Nigeria: Buhari Won't Order Parallel Probe Into Lekki Shooting, Says Presidency

Young Nigerians holding placards at an EndSARS protest (file photo).
30 October 2020

The presidency yesterday said the federal government will not institute a parallel investigation into last Tuesday's shooting of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers in Lekki, Lagos.

Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, while fielding questions when he appeared on a programme on CHANNELS TV, said President Muhammadu Buhari lacks the constitutional power to probe the incident, which has attracted global outrage.

He explained that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) only empowers the president to probe incidents that happen within Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Already, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has mandated a seven-man Judicial Commission of Inquiry, set up to probe allegations of brutality against the police in the state, especially those committed by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), to investigate the Lekki Tollgate shooting.

The commission, headed by Justice Doris Okuwobi (rtd), began sitting on Tuesday.

Speaking against the backdrop of the clamour for the president to probe the incident in the light of the assertion by Sanwo-Olu that the military doesn't take orders from him, Adesina said: "It depends on the understanding of the constitution by those who expect a judicial panel or anything like that from the federal government.

"The truth is that under the constitution, the federal government can't set up any judicial panel anywhere, except in Abuja. Only state governments can set up judicial panels in their jurisdiction. The federal government cannot."

According to him, the fact that a delegation of ministers from the South-west visited the shooting scene doesn't confer on the president powers to probe the incident.

He shed more light on the visit, saying: "At the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, nine days ago, the president directed all ministers to return to their states. He said constitutionally, the ministers are the ones that represent their states in the cabinet and in the federal government and they should return to their respective states, engage with the governors and engage with the people so there can be a better understanding of what's happening in the country."

He stated that at Wednesday's FEC meeting, the president asked the ministers for briefs from the stakeholders' engagements, but only two of them had their reports ready by then while some others were still in their respective states carrying out the assignment.

"But the president said all of them should turn in their reports to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in the incoming week," he added.

Adesina explained that the reports will help the federal government to gain a better understanding of the incident and to clear cases of doubts arising from conflicting claims, "conjectures, outright falsehoods and fake news" about the Lekki Tollgate shooting.

Asked whether Buhari will be willing to sanction soldiers who might have been indicted by the Lagos probe panel, the presidential spokesman said it would amount to jumping the gun to speak on what the president would do.

He said comments could only be made after the truth had been established, adding that care has to be taken in reacting to the incident given the global attention it has generated.

On whether Buhari was aware of troop deployment to the Lekki Tollgate, Adesina said the military had addressed the issue and it was not within the remit of the presidency to do so.

When asked the government's reaction to the Amnesty International's statement on Wednesday, outlining the timeline of the Lekki shooting, Adesina said until the Judicial Commission of Inquiry panel, set up by the Lagos State government completes its job, it will be premature to react to the incident.

Besides, he also faulted Amnesty International on its narrative on the #EndSARS protests.

He added that the federal government, and by extension the presidency, will be the last to speak on the incident as the buck stops at the president's table.

"If the presidency starts to make comments right now, it's prejudicial, it's premature," he stated.

Responding to a question on the looting that followed the protests in the aftermath of hoodlums seizing the demonstration, Adesina disagreed that it was borne out of the pervasive poverty in the country.

He attributed the looting of warehouses where COVID-19 palliatives were stored as well as the plundering of other public and private assets to greed and criminality.

He also differed that the pandemonium, which accompanied the #EndSARS protests reflects the people's hunger and anger.

Adesina said: "I wouldn't agree completely with that (that the looters are hungry) because criminality is criminality, would you justify armed robbery because the man was poor?

"Just as you can't justify armed robbery because a man was poor and then he took a gun to rob another person, you can't also justify the lootings that are going on. It is pure criminality.

"It is not everybody engaged in that looting that is hungry, that is the truth. It is pure greed and criminality."

According to him, the protests created a situation for anarchy in the country, which was exploited for criminality and looting.

"Criminality will always be criminality and mere anarchy promotes criminality.

What has happened in the last two or three weeks led to what has happened now.

If there was cohesion and tranquillity in society, this wouldn't happen.

"Therefore, it was a corollary to the mere anarchic situation that came on the country because of the protests. If you didn't have people burning police stations, killing policemen, burning private and public property, you wouldn't have this spate of looting," he said.

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