Loatsad Promo-media Ltd, the company that manages the billboard advertising at the Lekki Toll gate concluded its testimony on Saturday before the Lagos State Judicial Panel on restitution for victims of SARS related abuses and other matters.
Last week, the Company Secretary, Abimbola Eniola appeared before the panel in response to summons issued on it to come and assist with the investigations into the incident of Oct 20, 2020.
Under cross-examination on Saturday by Adesina Ogunlana, counsel to some of the #EndSars Protesters, Mr Eniola said the billboard at the Lekki toll gate does not serve the purpose of illuminating the toll-grounds.
The witness was answering questions as to who gave the order for the billboard to be turned off.
The advert company had come under criticism on social media for turning off the billboard and throwing the Lekki toll gate into darkness which allegedly provided cover for Soldiers to open fire on the #EndSars protesters on the night of Oct 20, 2020.
Counsel to some of the protesters, Mr Ogunlana specifically asked the witness, “Who gave the order to switch off the billboard?”
In his response, Mr Eniola said, it was the head of Human Resources, Chisa Olabode via the workers’ Whatsapp group chat who gave the directive to turn off the billboard following the state wide curfew announced by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
He said that after the HR circulated, on the WhatsApp group, the notice of curfew imposed by the state government, the billboards were shut off as members of staff vacated the office by 3pm in order to get home before the initial 4pm announced for the curfew.
A second witness, Serah Ibrahim, who had testified that at least 12 people were killed at the Lekki tollgate failed to appear before the panel today on account of ill-health.
A third witness, Dr Ayobami Aranmolate of Grandville Medical Centre, told the panel that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria was not happy that he had divulged certain confidential records of patients at his last testimony.
He pleaded with the panel to order the television cameras to be turned off before he could give his testimony. The panel obliged his request and ordered that his testimony not be recorded.
The panel was set up to last for a period of six-month in response to the government acceding to the five-for-five demands of the #EndSARS protesters with a mandate to look into abuses by security agencies and the now-disbanded SARS unit of the Nigeria police force and to make recommendations to the authorities for restitution to victims of abuses.
The initial six months sitting of the Lagos panel expired on April 27, 2021, and the panel was granted a three-month tenure extension which is supposed to expire on Monday, July 19 but as of June 29, the panel had sat for 97 days and only heard 126 petitions out of the 235 petitions it received.
Since the commencement of the hearing, 37 had been concluded while 109 petitions remained unheard necessitating the request for an extension of time.
At Friday’s sitting, the panel heard eleven petitions. It reserved its decision in six petitions after counsel in the matters adopted their final written addresses.
The Lagos State Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola on Tuesday told the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality other related abuses that injuries recorded in the aftermath of the Lekki shooting were predominantly fractures, machete wounds, and minor cuts.
He said the #EndSARS protest was hijacked by hoodlums who infiltrated the ranks of the protesters to carry out violence.
As proof of this testimony, Mr Muri-Okunola showed the panel visuals and slides from the Lekki toll gate protests.
He also testified that in the wake of the violence, the governor and his team visited the hospitals on the night of October 20, 2020, and saw that most of those who presented for treatment had fractures, machete cuts, and minor wounds.
“There were about 13 persons injured at Reddington Hospital, and 12 injured at the General Hospital, Marina. The doctors in charge said one of the patients that was being moved to LASUTH, had more severe injuries from machetes’ wounds.
“At the time we were there, most of the injuries were all in the nature of cuts, bruises from machetes’ wounds, and stampede. Nobody at the hospitals said they were shot at.
“The next day, the governor appealed to residents in a broadcast to stay calm. He appealed to the youth to stay at home. He also informed Lagosians that they were no casualties that had been recorded in the hospitals in the vicinity of the Lekki based on information from monitoring the incident.
“Shortly after this we got reports that one of the patients in Reddington hospital had passed on and died from blunt force trauma and another report came of another death from Yaba.”
On the actual number of alleged deaths at the Lekki Toll incident, since the 20th October 2020, the witness noted that many of the people reported to have been killed refuted their rumoured deaths.
