The Federal Government insisted yesterday that there was no massacre at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, contrary to the report of the panel set up by the Lagos State Government to investigate the incident which took place on October 20, 2020.
The Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this yesterday in response to the panel's report, also described the report as a sham, arguing that the numerous errors, inconsistencies, discrepancies and omissions had rendered it a fable.
Mohammed, who spoke for the first time since the report was released on November 15, 2021, while he was away in Paris on official assignment, said the report is also questionable since its conclusions were not backed by any evidence.
He equally questioned the panel for ignoring the 57 innocent Nigerians, 37 policemen and six soldiers killed during the protests, wondering whether they were not Nigerians who deserved to be protected and defended.
Mohammed expressed disappointment that the panel threw away key ballistic expert testimony that soldiers did not use live-grade weapons on protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate but concluded without evidence that soldiers killed the protesters with weapons.
He also faulted the panel for contradicting itself by accepting the submission of a pathologist, Professor John Obafunwa, that only three of the bodies on which post-mortem were conducted were from Lekki and that only one had gunshot injury but went on to conclude that nine persons died of gunshot wounds at Lekki Toll Gate.
'Panel report riddled with errors, speculations'
For these, Mohammed said: "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,
"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 20, 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 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.
"It is clear from the ongoing that the report of the panel in circulation cannot be relied upon because its authenticity is in doubt. Besides, the Lagos State government, being the convening authority, is yet to release any official report to the public. Neither has the panel done so.
"The cowardly leakage of an unsigned report to the public is not enough. Assuming the report in circulation bears any iota of genuineness, it is basic knowledge that the report of such a panel is of no force until the convening authority issues a White Paper and Gazette on it.
"It is, therefore, too premature for any person or entity to seek to castigate the Federal Government and its agencies or officials based on such an unofficial and unvalidated report.
'No massacrein Lekki'
"There is absolutely nothing in the report that is circulating to make us change our stand that there was no massacre at Lekki on October 20, 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 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 to be called a parent.
"We reject the notion that our soldiers and policemen massacred innocent Nigerians at Lekki on October 20, 2020. That conclusion is not supported by the weight of available evidence. Indictment for murder is a very serious issue that cannot be done on the basis of allegations and corroborations, as the panel did.
'Report calculated to embarrass FG'
"Such allegations must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The report in circulation is calculated to embarrass the Federal Government and its agencies without foolproof evidence.
"The Federal Government has never condoned the abuse of the rights of Nigerians by security agencies under any guise; hence it disbanded SARS and encouraged states to set up the panels to investigate reports of human rights abuses allegedly committed by the disbanded SARS' personnel.
"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.
"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 equate 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.
'Discrepancies in panel report'
"We do not intend to bore you by rehashing details of the discrepancies, innuendoes, inconsistencies and errors in that report. They are already in the public space. Let us, however, point out some key highlights of such discrepancies, errors, omissions, etc.
"The report threw away the testimony of ballistic experts who testified before it. The experts said, inter alia, in their testimony:
"The Team finds that from the medical data examined, including thetimeline of arrival at medical facility and the nature of the injuries sustained by the victims, who were taken to the five medical facilities, that no military grade live ammunition (high-velocity) was fired at the protesters at Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020, within the timeframe of reference (18.30- 20.34hrs).
"That the GSW (Gun Shot Wounds) injuries (4 in number between 19:05 and 19:45 hrs), which were examined by the team, can be safely identified as being discharged by either low velocity caliber and/or artisanal/12-gauge firearms (artisanal firearms are locally-fabricated weapons).
"What is, however, certain is that had the military personnel deliberately fired military grade live ammunition directly at the protesters; there would have been significantly more fatalities and catastrophic injuries recorded. This was clearly not the case.'
"The man whose evidence (that he counted 11 bodies in a military van where he was left for dead before he escaped) was found to be crucial by the panel never testified in person. Rather, the video of his 'testimony' was played by someone else.
"It did not occur to the panel to query the veracity of the testimony of a man who said he was shot and presumed dead but still had time to count dead bodies inside a supposedly dark van at night!
"The panel said trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki Toll Gate in the morning of October 21 2020, to clean up bloodstains and other evidence, but still found bullet casings at the same site when it visited on October 30, 2020.
"It said soldiers picked up bullet casings from Lekki Toll Gate on the night of October 20 2020, yet claimed that policemen came to the same spot to pick the same bullet casings on October 21, 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, let alone human beings.
"Where are the family members of those who were reportedly killed at Lekki Toll Gate? If the panel is recommending compensation for the families, what are their identities and addresses? Who will receive the compensations when no family members have shown up to date?
"How did a man who reported seeing the lifeless body of his brother himself ended up being on the list of the panel's deceased persons?
"How can a Judicial panel convince anyone that the names of some casualties of the Lekki Toll Gate incident listed as numbers 3 (Jide), 42 (Tola) and 43 (Wisdom) are not fictitious names.
"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 report never mentioned cases of police personnel who were brutally murdered or the massive destruction of police stations, vehicles, etc during the #EndSARS protest. Does this mean that the panel didn't consider policemen and women as human beings?
"The report didn't make any recommendation on the innocent people whose businesses were attacked and destroyed during the protest in Lagos. I think it was too busy looking for evidence to support its conclusion of 'massacre in context'," the minister said.
It would be recalled that since the report was leaked last Monday, many local and international media have been celebrating it and calling on the government and its officials to resign and tender apologies to Nigerians for lying about the October 20, 2020, incident that drew global attention.
Witnesses attacked should come forward -- Lagos Police
Meanwhile, Lagos State Police Command has challenged anyone who was attacked after appearing before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the state government to probe the October 20, 2020 incident at Lekki tollgate and other acts of police brutality to come forward.
The challenge was thrown, following the allegation by Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, that a witness at the panel was attacked.
Adegboruwa had also alleged that his life is being threatened by agents of Lagos State government after the submission of the panel's report to the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, by the Chairman, Justice Doris Okuwobi.
In a statement yesterday by its spokesman, Adekunle Ajisebutu, the Lagos State Police Command said: "Attention of the Lagos State Police Command has been drawn to an allegation going on in the media that a witness who testified at the just-concluded Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS-Related Abuses and other Matters was attacked recently by yet-to-be-identified persons.
"It is the statutory duty of the Lagos State Police Command to protect lives and property, apprehend and prosecute offenders, among other duties. The police WILL NOT abdicate these important duties, even in the face of daunting challenges.
"Therefore, the Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu, wishes to encourage anyone who has been physically attacked for whatever reason in any part of the state to lodge a formal complaint at the nearest police station where the incident allegedly took place.
"This is to enable the police take appropriate action by diligently investigating and prosecuting the case.
"The Commissioner of Police, hereby, reiterates the command's commitment to the protection of lives and property of all residents of the state, irrespective of their status."
Kamsi still in hospital, safe -- Lawyer
However, one of the lawyers handling the matter of the lady attacked, Ayo Ademiluyi told Vanguard that she was still being treated at an undisclosed hospital.
He said: "Kamsi is still in the hospital and is safe."
Asked if a formal petition had been sent to the police on the matter, he said: "We have not formally reported the matter to the police for now. Our concern now is on Kamsi's health.
"Once we are through, we will petition the Inspector-General of Police. We have written several petitions to the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State in respect of other protesters who were attacked but nothing was done, so we don't have confidence in the Lagos Police Command to address the matter."