By Adedapo Adesanya
Human Rights Watch has called on Nigerian authorities to act on the #EndSARS panel recommendations and hold those responsible to account.
This call was made in a press statement on Monday in which the group accused the federal government of not making efforts to ensure justice for the killing of protesters in Lagos state in 2020, six months after a judicial panel implicated security forces in the abuses.
Speaking on this, Mr Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch said, “The report of the judicial panel of inquiry should not be swept under the rug without any consequences for those responsible for killing and injuring protesters.
“A failure to act on the panel’s recommendations will send a painful message to victims and risks encouraging more violence by security officers.”
For context, in October 2020, young people across Nigeria took to the streets calling for the disbandment of an abusive police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and for an end to the brutality, in a movement using the hashtag #EndSARS.
Security forces responded with excessive force, including gunfire. One of the worst crackdowns was at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on October 20, when army and police officers opened fire on a crowd of protesters, leaving people dead and wounded.
In response, the Lagos state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwolu, mandated a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the incident and provide recommendations for justice and accountability.
The panel heard testimonies for a year from victims and representatives of the army, the police, and hospitals that treated victims. It was found in November 2021 that the security forces shot, injured, and killed unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, corroborating Human Rights Watch findings.
The panel also presented a list of at least 48 casualties, including nine dead, four missing and presumed dead, and 21 wounded by gunshots. The panel recommended appropriate disciplinary measures and dismissals of army officers implicated in the abuses. The panel also recommended prosecuting police officers implicated in the indiscriminate shooting and killing of protesters at the toll gate and prompt payment of the compensation that the panel awarded to victims.
The Nigerian police and military authorities have neither taken further steps to independently investigate nor responded to the panel’s findings and recommendations.
The federal government, which has oversight of these institutions, rejected the panel’s recommendations. The Lagos state governor, who called for the investigation and gave assurances that victims would get closure, has also been quiet on the issue of accountability.
Nigeria has a poor history with judicial panels of inquiries, whose recommendations have no force of law and are often dependent on the responsible authorities to carry out the recommendations.
A lack of political will on justice and accountability has meant that past judicial panels including those set up to investigate mass extrajudicial killings in other contexts made no progress toward ending impunity for security force abuses.
Adding her input, Mrs Serah Ibrahim, a coordinator of the EndSARS Survivors’ Group, made up of victims of the Lekki Toll Gate incident and their families, told Human Rights Watch that she and other members of the group including those who are managing serious injuries from the shooting are following up with the Lagos state government officials.
She said they want to see justice done and compensation paid but it appears futile because state government officials have told them it is not up to them to determine what happens next.
“They don’t want to fish out [identify] the people who shot at us and they also do not want to pay compensation for what happened because it will be an admission of guilt,” she said.
“Sometimes I just want to move on because pursuing justice in Nigeria seems pointless, but I can’t because I know what happened and the impact it has had on the lives of victims and their families,” Mrs Ibrahim added
Following the submission of the Lagos judicial panel report to Governor Sanwolu, he set up another committee to review the contents and come up with a white paper to chart the way forward. The white paper, released in November 2021, rejected the panel’s key findings, including the death toll of nine, stating that there were substantial inconsistencies and a lack of adequate evidence to back the claim.
But the Lagos state government said it fully or partially accepted all but one of the panel’s recommendations that relate to its own authority and indicated that it would forward other recommendations to the appropriate authorities, including the federal government, the Police Service Commission, Nigeria Police Force, and the Nigerian Army.
The federal government through the Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, rejected the findings and recommendations of the panel though, and maintained the position it had taken since the incident occurred that reports of shooting and killing by security forces at the Lekki Toll Gate were “fake news.”
Justice and accountability should not be determined by the views of individual government ministers or officials but should rather be guaranteed for all Nigerians through independent systems and authorities mandated to investigate and act on allegations of abuses, Human Rights Watch said.
Within the Nigeria police force, there are several units including the X-Squad Unit of the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) and the Provost Department, which are responsible for investigating offences by officers and recommending disciplinary actions and criminal prosecution where applicable. The Police Service Commission, which provides external oversight, also has the authority to investigate complaints and to mandate disciplinary actions, including dismissal, it added.
Similarly, the military police can investigate the actions of army officers implicated directly or indirectly in the abuses against protesters. An internal board of inquiry or regimental inquiry can also be set up to uncover the facts around their involvement and a court-martial process can be convened to discipline officers who engage in misconduct and ensure accountability,’ the group noted.
The executive secretary of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, told Human Rights Watch that it is because of the failure of the various internal systems for accountability to adequately do their jobs over the years that police and military officers have continued to act with impunity.
“Nigerian authorities have evaded their responsibilities to identify, discipline, and prosecute security officers involved in abuses.
“Unless this changes, violence by security forces against ordinary citizens will continue,” Mr Ewang added.
Co-founder of Bukka Hut Laolu Martins Dies After Battle With Depression
By Module Gbadeyanka
An investment banker and co-founder of Bukka Hut, Mr Laolu Martins, has died.
He was said to have kicked the bucket in the early hours of Tuesday.
Mr Martins has allegedly been battling with depression and had made efforts to overcome it, according to reports.
His family, which confirmed his demise in a statement on Wednesday, asked for understanding and privacy as they mourn him.
