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#EndSARS: Summary of Panel Findings, Recommendations


#EndSARS: Summary of Panel Findings, Recommendations

The Nation

The #EndSARS #ReformPoliceNG Advocacy upon which the protesters premised their #EndSARS demonstration of discontent/Protest on, has been the most prominent advocacy in Nigeria and a major rallying point, convergence and common ground for the national Police brutality imbroglio since 2016.

This is one of the reasons why the advocacy was surgically curated and the youth protest that followed built on that protocol in an orderly, organized and transparent fashion, reinforcing the specific objective of shutting down the culture of impunity (#EndSARS) —through the disbandment of the poster child of impunity within the police structure (i.e. SARS and all Tactical Squads of the Police formation) and the End Goal of the holistic reformation of the Nigeria Police Force–#ReformPoliceNG.

However, the dearth of proper public orientation and sensitization by the Federal Government about the progress made over the years on the trajectory of reformation of the Nigeria Police Force, given the years of advocacy and dialogues cum the persistence of outrageous and gross violation of human rights (torture, extra judicial killings, extortion, robbery, unlawful arrest and detention among others) with impunity, being perpetrated by the Nigeria Police, forced the youth to express their constitutionally protected Rights and Freedom of Expression and Assembly to demonstrate their discontent from the 8th – 20th October, 2020.

From the 8th of October 2020, the protest under hashtag #ENDSARS started in Lagos and grew into large movement at various locations in Lagos and across the country principally targeted towards drawing attention to the ubiquitous incidents of Police brutality (Culture of Impunity) and poor working conditions of Police officers.

One of the demands from the protesters was the setting up of Judicial Panels of Inquiry to investigate cases of Police brutality. Lagos State Government obliged this request on the 15th of October, 2020 and set up the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry Into Victims of Police Brutality and other Related Matters, which was inaugurated on the 19th of October 2020.

Its main Terms of Reference was to look into cases of Police brutality and other related matters and award compensation to successful petitions. The members were Honourable Justice Doris Okuwobi, Chairperson, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN, representing Civil Society, Retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Frederick Taiwo Lakanu, Ms. Patience Patrick Udoh representing Civil Society, Mr. Segun Awosanya, Human Rights Activist, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Odusanya , Director of Citizens’ Rights, Ministry of Justice, Mr Lucas Koyejo Esq. representative of the National Human Rights Commission, and Mr. Majekodunmi Temitope Oluwaseun, Youth Representative.

The Panel shall ensure speedy inquiry/restitution on SARS activities and Extra-Judicial killings of innocent citizens by the dissolved SARS with a view to delivering justice for the Victims as well as compensate their families/dependents.

IN particular it shall –

  1. Receive memoranda from concerned members of the public and inquire into cases of abuse, brutality, torture, extra – judicial killings by the disbanded SARS in Lagos State;
  2. Identify the victims of brutality, torture and extra-judicial killings by the disbanded SARS;
  3. Identify Officers of SARS involved in the abuse of rights of citizens and make appropriate recommendations for prosecution of such Officers;
  4. Evaluate the cases of the victims; determine those deserving compensation as a result of such violations by Officers of the disbanded SARS and recommend compensations payable to them from the Victims Trust Fund established by the Governor;
  5. To investigate the incident at the Lekki Toll- Gate on 20th October, 2020 and make necessary findings and recommendations.
  6. Examine any other matters incidental to any of the terms of reference stated above; and
  7. Make necessary recommendation(s) to guide against future abuse of human rights by the Nigeria Police in Lagos State.

AND the Governor further directed that the Chairman and members of the Panel constituted under this instrument shall remain in Office for a period of six (6) months commencing from the date of appointment and this period may be extended at the discretion of the Governor in writing.

Following the Panel’s inauguration, on the 20th of October 2020 there were allegations that the officers of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force had gone to the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos State, the epicenter of the #ENDSARS protests and shot at peaceful protesters.

Following this, the Lagos State Government expanded the Terms of Reference of the Panel to include an investigation into what became known as the Lekki Toll Gate ( LTG) Incident.

The composition of members facilitated a comprehensive and cohesive approach to the investigative work of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry.

The Panel began its investigation into the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of 20th October, 2020, by issuing Summons to parties it considered pertinent to its finding and investigations as follows: The Lekki Concession Company (LCC), operators of the Lekki Toll Gate, Nigerian Army (NA); The Hierarchy of Lagos State Police Command and later also to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Maroko Police Division, the Lagos State Government, various hospitals, who were said to have attended to victims of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident, Operators of Advertising Billboards at the Lekki Toll Gate, and News outlets who carried investigative journalism on the incident.

The response to the Summons was hugely positive, as over 80% of those summoned honored the invitations, and gave evidence before the Panel, which assisted it greatly in unraveling the events of the 20th October 2020. The protesters on their own attended the Panel’s proceedings and presented evidence of what happened at the Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th of October, 2020.

On the part of the ENDSARS Protesters the Panel specifically considered the evidence of persons, who alleged that they were victims with injuries or death of their loved ones, which occurred during the Lekki Toll Gate Incident and the testimonies of those who were present and traumatized. Some gave accounts of what happened even though they had no physical injuries.