He listed Nollywood actress, Eniola Badmus, Stephen Becky, Iraby of Oto-Auch, Joshua Ogbodo as some person who was said to have been killed during the Lekki shooting but who have since come out to deny same.
Others are “Anthony Chechukwu alleged to have been shot by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate has been confirmed to have died in a motorcycle accident and Lucia Adu who was claimed to have died at the Lekki Toll Gate was confirmed to have been killed in an accident involving a stationary truck on 20th October 2020.”
Under cross-examination, by Mr Adesina Ogunlana, counsel to some of the #EndSARS protesters, Mr Muri-Okunola reaffirmed that he heard that military men from Bonny camp were at the Lekki toll gate and based on video evidence they were armed and “shots were fired.”
“At about 6.45pm, on Oct 20, we received feedback via a phone call from a resident in Ikoyi of gunshots in the area, we thought it was a robbery until there was subsequent calls reporting same from the other side of the River, the Ozumba Mbadiwe side and that person confirmed it was from the toll gate plaza,” Muri-Okunola said.
He added that based on this and subsequent information, Mr Governor called the MD of the Lekki Concession Company (LLC) to ask if there was gunshots at the toll plaza.
“On social media, based on supposed live broadcasts and comments, they said it was armed soldiers so this led the Governor to call General Ndagi who was the representative of the Army on the Security Council meeting. He informed the governor that it was not his men at the toll gate as they also had been instructed to stand down. At that particular point in time, our concerns were that if the shooting was going on, we needed to deploy emergency services and that was our focus.
“We also directed the Commissioner of Health to start speaking to hospitals if there were casualties in the neighbourhood of the Lekki toll gate.
“We were informed that there were casualties at some of our hospitals in Lagos. There were more in the Reddington Lekki and the General Hospital, Marina. We got information from other parts of Lagos where there was also violence,” the HoS explained.
Earlier in the testimony, counsel representing some #EndSARS protesters, Adeshina Ogunlana had argued that the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu should have personally come before the panel to testify.
The chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi had however held that the governor is not “compellable” because he has been conferred immunity Under Section 308 of the constitution.
Mr Muri-Okunola’s testimony is coming against the background of a summons sent to him by the panel over the Lekki incident of October 20, 2020.
A consultant anatomic and forensic pathologist, Prof. John Obafunwa on Saturday told the Lagos state judicial panel on restitution for victims of SARS related abuses and other matters, that the coroners office conducted post mortem autopsies on 99 bodies between the October 20 and 27.
Prof Obafunwa made this disclosure while testifying with a view to assist the panel in its investigation of the October 20 Lekki toll gate shootings.
The pathologist, who was involved in coroner services through the office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Lagos State, said the 99 bodies were picked up from different locations by officers of the Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit, LASEHMU.
Of these 99 bodies, the pathologist said that only three were identified as victims of the Lekki shootings.
He proceeded to speak to the post mortem report and the cause of death of each of the three victims, all male.
The witness also played a video evidence detailing the extent of injury suffered by the deceased and the cause of death.
According to the witness, the first body of an unknown victim simply identified as number 005, EndSARS/Yaba/2020 and brought in from Lekki bridge, on October 24 by the Lagos state government agency showed a fracture, a laceration on the left side of the skull and a body that was already decomposing.
The pathologist gave the cause of death as “a result of bleeding into the chest cavity, following a blunt force trauma to the chest.”
According to the witness, the second body , “041 unknown identity”, was said to have died at about 1.45am on October 21; he was taken to Reddington hospital Lekki in an unconscious state as a result of open skull fracture, an attempt to revive him failed and he was pronounced dead after which he was taken to LASUTH on November 1 for post mortem.
“X-ray conducted prior to touching the body showed no bullet or pellets in the body,” the witness said. “The x-ray revealed multiple skull fracture. Autopsy showed there was a ragged laceration running from the left side to the right side of the skull, further exploration of the wound showed bleeding into the scalp, multiple fracture of the skull, bleeding into the brain tissue. In the chest, there was bruises of the anterior, fracture of the left rib.
“Generally the internal organs were pale and it suggested there was severe blood loss. Hypertensive heart disease, upon examination under the microscope and samples for DNA, death was as a result of skull and brain injury which was due to blunt force trauma.”