“We hereby solicit the support and understanding of everyone as the family grieves the loss of our beloved Laolu in our privacy.
“Our kind request is that you support the family – wife, children, aged mother and father and his siblings with your prayers at this difficult time.
“Further announcements will be made by the family,” the statement said.
Mr Martins established Bukka Hut with his friend, Mr Rasheed Jayeola. The company is a leading a restaurant that offers a wide variety of tasty homemade meals.
NDLEA Sets Ablaze N194bn Cocaine Seized in Lagos
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The 1.8 tonnes of cocaine worth N194 billion recovered by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) from a warehouse in the Ikorodu area of Lagos last week has been set ablaze.
The illicit drug was burnt on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, in the Badagry area of Lagos and was witnessed by the Chairman/Chief Executive of the agency, Mr Buba Marwa.
Mr Marwa, represented by the Director of Prosecution and Legal Services, Deputy Commander General of Narcotics (DCGN), Mr Sunday Joseph, said the cocaine was set ablaze following an order of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
He said the sheer volume of the drug haul speaks volumes about the extent of the nefarious activities of the drug underworld, noting that this has made it imperative for Nigerians to continue to support NDLEA in the renewed war against illicit drugs.
The NDLEA chief said out of the 1.8-tonne seizure, 1,828 blocks of the cocaine will be crushed and set ablaze, while the remnant will be secured for the purpose of prosecution of the suspects who were brought to witness the procedure and sign the certificate of destruction.
According to him, the agency is proceeding with the prosecution of those arrested in connection with this consignment, promising that the organisation will pursue the trial to a logical conclusion.
“Since January 25, 2021, when we commenced our offensive action against drug traffickers, the Agency has secured record convictions.
“Presently, 2,904 drug offenders are serving various jail terms, while other cases are ongoing in court, which we are confident will end in positive results too,” he was quoted as saying in a statement signed by the spokesman of the agency, Mr Femi Babafemi.
While soliciting more support for the agency’s work, Mr Marwa said the safety of society was the responsibility of every citizen.
He said the fact that the Ikorodu operation was conducted clinically without any skirmish or bloodshed was further testimony to the evolution of the NDLEA and its new capabilities and a pointer to the fact that the game has changed in the war against illicit drugs.
He expressed appreciation to the organisation’s international partners, especially the American Drug Enforcement Administration (US-DEA), which supported the cocaine syndicate bust and the Nigerian military that provided additional firepower during the operation, as well as other law enforcement agencies that have been supporting efforts to rid Nigeria of illicit drugs.
The NDLEA had in a well-coordinated and intelligence-led operation that lasted two days last week, stormed a hidden warehouse at 6 Olukunola Street, Solebo Estate, Ikorodu. Five suspects, including a Jamaican, were arrested.
Afenifere’s Support for Peter Obi Good for Nigeria’s Unity—SERG
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The endorsement of the candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, by a pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, has been applauded by a pan-Igbo socio-political pressure organisation, the South East Revival Group (SERG).
In a statement issued in Abuja by the president and national coordinator of SERG, Mr Willy Ezugwu, the group said the support for the former Governor of Anambra State for the 2023 presidential election was good for the unity of Nigeria.
The leader of Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, had said for equity, justice and fairness, the organisation would be throwing its weight with the candidate of Igbo extraction as it was the turn of the South East to govern Nigeria.
“The unequivocal support coming from credible South West political bloc, which the Afenifere represents, is a support for equity and justice, which will boost Nigeria’s national unity,” SERG said.
It maintained that “the renewed declaration of support for the Peter Obi presidential bid, alongside his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, by the Afenifere has demonstrated that there are still individuals and groups around who love the country and would sacrifice anything to keep Nigeria united and prosperous.
“The support by Afenifere is in line with the advocacy sustained by the former Executive Governor of Kaduna State and elder statesman, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, ahead of the 2023 general elections before his death.
“Alhaji Balarabe Musa had urged Nigerians to give the South East the chance to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023 to give the region a sense of belonging.
“We, therefore, totally agree with Pa Adebanjo that by the Afenifere’s support, the group is contributing to shaping Nigeria into a truly Federal Republic where no person or ethnic nationality would be sidelined or oppressed.
“We recognize the fact that Afenifere, as well as the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, have been consistent in their advocacy for restructuring and, by extension, the need for a Nigerian President of South East extraction as part of efforts towards national integration.
“With this reiterated endorsement from the Afenifere against all odds, it should now sink into the minds of all Nigerians, especially South East political leaders, that the Peter Obi presidential bid is devoid of ethnic colouration and must be embraced by all and sundry in Igboland.
“We, therefore, call on all Igbo sons and daughters to join the support train, not because Peter Obi is an Igbo but because he has proven to be competent with a reasonable understanding of Nigeria’s problems and how they can be fixed.
“Nigeria is greatly troubled in every sector, with complications from security challenges as evident in all parts of the country, and we need urgent rescue from total collapse.
“Peter Obi has a track record of integrity, competence, and proven performance and has expressed his readiness to work with Nigerians of all tribes and religions to make the country work again by focusing on production, which will boost the country’s economy and return the country to the path of recovery and prosperity,” the SERG said.
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