The report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry investigating the #EndSARS protest in the state was rejected by the Federal Government yesterday.
It claimed that the report was plagued with inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and disparities, describing it as an instance of fake news.
The research, according to the administration, was “social media tales by the moonlight” and a complete waste of taxpayer funds.
At a press conference in Abuja, Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed stated the government’s viewpoint.
Many Nigerians, on the other hand, believe that the minister should have waited for the white paper before dismissing it.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu recently received two documents from the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry on Restitution of Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Related Matters: a consolidated report on cases of police brutality and another on the Lekki shooting probe.
As a result, the governor appointed a four-member team to review the documents within two weeks and “put forward the White Paper” for consideration by the state executive council.
A version of the 309-page paper appeared on social media a few hours later.
The panel stated in that version that “the death of unarmed demonstrators by soldiers on October 20, 2020, might be regarded as a’massacre’.”
Mohammed stated that no one was killed during the rally at the Lekki Toll Gate.
According to him, the administration found ten flaws in the contentious report.
According to him, one of these gaps is the panel’s silence on the deaths of police officers and the demolition of police stations during the demonstration.
The minister said 37 policemen and six soldiers have 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.
“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 out the testimony of ballistic experts;
*That the panel that said it deemed the evidence of the Forensic Pathologist, Prof. John Obafunwa, that only three of the bodies on which a post-mortem was conducted were from Lekki and only one had gunshot injury went on to contradict itself by saying nine people died of gunshot wounds at Lekki;
The man whose testimony was judged to be essential by the panel (that he counted 11 bodies in a military van where he was left for dead before escaping) never testified in person. Someone else instead played the video of his ‘testimony.’ The panel did not question the credibility of a man who claimed he was shot and assumed dead but yet had time to count dead bodies inside a reportedly 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 chastised CNN for apparently applauding the leaked story.
He also warned the press not to join “the lynch mob.”
“The leaked report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry has been celebrated by CNN,” he remarked. In its haste to claim victory. CNN evidently didn’t even bother to read the report before bursting into applause.
“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 investigate the Oct. 20th, 2020 incident at Lekki, where it did not have a correspondent on the 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 the government at all costs, they have done themselves a great disservice.
“How can any news organization 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 a ‘’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 required standards 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 being 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.”