Reactions calling for full implementation have trailed the recommendations of the Lagos State panel of enquiry which indicted the Nigerian Army and the police for killing peaceful protesters on October 20, 2020 during last year’s #EndSARS protest at Lekki tollgate.
The United Nations (UN) in Nigeria, the United States government, through its embassy in Nigeria, Amnesty International, and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, among others, made the call in separate statements on Tuesday.
‘Implement report to build trust’
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon, welcomed the submission of the panel’s report in a statement by a UN National Information Officer, Oluseyi Soremekun.
He noted that the submission of the findings of the judicial panel would accelerate the process of justice and accountability.
“I welcome the submission to the Lagos State Governor, H.E. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, of the reports of the judicial panel on claims of brutality and shooting in the Lekki area of Lagos State, during the 2020 EndSARS protests.
“I urge the government to implement the recommendations of the judicial panel of inquiry to rebuild trust and start the process of healing and reconciliation,” the statement added.
‘Implement report as mechanism for accountability’
The United States, through its diplomatic mission in Nigeria, said it would be looking forward to “the Lagos State government’s response” to the panel’s report.
It said in its statement that the government’s response was expected to be “part of a process that represents an important mechanism of accountability regarding the #EndSARS protests and the events that took place near the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.”
“Those events led to serious allegations against some members of the security forces, and we look forward to the Lagos State and federal government taking suitable measures to address those alleged abuses as well as the grievances of the victims and their families.”
‘Buhari must act on report’
Also responding to the findings of the panel, Osai Ojigho, Director, Amnesty International Nigeria, said Mr Buhari must act on the report of the panel.
She said the report confirming that the Nigerian army and police shot peaceful protesters at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020, was “the truth about what happened at Lekki Tollgate.”
The organisation said it contradicted “the blatant denial by the Nigerian government that deadly force was used against peaceful #EndSARS protesters.”
It recalled that it had a day after the crackdown conducted its own on-the-ground investigation “which confirmed that the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters in Lekki and Alausa – with evidence gathered from witnesses, video footage and hospital reports.”
“A week later Amnesty International was able to release a timeline of the shootings, which confirmed that Nigerian army vehicles left a military base a short drive from the tollgate on the evening of the shootings and were present when the killings began shortly after.”
It said the panel’s findings “are only the first step towards justice and restitution,” and called on President Buhari to “act promptly to ensure that those found to be responsible for shooting and attacks on peaceful protesters are brought to justice in fair trial.”
“Nigerian authorities must ensure access to justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation, restitution, and guarantee of non-repetition to victims and their families.
“Authorities must also immediately and unconditionally release all #EndSARS protesters unlawfully detained since last year,” Amnesty International said.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, similarly called for the forwarding of the certified copy of the report of the panel to President Muhammadu Buhari given its recommendation that adequate sanctions be meted out to armed personnel involved in the torture and reckless murder of citizens.
“Having received the report of the Judicial Commission the Lagos State Government is urged to accelerate the issuance of the White Paper as well as the implementation of the far reaching recommendations,” he added.
He also said the policemen who were killed by criminal elements during the protests should be honoured notwithstanding that their family members had been compensated by the Lagos State Government.
He called on the state government to set up the Lagos State Human Rights Committee in line with the recommendation of the panel to curb unabated cases of police brutality.
“While commending the witnesses and their lawyers for exposing the official cover up of the egregious human rights abuse perpetrated by the merchants of death the Lagos State Government should designate venues where aggrieved citizens can hold rallies in exercise of their fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
“The violent attack of unarmed protesters during peaceful rallies by police and military personnel should be completely outlawed since section 83 (4) of the Police Establishment Act, 2020 has imposed a duty on the police to provide adequate security for citizens who participate in peaceful meetings and rallies.”
Also, a coalition of activists known as the #EndSARS frontliners have called for the prosecution of persons indicted in the report.
It also called for the compensation recommended in the report to be paid in full to all victims and their families.
Also, a former chairperson of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwummadu, added his voice to the demand for the implementation of the report.
Mr Ugwummadu said the failure of the Nigerian government to prosecute the culprits indicted in the report could further intensify the campaign to expose the suspected security persons including their commanders to the International Criminal Court ICC for crimes against humanity having declared the events of October 20, 2020, as a massacre.
The #EndSARS panel was set up in the wake of the October 2020 #EndSARS anti-police brutality protest 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 Lekki tollgate.
The panel, led by a retired judge, Doris Okuwobi, had on Monday submitted its reports on the Lekki shooting incident and police brutality cases to the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
After he received 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.”