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FG: Lagos #EndSARS report recycled fake news, tales by moonlight

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Joy Baba-Yesufu (Abuja) and Seye Olumide (Ibadan)
24 November 2021   |   4:15 am
The Federal Government, yesterday, rejected outright the report of Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry on the October 20, 2020 shooting of protesters at the Lekki tollgate.

Lai Mohammed

• Afenifere, YCE, Uwazurike carpet FG over rejection of panel’s report
• Germany to train Nigeria police on handling protest without shooting

The Federal Government, yesterday, rejected outright the report of Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry on the October 20, 2020 shooting of protesters at the Lekki tollgate.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke yesterday on the leaked report maintained that there was absolutely nothing in the report to make the Federal Government change its mind on its conviction that there was no massacre at the Lekki tollgate on the said October 20.

The panel had, in its report, noted that there were shootings at the scene of the protest,resulting in deaths and injuries, but the Minister held that the report was marred by errors and contradictions. He also urged families of alleged victims to come forth and speak as no worthy parent will keep mute over the death of a child.

He said: “Without mincing words, let me say that never in the history of any judicial panel in this country has its report been riddled with so many errors, inconsistencies, discrepancies, speculations, innuendoes, omissions and conclusions that are not supported by evidence.”

The Minister further stated that what has been circulating in public space is nothing other than a rehash of the unverified fake news that had been playing on social media since the incident of October 20, 2020.

He described as incredible, the fact that a judicial panel set up to investigate an incident should submit a report laden with the same allegations it was set up to investigate.

“Instead of sitting for all of one year, the panel could have just compiled social media ‘tales by the moonlight’ on the incident and submitted, saving taxpayers’ funds and everyone’s time. The report was nothing but the triumph of fake news and the intimidation of a silent majority by a vociferous lynch mob.

“The report threw away the testimony of ballistic experts who testified before it. The experts said in their testimony 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, no military grade live ammunition (high-velocity) was fired at the protesters within the timeframe of reference.

“The same panel that said it deemed as credible the evidence of the forensic pathologist that only three of the bodies on which postmortem were conducted were from Lekki and only one had gunshot injury went on to contradict itself by saying nine persons died of gunshot wounds at Lekki.

“Where are the family members of those who were reportedly killed at Lekki tollgate? If the panel is recommending compensation for the families, what are their identities and addresses? Who will receive the compensations when no family members have shown up till date?” the Minister asked.

“We also appeal to families of those allegedly killed in Lekki to speak out. It’s untenable to say that some families did not come out because they are afraid. Any parent who is afraid to testify about the death of his or her child is not worth to be called a parent. We reject the notion that our soldiers and policemen massacred innocent Nigerians at Lekki on October 20, 2020,” he concluded.

THE Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and former President of Igbo think tank, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goody Iwazurike, however, in separate interactions, yesterday, lambasted Mohammed for rejecting the report of the judicial panel.

In his reaction, leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said he was not surprised by the disposition of the Federal Government, which the Minister represents .

“In fact, I would have been shocked and disappointed if Lai Mohammed had accepted the Lagos #EndSARS panel report. This government is dictatorial and it is looking for every means to suppress Nigerians.”

Adebanjo, however, urged Nigerian youths to stand up and fight for their rights, saying, “otherwise, they will pay a bigger price than what happened on October 20, 2020.”

Secretary-General of YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, said the Minister’s comment was a little bit too premature and unnecessary when even Lagos State government, which is still the only custodian of the panel’s report is yet to take a position or issue white paper on the report.

He also said it was shocking that Mohammed’s reaction contradicted that of Mr. President, who had earlier said he would not make any comment on the report, not until Lagos comes out with its white paper. According to Olajide, “who is the Minister speaking for? Himself or the government.”

Uwazurike said he is not certain if the Minister actually understood the implications of what he has done. “The state has not written its white paper on the report and it is yet to present it to the Federal Government, but Mohammed in his own wisdom went to condemn the report on air.”

MEANWHILE, the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said it will train officers of the Nigeria Police Force on how best to handle weapons during demonstrations without shooting. Superintendent, Police Adviser at Stabilisation Unit, German Federal Foreign Office, Mr. Sascha Weh, made this known when a high level mission from Germany paid a courtesy visit to the chairman, Police Service Commission, Alhaji Musiliu Smith, in Abuja.

Weh said since Nigeria is ready and willing to reform the police, Germany is ready to go all the way to support everything that has been identified as reform development.

The retired police chief further said based on the very strong political will by the Nigerian government, the highest leadership, the President himself, and the will of the police leaders to organise and make a good police even better, they are ready to train the Nigerian officers to German standard.
“This unit will be in operations with demonstrations. We want to show them how they can handle demonstrations without shooting. In all demonstrations that we have in Europe, there are very unique situations where police handled 99.9 per cent with no weapon. This is our purpose to give you the offer for training on best practice,” he said.
In his response, Smith said protest in western countries is not the same as that of Nigeria since hoodlums, armed with axes, knives, manufactured weapons, sometimes hijack protest and attack police that are meant to merely disperse them.