Nigeria

#EndSARS report: CSOs demand prosecution of persons indicted for abuses, murder

A coalition of civil society for #EndSARS victims has berated the attitude of the Lagos State government, federal government, and their officials towards the #EndSARS report released last week by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry.

The coalition, which comprises 14 civil societies, expressed dissatisfaction towards the hostility of government officials to the report, at a press briefing in Lagos, on Thursday.

Some of the civil societies are Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA); Joint Action Front (JAF); Justice Development and Peace Commission; Spaces4Change (S4C); Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP); Youths Rights Campaign (YRC); Center for Dignity; and Peace and Development Project.

Speaking at the press briefing, Achike Chude, the vice president of JAF, said Nigeria’s media and political space have been on overdrive with all manners of interventions by both state and non-state actors since the release of the report.

According to the report of the Judicial Panel, at least 46 unarmed protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullets, or assaulted by security forces at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, last year.

Mr Chude said it is “disgusting” to see a manhunt of protesters who witnessed the October 20, last year, shooting incident at the Lekki toll gate and several statements by government actors to discredit the report of the panel.

“While the citizens of the state, and indeed Nigeria and the international community have seen an opportunity for new beginnings in the implementation of the report, the actions by both state actors and non-state actors affiliated to the government, smack of an insidious and pernicious agenda by the government towards the report,” he said.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, the executive director of CAPPA, said the collusion of federal and state governments and their agencies brought about the tragedy that unfolded at the Lekki Tollgate on 20 October last year.

“We have talked enough about the boldness and objectivity of the panel, which after a year of sitting, came out with a report that rightly indicted multiple agencies of the federal and Lagos state governments as well as the Lekki Concession Company.

“The body language of the state government, as well as the unwholesome bullishness and hostility of government officials over the release of the report, speaks volumes about the possible fate of the white paper awaiting released by the government,” he said.

Mr Oluwafemi added that the ‘leaked’ report of the panel was enough to induce a lot of souls searching by government and government officials, with a view to charting positively new paths of engagements with Nigerians, especially the youth.

“But alas! The opposite has been the case, especially in Lagos state which has become the epicentre of the struggle against the structural injustice in the country, as well as the centre of the repression of dissent emanating from the tragedy,” he said.

Also speaking at the briefing, Zikorah Ibeh, a representative of Spaces for Change, said there is a general view that the state and federal governments are uncomfortable with the report and are working hard to undermine it as well as change the narrative.

“We sincerely hope that this is not true, but if it is, such plans will fail,” she said.

The groups also condemned attacks on victims of the Lekki incident, saying such attacks are “unwholesome and cowardly.”

“We condemn most vehemently, the violent, bloody attack on Kamson Ibe, which took place in the evening of Sunday 21 November 2021. Kamson was also a victim of the army and police brutality at the Lekki Toll Gate last year. Her attack last Sunday was accompanied by threats of further mayhem by her assailants against #EndSARS activists.

“On Monday 22 November, Dabira Oluwa also received a threat dropped on her car, warning that she was the next on the line to be attacked. We also note the threat of assassination against the persons of Barrister Olu Adegboruwa, Wiseman Kunle, and Barrister Faroti.

“The prospect of a legitimately constituted government being involved in state-sanctioned violent attacks and killings of innocent citizens is too gruesome and frightening to contemplate,” the group said.

The coalition urged the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to investigate the possible involvement of people close to him in the violence being perpetrated against Lagosians, especially survivors of the Lekki shooting incident.

The group added that the credibility of the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, is at stake over the matter.

“The totally dismissive response of the minister of information, Lai Mohammed to the Lagos state panel report is typical of his well-known combative position of seeing no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil especially when it comes to the tragic events of 20th October 2020.

“It is time to let government functionaries like Lai Muhammed know that they are not more patriotic than any other Nigerian, neither do they love our country more. We stand by the State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters report as released, because it is a bold and objective reflection of the malfeasance that has characterized the behaviour of our security forces over the years,” the group said.

Stating their demand, the coalition called for the immediate prosecution of individuals indicted for human rights abuses and murder before, during and after the #EndSARS protest.

They also called for an investigation into the attack on Ms Ibeh as well as the threats on Dabiri Oluwa and others, and the perpetrators prosecuted.

“All those involved in the sordid and criminal events of the 20th October 2020 should be punished in accordance with the provisions of the law. This would include the army, police, government personnel as well as personnel of the Lekki Concession Company. Corporate sanctions, if possible, should also be considered. This should hopefully serve as a statement against impunity in our country,” the group said.

They added that the Lekki tollgate should be designated a national monument in celebration of the heroism of the Nigerian youths who stood against the brutality of the police, and victims of police atrocities be compensated.

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