The third case, identified as “062 unknown identity”, was also said to have died at Lekki tollgate. The body was said to have been taken to the General Hospital Yaba and autopsy was conducted on November 2. Cause of death was said to be severe blood loss as a result of disruption of major blood vessel, caused as a result of gun shot injury.
Counsel to some of the #EndSars Protesters, Olumide Fusika, however faulted the testimony that only three of the 99 bodies were related to the Lekki shootings.
He made an application that the witness be required to produce details of all 99 bodies to enable him fully conduct his cross examination of the pathologist.
Counsel to the Lagos State Government, Olukayode Enitan objected to the granting of the application.
He noted that the summons which commanded the attendance of the witness at the panel required him to give reports of incidents of October 20, which occurred at the Lekki toll gate with a view to assisting the panel.
For him, anything outside this will amounted to inviting the panel to go beyond its terms of reference and the instruments setting it up and this will be tantamount to acting ultra vires. He urged the panel to refuse the application.
After taking submissions from other lawyers in the matter, the panel chairman, Justice Doris Okuwobi noted that though it would take a lot of the panel’s time to sit through looking at 96 more bodies, she would bow to the majority decision of the lawyers.
The panel then ordered the pathologist, Prof Obafunwa to produce the records and autopsy reports of the remaining 96 bodies.
Further proceedings on the matter were adjourned to June 19.
She specifically mentioned that one of the active protesters, Lekan Sanusi was thought to be dead and the soldiers took away his body.
She later found out that he was taken to MRS Hospital at Bonny camp where an unidentified nurse helped him to escape.
Serah also played videos of some persons who suffered gunshot wounds from bullets allegedly shot by the military with protesters surrounding them and trying to tend to their wounds.
When asked if she could authenticate the videos as to the time they were taken and the location, she mentioned that anyone could do this using Google Drive and she proceeded to demonstrate how it could be done.
The videos of two mothers who claimed to have lost their children at the protest ground were also played.
The videos were contained in the flash drive Serah Ibrahim tendered at the last sitting of the panel.
Serah is expected to continue her testimony on May 15.
Lekki Toll Gate Shooting
Serah’s testimony is the latest development in the controversy that has trailed the events at the Lekki toll gate on the night of October 20.
The army has repeatedly denied that it fatally shot at protesters and the Federal Government has said reports of a massacre at the toll gate was fake news.
“The purveyors of fake news and disinformation succeeded in deceiving the entire world that there was mass killing in Lekki, even when till date, not a single body has been produced and not a single family or relative has come out to say their child or ward was killed at Lekki toll gate,” Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said at a press briefing in November.
But witnesses, including Nigerian songwriter and musician, Obianuju Udeh, better known as DJ Switch, have insisted that the army took away bodies at the protest ground.
Amnesty International reported that 10 persons died during the event, a figure disputed by the Nigerian government.
The US government, in a human rights report released in March, said “accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available” as at the end of 2020.
The EndSARS protests were one of the largest street demonstrations since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.
The protests, mostly championed by young people, started as a campaign against police brutality but quickly metamorphosed into a rallying cry against bad governance.
Reddington Hospital on Saturday submitted more medical records of the patients it treated after the Lekki toll gate shooting to the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS and other related matters.
Men of the Nigerian army shot at protesters occupying the toll gate on October 20, although the military has denied culpability.
The army has repeatedly failed to appear before the panel.
The counsel to the panel, Jonathan Ogunsanya said the panel now has in its possession a total of 25 case notes.
These are more detailed and will help give clarity to cases of petitioners before the panel.
A trauma and orthopaedic surgeon with Reddington hospital, Dr. Babajide Lawson who brought the medical records, said that the hospital dealt with mass casualties on October 20.
According to the doctor, the hospital was more concerned with saving lives and so did not prioritise the time patients arrived at its facility.
One of the patients treated at Reddington, Lucky Philemon, testified on Saturday.
Philemon, who now walks with the aid of crutches, had testified on February 27 that he was shot by the army at the toll gate on October 20, but the absence of his medical records before the panel had stalled proceedings.
