Sanwo-Olu denied requesting an intervention.

FG DENIED KILLINGS, ATTACKED CNN AND AMNESTY

Lai Mohammed, minister of information, who is the mouthpiece of the federal government, on several occasions, disputed that soldiers killed protesters at the Lekki tollgate.

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The minister famously described the shooting as a “massacre without bodies”. He said the incident was “fake news” designed to undermine the integrity of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The minister also wrote to CNN on behalf of the federal government following the platform’s investigation detailing how soldiers shot and killed unarmed protesters.

In the letter, the minister said the CNN report “did not just fall short of journalistic standards but reinforces the disinformation that is going around on the issue”.

The minister also attacked Amnesty International (AI) and DJ switch, the entertainer who live-streamed the shooting on Instagram, over their position on the matter.

Mohammed is not the only cabinet member to deny the shooting; even Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, denied the deployment of soldiers to the tollgate.

In November 2020, Malami said it is likely that hoodlums wearing military fatigues — and not soldiers — shot #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate.

ALL EYES ON FG

The Lagos state government says it will submit the panel’s report to the national economic council (NEC) headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo with 36 state governors as members.

But that will most likely be after the white paper committee must have concluded its review and reverted to the state government.

On the part of the army and federal government, it has been 48 hours of no comment and no action.

The bulk of the implementation of the panel’s recommendations falls under the purview of the federal government, particularly because the army and police are under its control.

Meanwhile, many stakeholders, national and international, have expressed interest in the report and subsequent action(s).

The United Nations, US Mission in Nigeria, and Amnesty International have said they are looking forward to the next steps of the federal government.

As Nigerians and the world wait with bated breath, all eyes are on the minister of information and the presidency for the federal government’s next move.

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