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UN, U.S., SANs to govt: act on Lagos #EndSARS report

•PDP, activists back punishment for indicted officers •CDS defends Army

The United Nations (UN), the United States, lawyers and right activists yesterday called for full implementation of the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS-Related Abuses and Other Matters.

The panel submitted its report on Monday, following which Governor Babatunde Sanwo-Olu raised a four-member white paper committee.

Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, who faulted the leakage of the report, defended the Army, saying they will focus on their professional duties.

The US Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, in a statement by the Public Affairs Section, said it was looking forward to the redress of the alleged abuses by security agencies and compensation for the victims.

It reads: “The United States welcomes the conclusion of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry with the transmission of its final report.

“We look forward to the Lagos State government’s response as 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 Governments taking suitable measures to address those alleged abuses as well as the grievances of the victims and their families.”

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria Edward Kallon called for a commitment to implementing the panel’s recommendations.

“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,” he said.

Kallon hopes the submission of the findings would accelerate the process of justice and accountability.

“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,” he added.

Lawyers, including a former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), activist-lawyer Femi Falana (SAN), and former Ekiti State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Mr Gboyega Oyewole (SAN) are also looking forward to the implementation of the report.

Agbakoba said: “The way forward is simply to fully implement the findings of the panel.”

Falana said the panel deserved commendation for the thorough investigation of police brutality in Lagos.

“In particular, the revelation that some of the 99 dead bodies dumped in the various mortuaries in Lagos by soldiers were traced to the Lekki Toll Gate has confirmed that the report of the brutal killing was not a figment of the imagination of the protesters.

“A certified copy of the Report of the Panel should be forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari, in view of the recommendation that the soldiers and police personnel who engaged in the torture and reckless murder of citizens be sanctioned,” he said.

Falana said policemen who were killed by criminal elements during the protests should be honoured, notwithstanding that their family members have been compensated.

“However, as police brutality has continued unabated, we call on the government to set up the Lagos State Human Rights Committee in line with the recommendation of the Panel.

“This was part of the unanimous resolutions of the members of the National Economic Council.

“While commending the witnesses and their lawyers for exposing the 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 the 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.”

Oyewole said Justice Okuwobi and members of the panel demonstrated integrity and did “an impressive job”.

He said while many of the recommendations may not be within the purview of the Lagos government for implementation, the state must carry out those within its purview.

Warning that there must be no cover-ups, Oyewole said: “I want to enjoin the Federal Government to emulate what the Lagos State government has done by being transparent.

“Other states should also follow suit such that the confidence in the government is restored, and the citizens will always trust whatever the government embarks upon in unravelling incidences of this nature.”

PDP, SERAP, others react

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called for the prosecution of persons indicted by the report.

The party, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, chided those who downplayed the attacks on the protesters and denied the killings.

“It is now clear that no matter how much the wicked strive in denial, the truth will always prevail.

“Therefore, the blood of our innocent youths must not be shed in vain. Those responsible for these callous acts must be made to face justice.

“The nation must ensure that such individuals are brought to book for their act of wickedness to humanity.

“Our party insists that all those indicted by the panel should be arrested, prosecuted and dealt with in accordance with our laws.

“The PDP again commiserates with the families of the slain young Nigerians, who were cut in their prime for demanding for a just, equitable and secure nation governed by the rule of law”.

Senator Ben Murray-Bruce warned that any attempt to hide any of the findings will be futile.

He said in a post on his Facebook account: “The report of the #EndSARS panel doesn’t tell a new story; instead, it validates the already existing truth.

“What shouldn’t be done at this time is to deny the obvious, as doing this is counterproductive. Leadership is not about the past.

“Our leaders need to understand that we are in a jet-age generation where information moves at the speed of light. As such, hiding, or coating the truth is almost impossible. The time for reliable leadership is now.”

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said it would institute legal action against the Federal Government today.

The group said it was suing to prevail on President Buhari to compel the arrest of soldiers and police officers involved in shooting protesters.

“We’re also following up with our petition dated 21 October 2020 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court by forwarding today a copy of the report of Lagos #EndSARS Panel as additional information and evidence.”

The ‘recommendations’

The panel, among others, established in the leaked report that there were killings at the Lekki tollgate.

The panel reportedly made no fewer than 32 recommendations, including holistic police reforms covering welfare, training and proper equipping of policemen and their working environment.

It recommended sanctions for Army and Police officers who participated in the shooting, injuring and killing of unarmed protestors; development of more robust engagement between the youth and the government; and 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.

The panel was also said to have recommended a public apology to #EnDSARS protesters who were killed, injured and traumatised by the October 20 incident; the memorialisation of the Lekki Toll Gate and recognition of hospitals and medical doctors who played heroic roles following the incident, thereby saving lives and minimising the impact of the injuries suffered by the victims, most of which were on a pro-bono basis.

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