The Lagos State Police Command has told a Judicial Panel of Inquiry that several police stations were burnt across the state and many officers killed because there was no executive approval by the government to allow the police to use force in securing their facilities.
Oludotun Odubona, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in charge of operations, said this on Tuesday while appearing before the panel.
The panel earlier summoned the commissioner of police, Hakeem Odumosu, to appear before it and give testimony on the role the police played during the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, including the Lekki toll gate incident.
Several petitioners had approached the judicial panel on how police officers killed their loved ones, or caused them injury across different parts of the state, during the #EndSARS protest.
Some #EndSARS protesters, who approached the panel, also submitted petitions to the panel against the police alleging that they were brutalised by the police. Others alleged that police officers at Maroko Police Division shot and killed some protesters at the Lekki toll gate.
Mr Odubona, who represented the police commissioner, however, recounted that several deaths and casualties were recorded within the police camp during the protests.
Speaking on why several stations were burnt, Mr Odubona said there was no executive order to use the highest force which could have protected police facilities across the state.
“We were supposed to use highest level of gladiated force which could only come from the executive which wasn’t forthcoming at the time. That is why so many stations were burnt.
“We usually measure the level of force presented before we respond, we used baton, teargas for our quick interventions usually, which didn’t work,” he said.
#EndSARS and the Police
Narrating the experience of the police during the protest, Mr Odubona said from October 8 2020, protesters started gathering at the police command, where the police commissioner engaged them, but they came back the next day to continue with the protest.
“We let them be, then we heard another group had laid siege at the Government House, Alausa, and then another group had taken over the link bridge, Ikoyi, and Lekki toll gate.
“We saw that it was a highly coordinated movement against SARS, we noted their five-point agenda, and Odumosu told them initially that he would transmit their demands to the governor and the IGP,” the official said.
Mr Odubona said by October 13, 2020, he was mandated to go to Lekki tollgate to persuade the protesters to leave as they were infringing on the rights of others by blocking the toll gate.
He added that both the police commissioner and the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, went to address them, but the governor was pelted with pet bottles and pure water sachets.
“At the end of the day, we had to hurriedly whisk him (the governor) away because the security was already tense. Some had urinated inside bottles and were stoning him with it. All the back lights on the entourage vehicles were broken, then the CP directed that I remain to maintain the peace.
Oludotun Odubona, ACP in charge of operations for police command being sworn in at the panel
“I tried to pacify them, spoke with the celebrities that the situation was getting uncontrollable, I could see illegal substances like weed being shared around in addition to food and drinks, it was a carnival-like affair.
“I had enough teargas in my vehicle to disperse them but I wanted them to disperse peacefully,” Mr Odubona said.
Mr Odubona said the police initially provided security for the protesters, including doing vigil with them at the government house area, but the protest later took a bad turn.
The official said by October 19, 2020, police officers switched to protecting their stations, to prevent criminals from gaining access to the police armoury.
“That too was not effective, because we were supposed to use highest level of gladiated force which could only come from the executive which wasn’t forthcoming at the time. That is why so many stations were burnt,” he said.
Mr Odubona said police officers, who were on duty, were the first to be attacked, while those who had finished their duty and were with no arms were killed and injured.
He said further that the police division at Orile, which is one of the newest stations with high tech equipment and being used as a model, was burnt without much resistance.
“Some officers who had changed to mufti tried to escape, but some were burnt alive and cannibalised,” he said.
“We saw some more corpses around Orile station that we could not identify, except through the boots they wore at the time. All the weapons there were looted, such as AK 47s that have an effective shooting range of 300 metres and can kill three persons at a time,” he said.
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The assistant commissioner of police added that some officers suspected to be among the unidentified bodies have been reported to be missing in action, as the police “cannot say they are dead until after seven years.”
He added that the attack on the police was extended to the barracks, with family members of police officers attacked, a wife of one officer and other females raped.
‘No officer at Lekki on October 20’
Speaking of the Lekki shooting incident of October 20, last year, Mr Odubona said “there was no police officer that day at Lekki.”
“There was a curfew, which means that for that period, no one should be found on the streets except for the enforcers.
“We had six officers killed during that period and several others wounded. We can’t account for some that came from other commands on special assignment, properties were destroyed including official vehicles, private vehicles of officers and others,” he said.
Mr Odubona, through the police counsel, Cyril Ajifor, presented a list of police properties that were destroyed during the protest. These were admitted as exhibits by the panel.
He also disclosed that a total of 112 police officers were injured, including places outside Lagos.
A retired judge heading the panel, Doris Okuwobi, adjourned the matter till September 14 at the instance of the police counsel, to allow them present a video of October 20, 2020.