The evidence considered in this regard usually represented similar versions of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident as corroborated by other protesters, who were treated as Petitioners with Petitions arising from the Toll Gate Incident. Virtually all witnesses were cross examined by counsel to parties with opposing versions of Lekki Toll Gate Incident. Sequel to the above the Panel reached its findings and prepared its reports despite the evidence of the Nigerian Army, that was limited, as most of the officers who were summoned and who filed affidavits never appeared before the Panel).

At the conclusion of evidence of all relevant parties, key issues which called for determination and upon which the findings of the Panel were based are summarised as follows:

• Whether the Nigerian Army used live bullets on unarmed and defenseless protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on 20th October 2020?

• Whether the live bullets resulted in injuries or casualties on the part of the protesters?

• Whether the Police was at the Toll Gate on the night of the 20th of October 2020 and the morning of the 21st of October 2020 and whether they shot at unarmed and defenseless protesters?

• Whether the LCC played any role in the events of the night of the 20th of October 2020?

• Whether the Lagos State played any role in the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of the 20th of October 2020.

The Panel thus made the following key findings:

  1. That the Nigerian Army was invited for intervention in the State and was deployed to Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th of October 2020. At the Lekki Toll Gate, officers of the Nigerian Army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenseless protesters, without provocation or justification, while they were waving the Nigerian Flag and singing the National Anthem and the manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre. The Panel also found that the conduct of the Nigerian Army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances render medical assistance to victims who required such assistance. The Army was also found not to have adhered to its own Rules of Engagement.
  2. The Panel found that the Nigerian Police Force deployed its officers to the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of the 20th October, 2020 and between that night and the morning of the 21st of October, 2020, its officer shot at, assaulted and battered unarmed protesters, which led to injuries and deaths. The police officers also tried to cover up their actions by picking up bullets.
  3. The panel found that LCC hampered the panel’s investigation by refusing to turn over some useful and vital information/evidence as requested by the Panel and the Forensic Expert engaged by the panel, even where such information and evidence was by the company’s admission, available. It manipulated the incomplete CCTV Video footage of the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of the 20th of October 2020, which it tendered before the Panel.
  4. The Panel found that there was an invitation of the Nigerian Army to Lagos State made by the Lagos State Government through the Governor before the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army deployed its soldiers to the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of the 20th of October.
  5. The Panel found that there was an attempt to cover up the Incident of the 20th of October by the cleaning of the Lekki Toll Gate and the failure to preserve the scene ahead of potential investigations.

Upon the above key findings amongst others, the Panel made a total of 32 Recommendations, which included but not limited to:

• Holistic Police Reforms covering welfare, training and proper equipping of Policemen and their working environment;

• Sanctioning of the officers of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force respectively who participated in shooting, injuring and killing of unarmed protestors at the Lekki Toll Gate on the 20 and 21st of October 2020;

• Development of more robust engagement between the Youth and the Government;

• Setting up of a Standing Committee/Tribunal to deal with cases of Violation of Human Rights by security agencies and a trust fund to settle compensation awarded by such committee/tribunal;

• A public apology to ENDSARS protesters who were killed, injured and traumatized by the Incident of the 20th of October 2020;

• The memorialization of the Lekki Toll Gate and the 20th of October going forward.

• The recognition of Hospitals and Medical Doctors who played heroic roles following the Incident of the Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th of October 2020 thereby saving lives and minimizing the impact of the injuries suffered by the victims, most of which were on a pro-bono basis;

• The Panel recommended various sums of compensation to victims of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident, which must be expeditious in order to accelerate the healing process.

• The Panel recommended that any data that may have been generated over the years on the impunity of the Police across Nigeria be studied and deployed as early warning signs (EWS) mechanism.

The Panel recognizes that it had the cooperation of most stakeholders save for the Nigerian Army and some others who ignored summons issued by the Panel. The Panel accordingly notes the cooperation of stakeholders through their respective Counsel, such Counsel included, members of the Nigerian Bar Association, Counsel to the various groups of ENDSARS Protesters, Counsel to Lagos State Government, and Counsel to the Nigeria Police Force.

The Panel is grateful to the experts, who honored its various summons to attend proceedings and provide the panel with vital information and evidence. The contributions of the aforementioned aided tremendously the investigative work of the Panel.

The greatest limitation of the Panel was time as the Panel had to undertake its investigation into the Lekki Toll Gate Incident alongside other petitions in respect of Police brutality related matters. Following this limitation the panel was unable to determine all Petitions arising from the Lekki Toll Gate Incident and accordingly urges that those petitions be heard and determined by the standing committee/tribunal on Human Rights recommended by it.

The Panel thanks the Lagos State Government for giving it the opportunity to serve, providing the resources and allowing it to conduct its investigations and arrive at its findings independently and with integrity.

The Panel believes that with the implementation of the recommendations, the LEKKI TOLL GATE INCIDENT OF 20TH OCTOBER 2020 will never happen again, lessons will be learnt on all sides and there will be healing in the great state of Lagos State.

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