Judicial panel condemns 2020 Lekki toll shooting as ‘a massacre’

The Judicial Investigation and Restitution Panel of the Lagos Arbitration Court had been charged with investigating the notorious shooting at the Lekki tollbooth in Lagos last year, when Nigerian security forces opened fire on youths peacefully protesting alleged police brutality .

Its explosive report, which took more than a year to produce, accuses Nigerian army officers of having “shot, wounded and killed defenseless and defenseless unarmed protesters, without provocation or justification, while waving the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthem. “. and the form of assault and murder could be described in context as a massacre. ”

The panel also found that “the conduct of the Nigerian army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances to provide medical assistance to victims in need of such assistance. It was also found that the army had not adhered to its own rules of engagement.” .

The panel report underscores and repeatedly references previous reports from CNN, which used timestamps, video data and geolocation last year to analyze hours of video filmed by protesters.

The CNN investigation found that the Nigerian military fired actual rounds at the crowd at the Lekki toll gate, killing and wounding several people. Several witnesses also told CNN last year that ambulances were prevented from entering the site to help injured protesters.

Police officers arrive at the site of the protest to mark the first anniversary of #EndSARS, a movement against police brutality, at the Lekki tollbooth in Lagos on October 20, 2021.

Despite the abundance of video evidence, the Nigerian government has long denied that protesters were shot. Last month, on the first anniversary of the shooting, Nigerian Information Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed described the incident as a “phantom massacre” and continued to dismiss the CNN investigation as fake news.

The government and military did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday’s judicial panel report, which quotes CNN dozens of times.

However, Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the Lagos state government would implement the panel’s recommendations, according to local media.

“This will help in adequate restitution and compensation for all who must have been harmed. I want to assure you that a white paper will be issued. I will set up a committee to review the document within two weeks and produce a white paper.” Said Sanwo- Olu, according to the International Center for Investigative Reporting.

What happened

Before the bloody events at the Lekki tollbooth last year, protesters had been participating in daily protests in Nigeria for nearly two weeks over widespread allegations of kidnapping, harassment and extortion by a police unit known as the Special Anti-Theft Squad (SARS).
The October 20 shooting would end Nigeria’s fledgling youth protest movement, known as #EndSARS.

The investigation panel was initially established in October 2020 by the Lagos state government to investigate cases of alleged police brutality, and the now disbanded Special Anti-Theft Squad, and was later tasked with investigating the toll incident.

'He died in my arms.'  Twelve months later, a mother's anguished wait to find out why her son died at the Lekki tollbooth

The panel report also alleges cover-up attempts by police, who it says cleaned up the aftermath of the Lekki toll shooting and did not preserve the scene for investigators. “The policemen also tried to cover up their actions by collecting bullets,” the report says.

He also accuses the Nigerian authorities of tampering with CCTV footage and removing the bodies of the dead from the scene.

The report recommends that all members of the Nigerian military, except for a major general who were deployed at the Lekki toll gate, face “appropriate disciplinary measures and be stripped of their status” before being dismissed.

“They are not fit or adequate to serve in any public or security service in the nation,” he says.

The report added that “the dark days of military rule are over and more democratic principles and approaches are required to win both the peace and the trust of the public.”

The reaction to the report sparked an outbreak of emotions on the social media platform Twitter on Monday night in Nigeria. Many young people have told CNN that they feel vindicated by the findings.

“Tears came to my eyes. The truth needs no defense,” said DJ Switch, who broadcast some of the night’s events live and was later forced to flee the country.

Akin Olaoye, who was on the front lines of the protest that night, told CNN: “The findings of the Judicial Investigation Panel in their report defining the atrocities at the tollbooth as a massacre, is a great victory and leads us to a path to obtaining justice for many of the innocent victims, survivors and lost souls who still remain in unidentified graves. ”

Serah Ibrahim, who participated in the #EndSARS protests and also testified in the panel’s investigation, told CNN that justice and accountability must now follow. “I hope that all the recommendations are met. On the one hand it is admitting that it happened, on the other hand it is accountability,” he said.

“Justice is totally incomplete without accountability,” added Ibrahim.


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