LAGOS, Nigeria, November 16 (Reuters) – According to a leaked report reviewed by Reuters and validated by three persons close to the panel that prepared it, the Nigerian Army shot live rounds at peaceful demonstrators at a toll gate in Lagos in October 2020.
According to the report, the incident was a “massacre,” and most of the army officers stationed at the Lekki Toll Gate were “unfit and suitable to serve,” and certain police officers should be prosecuted for their acts.
“At the Lekki Toll Gate, officers of the Nigerian Army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenceless protesters, without provocation or justification, while they were waving the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthem and the manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre,” the report said.
Requests for comment from the military, police, and the Lagos state administration were not immediately returned. Previously, both the military and the police have denied firing live shots.
The shootings put an end to weeks of statewide protests against police brutality and provoked Nigeria’s worst civil unrest since the civilian government was restored in 1999.
Following the protests, rights groups accused security personnel of covering up the incident and described a pattern of harassment of protesters, including threats, detentions, and asset freezes
‘CRUEL AND INHUMAN’
According to the report, there was an attempt to cover up and conceal the occurrence, with police officials picking up bullets and state agencies cleaning up the site, as well as summoned army officers who did not come before the panel.
It went on to say that the army, which had been invited in by Lagos state, had broken its own rules of engagement. Soldiers turned ambulances away from the gate, according to the report, in a “cruel and inhuman” behaviour that contributed to protester deaths and injuries.
There were 48 “casualties,” with 11 slain, four missing and assumed dead, and multiples suffering gunshot wounds, according to the report. It goes on to say that almost 100 other unidentified bodies had been found in Lagos as a result of the tragedy.
On Monday, the judicial panel tasked with examining the incident and abuses by the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police division handed over its findings to the Lagos state government, but it was not immediately made public.
Reuters reached out to two members of the panel for comment, but they did not respond. The Lagos state administration announced on Monday that a “white paper” on the investigation will be released in two weeks.
The panel issued 32 suggestions, including police changes, a protestors’ memorial, a compensation fund, and the creation of a permanent human rights tribunal.
“The panel believes that with the implementation of the recommendations, the Lekki Toll Gate incident of 20th October 2020 will never happen again…and there will be healing in the great state of Lagos,”it said.
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