Counsel for some #EndSARS protesters in Lagos State, Mr Adesina Ogunlana, has said Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will have to appear before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing the alleged killing of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate on the night of October 20.
Ogunlana said since the military claimed before the panel that their operation on that day was on the invitation of the governor, it would be important for the governor to appear before the panel, particularly to demonstrate his professed belief in the rule of law.
The Commander of 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo, had during his cross-examination on Saturday said the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, ordered the deployment of soldiers to the tollgate and other parts of the state that day following a request by the governor.
“He (the governor) called the Chief of Army Staff, following which 81 Division, Nigerian Army was ordered into phase four of internal security operation; the call was in the afternoon, before 4pm,” Taiwo told the panel.
Meanwhile, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, the lawyer was asked if the appearance of the governor was important to the case of his clients and whether he would be pushing for the governor’s appearance before the panel.
Ogunlana said, “Of course, that is taken (sic). That person (Sanwo-Olu) will have to come; he’s a factor and he will come. He says he believes in the rule of law, his Attorney General, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), has come to appear before that panel to just make a short speech and to affirm that the Lagos State Government is indeed committed to unraveling the truth about what happened at Lekki on that day; and the military has mentioned him, so, he is a factor.”
While the Nigerian Army has consistently maintained that it did not kill any of the #EndSARS protesters, Ogunlana, on the other hand, insisted that “people died on my side.”
His clients, Kamsiyochukwu Perpetual, Dabira Ayuku and Samuel Isah, had in their individual affidavits on oath submitted to the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel, stressed that soldiers and policemen shot and killed protesters.
Perpetual, in her petition, stated that she saw many dead bodies, including one with a bullet-torn head at Reddington Hospital, Lekki the morning after the shootings.
“The doctors refused us access to see the dead bodies. The media man waded in again and we could only see one of the dead bodies whose head was torn by (a) bullet fired to his head. He laid at the emergency unit. The doctor called the corpse ‘John Doe’ (sic).”
Ayuku, in her statement on oath, said, “The soldiers were asking people to run whilst they shot at them. I remember a particular soldier that kept dancing whilst he shot.”
Also, Isah said he witnessed how policemen allegedly gunned down a Nigerian flag-bearing youth.
He said, “That young man was hit by bullet in his head and died immediately, falling to the road with the Nigerian flag in his hand (sic).”
Isah said he managed to video the shootings by soldiers on his mobile and had submitted two footages to the panel.
But Taiwo, who testified for the Nigerian Army before the panel on November 14, said soldiers used only blank bullets, which they fired into the air.
“Blank expended ammunition contains only gunpowder, which just makes noise and a flash,” Taiwo said.
The general said a blank bullet “can do no damage to the flesh and you have nothing to fear except you take a rifle, put it against your eye and fire. Even if you put it against your skin and fire you will only have burn marks to show for it.”
Retired generals demand govt probe of live ammunition, Serbian bullets claim
Meanwhile, some retired generals have called for a deep scrutiny by the Lagos judicial panel investigating allegations of police brutality levelled against SARS personnel and the Lekki tollgate incident, given evidence on account of a report by the Cable News Network.
The generals noted that if necessary, the panel should invite the military and other parties to speak on the new evidence.
The CNN report revealed that expended Serbian ammunition, allegedly fired by the soldiers, were picked from the scene of the incident.
The report said, “CNN has examined bullet casings found at the scene and confirmed with current and former Nigerian military sources that the bullet casings match those used by the army. Two ballistics experts have also confirmed with CNN that the shape of the bullet casings indicate they used live rounds, which contradicts the army’s claim they fired blanks.
“And working with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, CNN has established that several of the bullets from the Lekki tollgate originated from Serbia. Export documents CNN has seen show that Nigeria purchased weaponry from Serbia almost every year between 2005 and 2016.”
One of the generals, a former Provost Marshal of the Army, Brig Gen Idada Ikponwmen (retd.), told one of our correspondents that the panel should be thorough in its investigation based on the facts and the law.
Ikponwmen said, “I think the original scope of the panel still covers whatever evidence we are getting. I don’t think there is a need for a new panel. There should be evidence before the panel. Those who are saying that they found this and that should be able to establish them before the panel.
“The panel is empowered to invite anybody, based on whatever new evidence, to clear the air. The panel is not just to look at facts alone; they should also look at the evidence in view of the law; how do you engage the military in a law enforcement role; what does the constitution say?
“We are already aware of the inconsistent statements or positions from the various parties; the governor, the army and all that. The panel should be able to look into all those things. It is not just about the bullets on the ground; how did they get there? The panel should be able to ascertain the facts and the relevant laws and see whether everyone acted properly or there were shortcomings.”
Soldiers ought to account for all bullets, says Jemibewon
Also, a former Military Governor of old Western Region, Major General David Jemibewon (retd.), told one of our correspondents in an interview that the soldiers deployed in the Lekki tollgate area that night should be made to account for every bullet given to them, in line with military ethics.
He added, “It depends on the experience and knowledge of those who constitute the panel. It is very important. Of course, whosoever makes an allegation must have evidence to support the allegations he made. So, normally as those things, if soldiers were called to a situation like that, they should also collect the empty shells of whatever ammunition they expended.
