The Lagos State Judicial Panel on #EndSARS says men of the Nigeria Police Force fired live bullets at peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2021.
Over the past year, the panel has heard petitions on police brutality and has also investigated the contentious Lekki tollgate incident.
In its report submitted last Monday, the Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel accused police officers deployed to the tollgate of shooting, assaulting and battering unarmed protesters.
The panel said the attack on protesters resulted in injuries and deaths.
It also said the police officers tried to cover up their actions by picking up spent cartridges.
“The panel found that the Nigerian Police Force deployed its officers to the Lekki tollgate on the night of the 20th October, 2020 and between that night and the morning of the 21st of October, 2020, its officer shot at, assaulted and battered unarmed protesters, which led to injuries and deaths,” the report reads.
“The police officers also tried to cover up their actions by picking up bullets.”
It recommended that the Divisional Police Officer of Maroko Police Station, CSP Raji Ganiyu along with policemen deployed from Maroko station on October 20 and 21, 2020 should be prosecuted for arbitrary and indiscriminate shooting and killing of protesters.
“ACP Oludotun Odubona who represented the CP Lagos and is the Second in Command Operations of the Lagos State Police Command stated that SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) and other Tactical Units were disbanded on October 11, 2020. He stated that there were no police officers at the Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th and 21st of October 2020.
“That from the 14th of October 2020 the Commissioner of Police withdrew all police officers from the Toll Gate, and there was nothing to warrant the use of live rounds on the 20th or 21st of October, 2020, by any Police officer. Similarly, the DPO of Maroko Divisional Police Station CSP Raji Ganiyu stated that no Policeman was dispatched to the Lekki Toll Gate from the 14th of October 2020. That to his knowledge as a DPO, the 20th of October 2020 was not an extraordinary day. He also stated that on the 20th of October 2020 at 8:30 pm, people came to the station throwing bottles and attempting to burn down the station. That with the assistance of the community, they spoke to them and they left. That he was not armed but his men were. He was not aware if anything happened at the Lekki Toll Gate till he saw it on Social Media the next day. That he remained at his station from the 14th of October, 2020 and even on the 20th of October, 2020 and he received no report of any incident at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“Several EndSARS protesters including Miss Serah Ibrahim and Onilewo Legend testified of their direct one-on-one encounter with police officers at the Lekki Toll Gate between the night of the 20th of October 2020 and the morning hours of the 21st of October 2020.
“In Serah Ibrahim’s documentary video evidence (Exhibit A labelled AHTJ2821 from about the 14th to the 38th Seconds) there is evidence that police officers were at the Toll Gate on the 20th to the 21st of October. It was also clear from the voices that the officers were preventing the protesters who they were in confrontation with from recording.
“The Premium Times Interview presented in Exhibit A tendered by Serah Ibrahim under OOSA2155 showed persons who were interviewed and gave a copious account that the police shot in ubiquitous fashion at the Lekki Toll Gate between the 20th and 21st October, 2020. Those interviewed (Serah Ibrahim) also personally pointed out that the DPO of Maroko Divisional Police Station personally shot someone.
“All the above clearly contradicts the testimony of both representatives of the Nigeria Police Force. From the above, the Panel finds that the Police were at the Lekki Toll gate on the 20th and 21st of October 2020 and that it is clear that the Nigerian Police were aware that gunshots were being fired at the Toll Gate based upon the testimony of witnesses and evidence before the panel.
“Several EndSARS protesters testified that the police shot at them (Perpetual Kamisyochukwu) and brutalized them (Onilewo Legend) or threatened them (Serah Ibrahim). In addition, video clips of eyewitnesses stating that they saw police shoot people dead at or around the Toll Gate were tendered. In Onilewo Legend’s video evidence, his voice in the background clearly states, 'police are shooting' and he may die that night. In the investigative report by Premium Times earlier referenced, which was submitted by Miss Serah Ibrahim, several residents around the Lekki Toll Gate and in the shanties gave evidence that the police shot and killed several people.
“That the Police followed up with the killing of the protesters after the soldiers had departed, shooting directly at fleeing protesters into the shanties and the Lagoon at the Lekki Phase 1 Foreshore, close to the Lekki Toll Gate, floating corpse and some shot directly close to Serah Ibrahim.
“The evidence before the panel shows that after the Nigerian Army left, the Nigeria Police Force, followed up with the killing of the protesters, shooting directly at fleeing protesters into the shanties and the Lagoon at the Lekki Phase 1 Foreshore, close to the Lekki Toll Gate, floating corpse and one shot close to Serah Ibrahim.
“On arms used by the police, CSP Raji Ganiyu stated under cross-examination that about 30 station guards had arms that day for the purpose of protecting the station. That there was no record of arms fired within that period by his men. He tendered the Arms Register of the Maroko Police Station covering the period of 1st October to 31st of October 2020.
“The police Arms Movement Register of the Maroko Division of the Nigerian Police force, which oversees the Toll Gate shows that on 20th of October, a total of 73 rifles were signed out, 66 rifles were signed out during the day and 7 rifles during evening duty. The Register also provides details of the beats (posting) that the officers collecting them were assigned to and the amount of ammunition (rounds) issued.
Serial Numbers (S/N) 1 to S/N 65 were signed out between 06:33 am and 15:12 pm, while 'Tuesday Nigh' weapons were signed out from 18:00hours to 00:49 hours.
