Fed Govt rejects Lagos EndSARS panel report

The Federal Government yesterday rejected the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry into #EndSARS protest in the state.

It said that the report, which it described as an equivalence of fake news, was riddled with a lot of errors, inconsistencies and discrepancies.

The government contended that the report was “social media tales by the moonlight’’ and sheer waste of tax payers money.

Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed made the government’s position known at a news conference in Abuja.

 

However, many Nigerian were of the opinion that the minister should have waited for the white paper before rejecting it.

The Lagos State Panel of Inquiry on Restitution of Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Related Matters recently submitted two documents — a consolidated report on cases of police brutality and another on the Lekki shooting investigation — to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

The governor consequently set up a four-man committee to examine the documents within two weeks and “bring forward the White Paper” that would be considered by the state executive council

Few hours later, a version of the 309-page document appeared in the social media.

In that version, the panel said the “killing of unarmed protesters by soldiers on October 20, 2020 could be described in the context of a ‘massacre’”.

Mohammed insisted that there was no massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate venue of the protest.

Government, according to him, spotted 10 loopholes in the controversial report.

One of such gaps, according to him, is the panel’s silence on the killing of police personnel and destruction of police stations during the protest.

The minister said 37 policemen and six soldiers were killed policemen across the country during the protest.

Mohammed asked those celebrating the report to go back to it and see whether there was any justification for it or not.

His words: ”It’s no longer news that the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry that investigated cases of police brutality as well as the incident of October 20th, 2020, at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos has submitted its report. Unlike many commentators and analysts, we took our time to read and digest the report, and we are now well-placed to respond.

“Without mincing words, let me say that never in the history of any judicial panel in this country has its report been riddled with so many errors, inconsistencies, discrepancies, speculations, innuendoes, omissions and conclusions that are not supported by evidence.

“What is circulating in public space is simply a rehash of the unverified fake news that has been playing on social media since the incident of October 20th 2020.

“It is simply incredible that a judicial panel set up to investigate an incident has submitted a report laden with allegations, the same allegations it was set up to investigate in the first instance.

“Instead of sitting for all of one year, the panel could have just compiled social media ‘tales by the moonlight’ on the incident and submitted, saving taxpayers’ funds and everyone’s time.

“That report is nothing but the triumph of fake news and the intimidation of a silent majority by a vociferous lynch mob.

”We have read some critical analysis of the report by a courageous few. One commentator, a lawyer, said it raised more questions than answers. Another commentator, a journalist, called it a ‘disgraceful report by a disgraceful panel’, saying it reported allegations instead of investigating the allegations. Yet another wondered how a judicial panel could use the words ‘massacre in context’ and equates such to a massacre.

Read Also; ‘Too many inconsistencies in #EndSARS Panel report’
“All these and many more have raised valid questions on that report. We salute their courage and refusal to be cowed by the rampaging lynch mob that has been screaming blue murder since the report was released.”

Some of the 10 loopholes highlighted by the minister are :

*That the panel threw away the testimony of ballistic experts;

*That the panel that said it deemed as credible the evidence of the Forensic Pathologist, Prof. John Obafunwa, that only three of the bodies on which post-mortem were conducted were from Lekki and only one had gunshot injury went on to contradict itself by saying nine persons died of gunshot wounds at Lekki;

*The man whose evidence (that he counted 11 bodies in a military van where he was left for dead before he escaped) was found to be crucial by the panel never testified in person.Rather, the video of his ‘testimony’ was played by someone else. It did not occur to the panel to query the veracity of the testimony of a man who said he was shot and presumed dead but still had time to count dead bodies inside a supposedly dark van at night!

*The panel said trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki Tollgate in the morning of Oct. 21 2020 to clean up bloodstains and other evidence, but still found bullet casings at the same site when it visited on Oct. 30th 2020. It said soldiers picked up bullet casings from Lekki Toll Gate on the night of Oct. 20th 2020, yet claimed that policemen came to the same spot to pick the same bullet casings on Oct. 21st 2020!

*The panel was silent on the family members of those reportedly killed, merely insinuating they were afraid to testify. Even goats have owners who will look for them if they do not return home, not to talk of human beings.