“What I would advise is that proper investigation must be conducted. If you allege that someone was killed, it is either they show the dead body or show empty shells, being the expended part of the ammunition. This is because they would use as evidence that certainly these bullets were fired.
“We should know how many soldiers were sent out and how many rounds of ammunition they had with them. This is because each soldier would be given a certain number of rounds of ammunition and when they come back, they must account for every ammunition. If they gave you five rounds and you say you have fired one round, you must return four rounds.
“I wouldn’t know whether they still follow that, or whether the members of the panel really understand this. This is what we were taught when I was still there (in the military).”
Also, Major General Obi Umahi (retd.), said, “It is as straightforward as that it is; just to confirm or investigate whether any of the services has ever brought in bullets made in Serbia; whether any of the weapons includes armaments from Serbia. That could just be a quick lead. So, you can’t say it is this service or that service until after the report establishes that.
“It is for you people to make your own private investigations and establish that any of the Armed Forces or any of the security agencies have stock of Serbian-made ammunition. Once you establish that, you can confront anybody with the facts.”
Panel has power to invite anybody–Lagos commissioner
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, has said the governor will appear before the sitting if the state judicial panel investigating the Lekki tollgate incident decides to invite him.
Omotoso, in an interview with one of our correspondents, pointed out that he was not aware if the governor had been invited by the judicial panel.
He said, “I’m not aware that he (the governor) has been invited or he is going to be invited. It is only when they invite him that we can begin to talk about whether he will be there or not. But I know that the panel has the power to invite whoever will help them to clear the air on whatever issues the panel wants to decide on.
“But I’m not aware of such invite. If it turns out that the governor is invited, he is like any other Nigerian. He set up the panel in the first place and if they invite him, why not?”
Delta to spend N100m to rebuild burnt High Court Complex
The Delta State Government has said it will spend N100m to rebuild the state High Court Complex in Asaba which was razed by hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protest in the state. The multi-million recreational park on the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha Road was also razed.
The Commissioner for Housing, Festus Ochonogor, joined by the Chief Judge, Justice Marshall Umukoro; Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Peter Mrakpor and the Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, disclosed this during an inspection visit to the premises on Thursday.
Ochonogor stated that experts from the ministry had been working on the new design to produce a new structure before the end of the year.
The Chief Judge described the burning of the court as a major setback to the judiciary, noting that all the court documents were burnt.
Why I proposed police reform before #EndSARS protests – Rep
A member of the House of Representatives, Mr Yusuf Gagdi, has recalled how he proposed reformation of the police by sponsoring the Nigeria Police Act (Amendment) Bill, long before the #EndSARS protests.
Gagdi made this known when a delegation of members of the Plateau State House of Assembly, where he once served as the Deputy Speaker, visited him in Abuja on Friday.
The lawmaker, who is now Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, said, “They talk about police reform in Nigeria; I originated it in the National Assembly. I sponsored a bill. By the special grace of God, Mr President graciously signed those bills. We have some pending ones that we will continue to work on.
“I’m happy to say that the bill came before the #EndSARS protests. It was not the #EndSARS that instigated me to see the need for police reform.”
The ninth House had passed the bill leading to the Police Act, 2020, on July 2, with the concurrence of the Senate. The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had communicated his assent to the bill via a memo dated September 16, 2020, to the National Assembly.
The House had said it was welcoming inputs from all stakeholders in the formation of the Police Service Commission (Reform) Bill 2020, a draft of which was presented at the Public Policy Dialogue Series organised by the House Committee on Implementation and Monitoring of the Legislative Agenda in Abuja.
PDP makes case for a National Truth Commission
In another development, the Peoples Democratic Party on Friday demanded the setting up of an independent National Truth Commission to investigate the reported killing of peaceful protesters by security agents during the #EndSARS peaceful protests by Nigerian youths.
It said only such a commission could carry out a detailed investigation devoid of undue interference from interested parties.
This, the party said, was in view of the fact that both the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government had yet to come clean over allegations of their culpability in the incident.
The demand was contained in a statement titled, “#EndSARS killing: PDP demands National Truth Commission…says crime against humanity going on in Nigeria,” signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja.
It read in part, “The Peoples Democratic Party charges President Muhammadu Buhari to, without further delay, set up an independent national truth commission on the reported killing of peaceful protesters by security agencies as well as alleged recruitment of hoodlums by agents of government to disrupt the patriotic demonstration by Nigerian youths against police brutality in our country.”
The opposition party said Nigerians were alarmed by the contradicting claims by the regime on the Lekki killings, from the initial denial by the military that it deployed troops in Lekki, to “a strange claim” by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, that hoodlums in military uniform could have been responsible for the attack.
“In the same vein, Nigerians are disturbed by the contradicting claims by Governor Sanwo-Olu, who earlier asserted that there was no causality at Lekki Tollgate, only for him to admit afterwards that one person died and later changed his figure to two.”
“The Federal Government needs to clarify a video of armed hoodlums being dropped off at protest grounds by suspected security agency vehicles to disrupt peaceful protests in Abuja.” the statement added.