The Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, has faulted the manner in which the report of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the EndSARS protests was leaked to the public, without following due process.
Mr Irabor, a general, stated this on Tuesday while speaking to journalists at the Government House, Benin-city, after a meeting with Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
The panel, headed by a retired judge, Doris Okuwobi, had on Monday submitted its reports on the Lekki shooting and police brutality during the October 2020 EndSARS protests, to the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
After receiving the report, Mr Sanwo-Olu set up a four-member committee to look into the report within two weeks, and “bring forward the white paper that would be considered at the Lagos state executive council and presented as the white paper coming from the panel of inquiry.”
The report was, however, leaked to the public by a member of the panel, due to trust issues.
The report indicted the Nigerian Army, the Police and other complicit individuals in the killings at the Lekki toll gate.
The #EndSARS panel was set up in the wake of the October 2020 #EndSARS anti-police brutality protests to probe cases of human rights violation perpetrated by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units.
The panel was also mandated to probe the shooting of peaceful protesters by soldiers and police officers on October 20, 2020, at the Lekki tollgate.
Reacting to the leakage of the report, Mr Irabor explained that he could not, at the moment, comment on the content of the document, because he had not seen the official report.
He said the Nigerian Armed Forces are committed to their constitutional mandate and do not engage in ignoble acts.
“I am sure those of you in the media must have seen a report that was released through, in my view, a wrong channel, that is making the rounds in the social media,” he said.
“Whether it is a true report, I can’t tell. But I’d like to indicate that the normal procedure is to have such a report submitted to the convening authority. And then, there will be a White Paper that will be presented, based on which one can make informed comments.
“But whatever it is currently, I’d like to indicate that the Armed Forces of Nigeria is a professional armed force. We are peopled by Nigerians and we remain committed to the constitutional mandate. So we will not at this point think that Nigerians should make disparaging remarks regarding the Armed Forces of Nigeria, in the sense that we are professional armed forces. If there are issues, of course, we address them within the ambit of the provisions.
“It would not be right to disparage men and women who have worked so hard to ensure that the territorial integrity of this nation is kept intact. So in the meantime, until I see the full extent of the report… ”
The CDS said the country’s armed forces were well-disciplined and would never engage in ignoble acts.
“I can assure that the Armed Forces of Nigeria are well-disciplined and we do not engage in any ignoble acts. If Nigerians do not trust us, then we won’t be doing what we are doing, and in any case, it is the Armed Forces of Nigeria; we are not talking of the police. So when the armed forces are called out, it is because there is a need; there is no one who doesn’t desire to live in peace.
“We need to understand that the armed forces are there to keep the peace, to provide the ambience that will enable each Nigerian to live his or her desires in peace and harmony. So let us not make inciting comments that will put the entire space on fire. That’s not right,” Mr Irabor said.