The United States has said that state and federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths in civil protests such as the October 20, 2020, shootings at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos State during the EndSARS campaign, failed to always make their findings public.
The US added that therefore, “accurate information on fatalities resulting from the Lekki shooting” was not available at the end of 2020.
The United States stated these in its human rights report on Nigeria, obtained by SaharaReporters on Wednesday.
The 47-page report is titled, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020 United States Department of State from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
The Nigeria 2020 Human Rights Report stated that although the Amnesty International reported that 10 persons died during the Lekki tollgate shooting incident, the government disputed Amnesty’s report, and no other organisation was able to verify the claim.
The report said, “There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary, unlawful, or extrajudicial killings. At times authorities sought to investigate, and when found culpable, held police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody, but impunity in such cases remained a significant problem.
“State and federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths did not always make their findings public. The national police, army, and other security services sometimes used force to disperse protesters and apprehend criminals and suspects. Police forces engaging in crowd-control operations generally attempted to disperse crowds using nonlethal tactics, such as firing tear gas, before escalating their use of force.
“On October 20, members of the security forces enforced curfew by firing shots into the air to disperse protesters, who had gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos to protest abusive practices by the Nigeria Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end.
“Amnesty International reported 10 persons died during the event, but the government disputed Amnesty’s report, and no other organization was able to verify the claim. The government reported two deaths connected to the event. One body from the toll gate showed signs of blunt force trauma. A second body from another location in Lagos State had bullet wounds. The government acknowledged that soldiers armed with live ammunition were present at the Lekki Toll Gate. At year’s end the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution continued to hear testimony and investigate the shooting at Lekki Toll Gate.”
The US report added that there were no “reports of the federal government further investigating or publicly holding individuals accountable for the Nigerian Army’s 2015 killing and subsequent mass burial of 347 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and other civilians.”
It noted that there were also reports of “arbitrary and unlawful killings related to internal conflicts in the North-East and other areas.”
“In August, #RevolutionNow protesters organised a set of demonstrations in several cities across the country to mark the one-year anniversary of their inaugural protests calling for more responsive and accountable governance.
“Although the protests were allowed to proceed unimpeded in most places, civil society observers reported the arrest of some peaceful protesters in Lagos, Osun, and Kano States on charges of 'conduct likely to cause breach of public peace.' All those arrested were released within days of their arrest,” the report added.