“The rifles issued on 20th October 2020 were collected for the following beats: Lekki (S/N 10), Roundabout (S/N 5) LSPDC, S/G, PD, R/D special duty, COD, Security Guard, Patrol (S/N 20, 26 to 29, 34, 35, 39 to 41), Judge, A/R, Toscana, A/C, Guard, Orderly, 6 of night duty, Anti Robbery(S/N 22, 30) OPS(S/N 03, 07, 37,51). It is clear from the above that on the 20th of October, 2020 the Police were deployed to various parts covered under the Maroko Divisional Station. The number of those deployed was in contradistinction to those on Station Guard duty. The Register showed that of the 73 weapons signed out, about 23 were for Stations Guard, others were for various beats. As stated earlier the testimony of CSP Raji Ganiyu was that about 30 of his men were armed to protect the station.
“When compared against the period immediately preceding the 20th of October, 2020 the Panel finds that more guns and more ammunition were issued on the 20th and it took a longer period to return these arms. For e.g. on 5th October 2021 a at a total of 61 rifles were signed out for the following beats: Bank, CD, Escort, Patrol, INEC, beat, church, Anti Robbery, under morning and night. On the 6th of October 2020, a total of 62 Rifles were signed out. On the 8th, 9th and 10th of October 57 Rifles were signed out. The average amount of rounds issued per riffle was 15-20.
“On 14th of October a total of 62 rifles were signed out for the following beat: Lekki 1 (S/N 2) COd, PD, Security Guard, Escort, SG, Patrol, Anti Robbery (S/N No 16), Special Duty, Judge, Rifle issued under S/N 48 was not returned till 26th October, Oba's palace, OPS, patrol. On 15th October 2020 8th, 9th and 10th 48 rifles a total of 53 rifles were signed out for the following beats: Oba, Access, Oko Awo, Banks, Patrol (S/N 9-12, 17, 19, 24, 34, 35, Anti Robbery( No 13), PD, Security Guard, Church, OPS(26), Special Duties, SG, AR. On 16th October a total of 50 Riffles were signed out the beats included for Patrol, vehicle Patrol, special duties, SPD, Access.
“Unlike other days with average rounds of 15 to 20, on the 20th of October 2020, a lot of officers collected 30 to 40 rounds with some collecting as much 60 rounds ( S/N 60 Ugochukwu Polycarp) Ideh Donatus 54(AR), Vehicle Patrol (S/N 25 ) 30 rounds, Ops 2 (S/N 55) 30 rounds . The station guards were S/N 69-65, Evening Duty S/N 5 to 6. Of the guns collected on the 20th of October only about 23 were returned by the next day, 21st as was usual with most days. Most were returned on 22nd and some as late as 23rd, 25th and 28th of October.
“The panel finds that an analysis of the arm issuance in the period prior to 20th of October 2020 and up until 21st October 2020, shows that contrary to the evidence of the DPO of Maroko Police officers were being deployed outside their stations, in particular, Maroko Police Station. A keen example of this is that on 19th S/N 52 ASP Ayodele Olabode signed out a rifle for Lekki Patrol with several rounds.
“The register also shows that there were arms and ammunition issued in respect of vehicle patrol, which is contrary to the evidence of DPO Maroko Police Station and would support the evidence of protesters such as Miss. Serah Ibrahim who testified that she saw the Police vehicle.
“The Panel finds that testimony of the DPO that they were in lockdown at their station based on the state wide directive of the CP Hakeem Odumosu is therefore incongruous with the number of arms signed out and the obvious deployment of officers to various places including Lekki. The Panel further finds that the Arms Movement Diary shows that about 50 policemen under the Maroko Division were out in the streets including at Lekki and its environs on various beats with rifles and abundant ammunition on 20th October 2020.
“The Panel also finds that contrary to the evidence of DPO Maroko, evidence from the Register that the huge cache of ammunitions which were signed out with the weapons were never returned with the rifles, most of which were returned several days later.
“From the totality of the above 5 conclusions can be reached: Contrary to the evidence of the Police as borne out by documentary evidence and the testimony of HOS the Police was fully aware of the events going on at the Toll Gate on the 20th and 21st of October. That the Police did not withdraw to their stations from the 14th of October as they claimed. They maintained some form of active duty as shown by the issuance of arms and ammunition from the 14th of October till the day of the incident and beyond to officers on various beats.
“Upon the testimonies of multiple eye witnesses, the Police were at the Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th of October as was corroborated from the weapons signed out from the armoury of Maroko Divisional Station, one of which was for Lekki, many of which was for Patrol. Furthermore, there was an unusual amount of rounds of ammunition signed out on that day as compared to other days.
“That the police shot and killed a protester around the Toll Gate (the waterside). That the police also brutalized and injured protesters around the Lekki Toll Gate including Onilewo Legend and threatened several people. The panel finds most alarming and concerning the testimonies of the ACP Oludotun Odubona who appeared on behalf of the CP and that of CSP Raji Ganiyu, the DPO of Maroko Police Station that no investigation was carried out in respect of the incident of 20th October 2020, because there was no basis for such investigation and no complaints were lodged with the Nigerian Police Force by victims or families of victims. This amounts to a dereliction of duty.”