Most of the findings by the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government to investigate police brutality and also the shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 by personnel of the Nigerian Army and policemen, have been validated by a new report.
The 12-page document containing testimonies of victims and witnesses including detailed analysis of the events surrounding the massacre by experts in various fields, was carried out and released by Olukayode Dada, a partner with Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie law firm based in Lagos.
Dada, who is an expert in dispute resolution, compliance and investigations, in the report stated that the Lagos State Government, Federal Government and military authorities all knew of the brutal killing of young Nigerians at the Lekki Toll Gate ahead of the incident.
According to the report, the activities of soldiers deployed to the scene of the peaceful demonstration and later policemen from the Maroko Division on the night of October 20, 2020, sufficiently qualified as crimes against humanity and therefore should be investigated by the International Criminal Court in light of the Nigerian Government’s unwillingness to act on the findings and recommendations of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry.
The report stated that though a Nigerian court can try soldiers indicted in the panel’s finding, the military authorities in the country are unlikely to offer the type of cooperation needed for such to take place.
At least nine persons were confirmed to have been killed by security agents deployed to the scene while several others were left with life-threatening injuries, according to the panel’s findings.
Nationnewslead had exclusively reported how soldiers moved several bodies away from the scene of the massacre in their vans to a hospital in Lagos in order to conceal the killings.
Soldiers deployed for the mission told relatives of victims that they were sent by the Lagos State governor to violently quell the protest.
The document released by Dada partly read, “While there had been killings and harassment of #EndSARS protesters demonstrating police brutality and bad governance by Nigerian security forces across the country prior to the toll gate killings, the Lekki Toll Gate attacks/killings stood out because of the brazenness of the killings and bravery of protesters (including DJ Switch, a popular Nigerian disc jockey) who risked their lives to provide live feeds of the attacks.
“Without question, the killings and brutalisation of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate constitute crimes against humanity. The totality of the circumstances regarding the #EndSARS protests, and the toll gate killings/attacks validate this conclusion.
“Government actions to stop the protests culminated in the attacks on unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, a location where the protests had been peaceful since the commencement of the nationwide protests.
“It is unlikely that the Nigerian Government (whose officers and agents are the accused in this matter) would refer those officers and agents to the ICC.
“The Lekki Toll Gate killings is not also the subject of any deliberations before the UN Security Council. The ICC Prosecutor, is therefore, entitled to initiate an investigation into the killings proprio motu. There are sufficient grounds for the Prosecutor to initiate a proprio motu investigation in respect of the Lekki Toll Gate killings. The ICC has both subject matter and personal jurisdiction in this matter.
“The investigation, prosecution and trial of crimes against humanity fall within the jurisdictional purview of the ICC, and the accused persons are natural persons. The scale, nature, manner and impact of the crimes are of such severity that an investigation by the ICC is warranted.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances, it is in the interests of justice for this matter to proceed at the ICC.
“Despite ample evidence, the Federal Government of Nigeria has not initiated any formal investigation or prosecution of the soldiers and policemen involved in the killings at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“While the Lagos State Government set up the JPI to investigate the killings, the Lagos State Government does not control the Nigeria Army and the Nigeria Police. The Lagos State Government cannot, therefore, impose and enforce sanctions against the erring soldiers and policemen.
“Although under Nigerian law, civil courts (e.g., the High Court) may try criminal law offences committed by a serving member of the military, in reality, the likelihood that a serving member of the military would be tried in a civil court depends largely (if not, solely) on the cooperation of military authorities.
“It appears that the military authorities and the Federal Government of Nigeria have little or no interest conducting any meaningful investigation in this matter and/or achieving justice for the victims of the killings.
“Crimes against humanity occurred at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020. Reports of several investigations including the investigations conducted by CNN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up the Lagos State Government to investigate the incident, as well as eyewitness accounts and ample photographic and video evidence clearly establish that soldiers and policemen engaged in coordinated, systematic and premeditated attacks against unarmed civil population, which led to deaths and injuries.
“Despite the evidence, the Federal Government of Nigeria has failed to initiate any meaningful investigation of the incident, but has instead engaged in efforts to discredit the reports issued by the organisations, while not offering any evidence in rebuttal of the facts set out in those reports.
“It is evident that the Federal Government of Nigeria is unwilling to investigate, and/or achieve justice for the victims of the attacks/killings.
“Nigeria is a party to the Rome Statute, and all the conditions for the ICC to assume jurisdiction in this matter, and to, in the least, conduct a preliminary examination and a formal investigation are present.
“Unless the international community brings pressure to bear on the Federal Government of Nigeria, it is unlikely that there will ever be accountability for the persons who attacked and killed unarmed protesters at the Toll Gate, and for the persons who gave the orders for the attacks.”
The Nigerian Government and officials of Lagos Government have been working tirelessly to discredit the findings of the panel that investigated the massacre of unarmed protesters at Lekki last year since the report surfaced.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, described the report as “fake and full of errors” earlier in the week while a member of the panel, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has alleged threat to his life by agents of Lagos State Government.
Earlier this week, Miss Kamsiyochukwu Ibe, who took active part in the nationwide protest last year, was attacked for testifying before the #EndSARS judicial panel in Lagos State.
Other persons in support of the panel report and calling for the prosecution of perpetrators have also alleged threat to their lives.
The United States, United Nations, European Union, Amnesty International and several other groups around the world have all called for persons indicted by the panel report to be punished for their role in the killing of peaceful demonstrators at Lekki in October 2020.
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