*How can a judicial panel convince anyone that the names of some casualties of the Lekki Tollgate incident listed as numbers three (Jide), 42 (Tola) and 43 (Wisdom) are not fictitious names; and

*Why did the Judicial Panel feel compelled to concoct a “massacre in context” as a euphemism for ‘’massacre’’? A massacre is a massacre. What is “massacre in context”?

The minister condemned the Cable News Network (CNN) for allegedly celebrating the leaked report.

He also cautioned the media against joining “the lynch mob”.

He said: “The CNN has been celebrating the leaked report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry. In its rush to claim vindication.CNN apparently didn’t even read the report before rolling out the drums in celebration.

“By that action, CNN has celebrated prematurely and has now committed a double faux pas: First, by relying on unverified social media stories and videos to carry out an investigation of the Oct. 20th 2020 incident at Lekki, where it did not have a correspondent on ground. CNN goofed in its report on the findings of the panel, which fell below the main standards of journalism.

“Secondly, CNN rushed to the air to celebrate an unsigned and unverified report that is riddled with inconsistencies, errors, discrepancies, innuendoes. That’s double faux pas by a news organization that is eager and willing to compromise standards just to claim vindication.

“Sadly, a section of the Nigerian media has also joined the lynch mob. Honestly, in an attempt to vilify government at all costs, they have done themselves a great disservice.

“How can any news organisation worth its salt write an editorial validating this kind of report? Are they not seeing what others, including journalists and lawyers, are seeing? In a shocking twist, a Nigerian newspaper chose to hail what it calls ‘’detailed investigative report’’ by CNN, even when the news channel did not even cover the incident of Oct. 20th 2020! It’s a classic case of cutting your nose to spite your face.”

Mohammed said the government was insisting on its stand that there was no massacre at the Tollgate in Lagos.

He said:” There is absolutely nothing in the report that is circulating to make us change our stand that there was no massacre at Lekki on Oct. 20th 2020. For us to change our stand, a well-investigated report of the incident that meets all requiredstandards and will withstand every scrutiny must be produced and presented to the public.

“The report in circulation does not meet those requirements. We also appeal to the families of those allegedly killed in Lekki to speak out. It’s untenable to say that some families did not come out because they are afraid. Any parent who is afraid to testify about the death of his or her child is not worth to be called a parent.

“We reject the notion that our soldiers and policemen massacred innocent Nigerians at Lekki on Oct. 20th 2020.

“The report in circulation is calculated to embarrass the Federal Government and its agencies without foolproof evidence.

“The 37 policemen and six soldiers who died across the country during the Endsars protest are also Nigerians and should not be forgotten.

“Those who have engaged in premature celebration of the report in circulation should now go back and read it thoroughly and tell Nigerians whether it can pass any serious scrutiny.

“As we have disclosed many times, 57 civilians, 37 policemen and six soldiers were killed across the country during the protest, and we commiserate with their families”

Asked if he would quit, Mohammed replied: “There have been clamours for my resignation right from the day I took this office. So, I take it in its strides.”

The Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON) has condemned the alleged threat to the life of member of the panel that probed the protest in Lagos, Ebun Olu-Adegoruwa (SAN).

Its Sub-region Coordinator, Bayo Akinlade, urged the police to protect the activist-lawyer.

Akinlade, a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikorodu branch, said he was “very disturbed” by the alleged threat to the lawyer’s life.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State decried Mohammed’s comment on the report.

The PDP said the minister’s reaction was capable of causing more damage to federal and Lagos State governments’ good intention to for once address the grievances of Nigerians.

Lagos PDP Publicity Secretary Gani Taofik said: “This is not the first time and it is now obvious that Alhaji Muhammed will not verify facts, especially concerning Lagos State before putting the state on the spot. This is a big challenge for the governor to dispute.

“We commend the steps being taken so far by the state government to compensate the victims. But, we condemn in totality an attempt by Alhaji Muhammed, who never appeared before the panel for a day, to come and discredit the report. And by this attempt, he is ridiculing the country among the comity of nations.”

<<The Nation>>