S’West Ministers Urge Probe of Soldiers’ Role in Lekki Shootings

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•Seek FG’s help to rebuild Lagos
•ICC considers investigating #EndSARS protests

By Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Ministers from the South-west have urged the federal government to investigate the Lekki shootings, particularly the role of soldiers in the October 20, 2020 incident.

Besides, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a preliminary investigation into the recent #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.

Briefing State House correspondents on behalf of the South-west ministers at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday in Abuja, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, stated that they briefed the FEC about the carnage and the destruction of property that took place in Lagos during the #EndSARS protest.

Fashola noted that he briefed the FEC on behalf of ministers from the South-west namely, Chief Adeniyi Adebayo (Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment) representing Ekiti State; Mr. Rauf Aregbesola (Minister of Interior) representing Osun State; Mr. Sunday Dare (Minister of Youths and Sports) representing Oyo State; Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite (Minister of Solid Minerals) representing Ogun State; Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora (Minister of State for Health) representing Lagos State; and Senator Tayo Alasoadura (Minister of State for Niger Delta) representing Ondo State.

The ministers had earlier visited Lagos State to commiserate with the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, during which they visited the Lekki Tollgate scene of the shooting.

Fashola said they urged the federal government to undertake a thorough investigation into what happened at the Lekki Toll Plaza, particularly the role of the military and ensure that the outcome is made public with a view to achieving closure on the matter.
He said the ministers first held a meeting before interacting with governors from the South-west.

According to him, the position of the governors was that Lagos being the epicentre, commercial and strategic city state in the South-west and the country should be visited.

Fashola stated: “So, I just briefed council about the reports that were presented to us by the Lagos State Government when we visited. The summary is that about 15 police stations were lost, commercial undertakings, especially the ones in Lekki and many other parts in Surulere, were damaged; some schools were also damaged. Private property were also damaged and public buildings like the City Hall, the Lagos High Court, Lagos Forensic Laboratory and DNA Centre, the Nigeria Ports Authority were also damaged – the palace of the Oba of Lagos and many others.

“So, we presented the documentary evidence presented to us by the government of Lagos State, which was shown to the council.

“Then, we visited a few places- the Lagos High Court, led by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, we visited NPA, forensic lab and the Lekki Toll Plaza as well and as you all know, we found some items, which we handed over to the state government at the site.”

Fashola added that Dare also visited the Lagos Island Hospital to empathise with seven persons who were reported to have sustained various degrees of injury in the ward and emergency unit and also visited media houses to commiserate with them on the destruction of their property.

He said the highlight of the briefing was to make recommendations to the federal government to support Lagos State to restore damaged facilities, especially those related to the maintenance of law and order and the administration of justice such as police, court buildings and forensic laboratory.

Fashola said the report was also for the government to consider supporting the Lagos High Court judges either with the provision of some office accommodation.

He said: “To also urged the federal government to consider short-to-medium-term support to small and medium businesses who were affected by the looting and arson, which took place in Lagos and other parts of the country, to see if something can be done through the central bank intervention mechanism under the COVID-19 funding or any other related funding mechanism. And to also ensure that whatever is approved should also involve the National Economic Council, the platform on which state governors meet, so that other states across the country who were also affected, businesses were damaged can benefit in addition to Lagos residence who may so be supported.

“We also urged the federal government should undertake a thorough investigation into what happened in the Lekki Toll Plaza, particularly the role of the military and ensure that the outcome is made public with a view to achieving closure on the matter.

“We recommended that the federal government re-mobilises critical organs and agencies such as the National Orientation Agency and formal educational institutions to focus on ethical re-orientation, inculcation of family values into the school curriculum. We recommended a focus on etiquette, local reasoning, critical thinking, solution-seeking, empathy, self-respect, civic duty and human rights.

“We also recommended to the federal government to actively seek and support the process of justice for all by ensuring that any of those apprehended and identified to be involved in the perpetration of this carnage be speedily brought to justice and fairly tried.”

Fashola noted that the report also urged the federal government to implement the maintenance of facility management policy approved by FEC in 2019 for federal Ministries, Department and Agencies and to encourage states to do the same.

“We do this because we see this as a usual vehicle to help absorb and create immediate employment of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour, in order to address huge unemployment and poverty-related part of the problem. This is important because people have skills but we need to provide the economic environment in which those skills can become income-earning and self-rewarding,” he explained.

The committee urged the federal government to restore confidence and morale of the police and to improve their welfare.

ICC Opens Probe into #ENDSARS Protest

The ICC has opened a preliminary investigation into the recent #EndSARS protests in Nigeria.

In a statement yesterday, the Office of the ICC Prosecutor said it had received information on alleged crimes committed during the protests.

A report by the BBC said the examination would “assess whether the legal criteria for opening an investigation under the Rome Statute are met.”

The ICC said it would make findings of the preliminary examination public.

In Lagos on October 8, 2020, protesters had suddenly took over the streets, demanding an end to brutality perpetrated by officials of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit in the Nigeria Police Force, leading to a crackdown.

In less than a week, the peaceful protests had spread to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other states of the federation.

Tears gas, water cannons and live bullets were used in some cases to disperse the protesters.

However, hoodlums in Lagos and Abuja attacked #EndSARS gatherings at different locations with clubs, knives and machetes.

Many were injured, cars and phones damaged. Some casualties were reported.

Videos of expensive vehicles leading and guiding the hoodlums went viral.

The turning point of the agitation was October 20 when about 6:45 pm, Nigerian soldiers allegedly opened fire on unarmed citizens at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos.

The protesters stood their grounds as they waved Nigerian flags and chanted the national anthem.

The incident, which was said to have caused deaths and injuries elicited a global outrage with the international community and some local groups as well as individuals demanding prosecution of those involved.

On October 21, rampaging youths occupied the streets in defiance of the curfew imposed by the state government.

Riots and arson broke out in Lagos and other states, mostly in the South. Many private and public properties were destroyed.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, had said security forces opened fire on protesters, killing and injuring a number of people.

Both the police and the army have rejected Amnesty’s allegation.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, had since dismissed the threats to report him and some heads of security agencies to the ICC and other international authorities.

“They have continually threatened to report the NA (Nigerian Army) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and also threatened various forms of sanctions against personnel and their families.

“Criminal elements are threatening us with travel ban but we are not worried because we must remain in this country to make it better,” Buratai had said.