Lagos State Government on Tuesday released its white paper following the submissions made by the judicial panel of inquiry on restitution of victims of SARS-related abuses and other related matters.
The white paper said the panel failed to establish arbitrary and indiscriminate killing of protesters at Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020.
It said the panel’s findings “are clearly and manifestly not supported by the evidence before the JPI as attested to by the JPI itself, when it said there was no contrary evidence to that of Prof. Obafunwa that only one person died at Lekki Toll Gate of gunshot wounds on 21st October 2020.”
Rejecting the recommendation, it said: “The state government is, therefore, unable to accept the finding that nine (9) people died of gunshot wounds at LTG on 20th October 2020.”
The government said that the panel’s findings that nine persons died at the toll gate from gunshot wounds fired by the military are based on assumptions and speculations.
“The inconsistencies and contradictions in the entire JPI Report concerning the number of persons who died at LTG on 20th October 2020 and their cause of death rendered the JPI’s finding and conclusions there upon totally unreliable and therefore, unacceptable,” it said.
The panel made 32 recommendations in its report submitted on November 15, out of which the government accepted 11, rejected one and accepted six with modifications.
The state government said 14 recommendations fall outside its powers and will be forwarded to the Federal Government for consideration.
Noting some of the inconsistencies, the state government said in the white paper: “This finding of nine deaths at LTG on 20 October is even more baffling because apart from listing out their names in that form on pages 297-298, the panel offered no explanation regarding circumstances of their death. The names simply sprang up on pages 297-298 of the report without any justification.
“It is quite astonishing that in the list of 11 deaths set on pages 297-298, two of the names appeared twice (Kolade Salam, Folorunsho Olabisi). Furthermore, the person listed as No. 46 Nathaniel Solomon, who testified as a witness and petitioned the panel in respect of his brother who he alleged died at LTG, himself listed as having died at LTG on October 20, 2020. Remarkably, Nathaniel Solomon’s deceased brother (Abata Solomon was then also listed as No. 2 on the list of persons who died at Lekki Tollgate).
“The only victim of gunshot injury from LTG was picked up at 7:43, on October 21, 2020, after the curfew started (see page 99). Furthermore, there was no shred of evidence regarding who shot him.”
The government further said the award of compensation to only one of the alleged nine listed as ‘deceased’ showed that the panel itself had doubts as to the alleged death of eight other deceased persons on its list.
It added: “The JPI also surprisingly awarded the sum of N10 million to one Serah Ibrahim (listed as No. 14 on Page 304 of the report). Serah Ibrahi was neither a petitioner nor a claimant before the JPI. On page 179 of the report, Serah Ibrahim testified on oath that she did not have any petition before the panel; neither did she have any claims for compensation.
“This award to Serah Ibrahim is also contrary to the provisions of Section 13 Tribunal of Inquiry Law 2015 (Cap. T6 Laws of Lagos State) which prescribes that only witnesses summoned by a Tribunal of Inquiry are entitled to witness fees subject to the consent of the Attorney-General. Serah Ibrahim did not testify at the request or summons of the tribunal.
“The government is, therefore, unable to accept the finding that nine people died of gunshot wounds at LTG on October 20, 2020.”
The state government said it would therefore launch a campaign to sensitise the public on the use of social media and the inherent dangers in its abuse.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had earlier invited the faces of the #EndSARS protests to a peace walk, a request which most of them rejected.