Despite ongoing attempts by some government officials to discredit the report of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the #EndSARS protest and attack on peaceful demonstrators at the Lekki Toll Gate last year, SaharaReporters has uncovered details of the statement of the Lekki Concessioning Company (LCC) confirming that personnel of the Nigerian Army shot live ammunition at protesters, killing dozens of them in the process.
Shortly after receiving the report, the Lagos State Government set up a four-man panel to review the document and come up with a white paper, with some observers alleging that there are attempts by the government to sweep the findings under the carpet.
This, they said would exonerate government officials, who had a hand in the massacre of young Nigerians demanding a better country that fateful October evening in 2020.
In the LCC statement seen by Sahara Reporters on Thursday, which was submitted to the panel at the beginning of their sitting, the firm offered very weighty confessions that nailed the Nigerian Army.
According to the company managing the toll gate, military personnel shot unarmed protesters with live ammunition, killing many of them in the process and disrupting the peaceful protest at Lekki Toll Gate in the process.
"Lekki Concession Company strongly condemns the shooting of peaceful protesters at the Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza on October 20, 2020. LCC would never support or condone such unscrupulous acts meted out on unarmed protesters.
"LCC cooperated with the protesters, identifying with the cause and need to end police brutality.
"We sincerely regret this unfortunate incident and once again condemn the shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate Plaza and other locations in the state," the statement by LCC read in parts.
It was learnt that being a weighty statement coming from a major stakeholder around the incident, the panel relied heavily on this aspect to arrive at key decisions and recommendations in the report.
SaharaReporters also learnt that LCC gave the statement at the beginning of the panel sitting when they had no lawyer, however, weeks later they attempted to recant their submissions after being pressured by Lagos State government officials to do so.
"When LCC first arrived at the panel, they had no lawyer and had become jittery and willingly told the truth about the shooting.
"Then Lagos hired several lawyers led by Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), who began to coach them to lie and discouraged them from presenting further evidence but it was too late at that time.
"So, you see that the findings actually used the very words of LCC– 'unarmed protesters'.
"All the panel did was to find out the meaning of 'massacre' which tallied with LCC descriptions of the carnage.
"The document was marked by the Panel as Exhibit A, after it was tendered by LCC.
"The Panel also found that after tendering the selfgevident report as its first Exhibit A, the LCC subsequently attempted to recant and tried to align with the army that no death took place.
"But the panel got unrebutted evidence that soldiers moved bodies with their vans.
"One of the victims of the shooting came before the panel and stated that he was carried in an army Hilux van to Bonny Camp with 10 others presumed dead.
"Therefore, Nigerians should demand enforcement of the panel report and not cover up," a source privy to the LCC statement, said.
Recall that shortly after the Lekki massacre, SaharaReporters exclusively revealed how soldiers moved several bodies in their vans to mortuaries in order to conceal the crime.
The army personnel also prevented ambulances from accessing the scene to evacuate those injured to the hospital after opening fire on them.
The incident triggered widespread anger across Lagos and other parts of the country.
Though Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos blamed ‘forces beyond our control’ for the attack on the peaceful protesters at the time, soldiers deployed from 65 Battalion, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, Lagos, told some of the victims’ relatives after dumping them at MRS Hospital that they were sent by Governor Sanwo-Olu.
Reacting to the panel report, the United States Government on Tuesday called on the Nigerian and Lagos State governments to address alleged abuses pointed out by the document.
The US described the report as a huge step forward in trying to make all those responsible for attacks on peaceful protesters to answer for their action.
The report has since sparked outrage among Nigerians, who have called for the Lagos and federal governments to be held responsible for the killings.