The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Lekki Tollgate incident and cases of police abuse has faulted the issuance of White Paper by Lagos State Government on its report.
The panel also narrated how it arrived at the finding that a massacre occurred at Lekki tollgate on the night of October 20, 2020.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), in a statement issued on behalf of the panel, said 13 petitions relating to deaths and injuries, including amputations and multiple fractures from the Lekki Tollgate incident were received, heard and believed, upon full hearing.
The panel said it also reviewed documents obtained from the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) and testimonies of survivors before it arrived at the finding.
“Exhibit LCC A which was tendered by the Lekki Concession Company, (LCC), being a Press Release issued by LCC on 21st October, 2020, the day after the LTG Incident. In that document, it is stated that “LCC strongly condemns the shooting of unarmed peaceful protesters at the Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza yesterday, 20th October, 2020”.
“Panel found that the evidence corroborated the case of the EndSARS protesters that the protest was peaceful, orderly and coordinated, that soldiers invaded the protests and shot at unarmed, helpless, unresisting and peaceful protesters, which the Panel considered as cruel and atrocious. It was in the context of the nature of the peaceful protest and the atrocious and cruel actions of the soldiers which led to several deaths, that the Panel concluded on massacre,” the panel said.
The panel also accused the Lagos State Government of misconceiving its findings in relation to the Forensic Pathologist, Prof. Obafunwa.
The Panel argued that it did not state that Prof. Obafunwa was the sole source of its conclusion on deaths at Lekki tollgate but rather adopted his testimony as one of the sources of confirmation of deaths.
“Prof. Obafunwa’s testimony related to 99 bodies which were said to have been picked by Lagos State Environmental Health Management Unit (LASEHMU). Three of these 99 bodies were said to come from LTG, based upon the descriptions and markings on the bodies by LASEHMU. As Prof. Obafunwa did not pick these bodies himself and he was not the author of their descriptions, he did not give evidence of the place of death but rather the cause of death,” the panel said.
The panel also accused Lagos government of ignoring its findings on the actions of certain agencies of government to cover up the massacre.
On this issue, it said: “The Panel accepted the report of its forensic expert, Sentinel, that LCC manipulated its cameras in order to withhold material evidence; That LASG did not secure the scene of the LTG Incident in order to facilitate proper investigation.
“The Panel accepted the report of its forensic expert, Sentinel, that LAWMA cleaned up the LTG after the protests, thus destroying potential and useful evidence.
“The Panel accepted the evidence of EndSARS protesters that police were trailing them in order to intimidate and scare them from open testimonies.”
The panel alleged that these vital issues in quotes were not addressed by Lagos government in the White Paper.
The panel also revealed that that the Lagos State government “did not release funds to conduct DNA tests on the corpses as was done in the cases of Dana Air and Synagogue Church”.
The panel further said the evidence of Serah Ibrahim, as a witness of shootings and deaths, was believed by the panel, alongside the evidence of other witnesses.
“She tendered videos and other documents in proof and she was not discredited under cross-examination. Olalekan Salami personally testified before the Panel of dead bodies packed in the vans of soldiers wherein he was also taken for dead in the same van and the Panel believed him.
“Dabira Ayuku personally testified about bodies packed in the vans of soldiers and the Panel believed her.
“Videos of evidence of deaths from families and relatives of deceased persons from the LTG were tendered before the Panel, which it held to be credible as they were not discredited under cross-examination,” the panel stated further in the statement.
It added that there was no contrary evidence offered in rebuttal of the multiple evidence of deaths and injuries from the Lekki tollgate, which formed part of the findings of the panel.
On the duplication of names of deceased persons, Adegboruwa said: “In response to Recommendation 24 of the Panel, the LASG in its WP2 stated that the names of Kolade Salami and Folorunsho Olabisi appeared twice on the table as Nos. 37 and 38 at pages 297-298. This was a misnomer from the spreadsheet that ought to have terminated at Page 297 but mistakenly overlapped to Page 298 with the same names and same numbers. It was the computer error of the Secretariat of the Panel which could have been corrected as the Secretariat of the Panel was domiciled in the Ministry of Justice at all times. In any event, the mere fact of repetition of same names on a table cannot without more, nullify the uncontroverted evidence of death.”
Adegboruwa indicated that it is unlawful for government to issue a White Paper on the panel’s report submitted to it as there was no such provision in the law setting up the panel.
“There is no provision for the issuance of a White Paper under the law setting up the Panel. Under and by virtue of Section 15 of the Tribunal of Inquiry Law, upon conclusion of any inquiry, the governor is only empowered to issue directive for the enforcement of any decision emanating from the inquiry. The governor cannot issue a White Paper to overrule the decisions of a Judicial Panel of Inquiry,” the statement said.