Philemon is demanding to be paid compensation of N200m as damages for the inconvenience of losing his limbs as well as another $50,000 for Prosthetic limbs.
On Saturday, his counsel, John Uthman demonstrated to the panel that his client arrived at the hospital for treatment at about 9pm contrary to the insinuations by the counsel to the Lagos State Government that he presented himself for treatment at 11.30pm and could not have been shot at the Lekki toll gate.
The complete medical records of the petitioner showed that he received medical treatment at about 9pm and later at about 11.30pm.
A second witness Richard Oku who testified for the petitioner, Lucky Philemon also told the panel that at 6.45pm on October 20, the army arrived at the Lekki Toll Gate and started shooting.
The witness narrated how he helped the petitioner after he was shot.
“I heard on radio that a protest was going on at the Lekki toll gate and I decided to go there around 4pm,” Oku said. “At 6.45pm or so, we saw the army people arrive and started shooting. DJ Switch was on stage telling people to be calm and sit down. Some sat down, others could not bear it and started running.
“I also found a way to leave. I saw one man beside me shot. I saw another try to get up, his leg had been shot, he could not make it and other people were marching on him and others as they were running. I stopped one man and we helped him to the side of the toll so that people will not step on him. I picked his phone and left him.
“I found my way to Lekki gate and I saw private cars stopping there. I approached them to help. I went back to the toll and helped an elderly woman and a young man to the hospital with the car that agreed to help.
“We went to an hospital in Ajah, Doreen Hospital. They were treated then. it was later that the petitioner’s brother called his phone which i had picked and that’s how I came to know his name and to also testify in his case.”
The panel has adjourned to March 27 for the petitioner and Reddington Hospital to continue its testimony.
We are covering the ethnic violence in Shasha market, a protest at the Lekki toll gate, and the fragile security situation in several states.
A Call for Calm in Shasha
The ethnic clash between traders at the Shasha market in Ibadan, Oyo State, has prompted leaders across the country to call for calm.
Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde and his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, visited the market on Sunday and appealed to all the traders to halt the destruction and embrace dialogue.
Former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, also called for all Nigerians to embrace peace, regardless of ethnic affiliations.
Quote: “We have been coexisting for a long time,” Akeredolu said at the market. “We should consider the past and remember how far we have come together. The situation cannot remain this way forever.”
Buhari: The Presidency, in a Sunday statement, condemned all forms of ethnic violence and said it “will act decisively to stop the spread of any such violence.”
Osinbajo: Meanwhile, the Vice President has also condemned the Shasha market violence. “When a disagreement arises between individuals or a criminal act is committed by one against the other, we must ensure that we see it for what it is, a criminal act, which must be punished according to law and not an ethnic conflict.
Context: Violence in Nigeria is usually viewed along ethnic and religious lines. The Shasha market clash is the latest example.
While the Federal Government and Lagos state authorities had warned against the protests for fear of escalating violence, as witnessed last October, critics argued that the constitution guaranteed citizens the rights to peaceful assembly.
On D-day, some protesters showed up and the police moved to arrest them – about 39 in total, including popular comedian, Debo Adebayo, well-known as Mr Macaroni.
Rights Abuses: In a video released on Sunday, Mr Macaroni said the police stripped and beat arrested protesters, a violation of their constitutional rights.
Watchdog: The Lagos state government distanced itself from the police’s action in detaining the protesters and said it will ask the Commissioner of Police to give an account of what transpired on Saturday.
Quote: “We condemn any act of brutality on the part of the police,” the state’s Commissioner of Justice said on Sunday Politics. “The Nigerian police force is a legal entity of its own, with its own processes. But the role of the police stops when it comes to prosecution. The state government will ask the CP to give an account of what happened.”
A Fragile Security Situation
Over the weekend, the security situation in several states remained fragile.
Some 18 travellers have been kidnapped by bandits at Yakila village in Rafi Local government Area of Niger State. In Kaduna, a man and his son were killed by suspected bandits in Igabi Local Government Area, barely one week after 23 people were killed in five Local Government Areas of the state.
In Ogun State, criminals were said to have invaded a community, killed three people, and set houses ablaze. Residents told Channels Television that the attackers struck when residents were still sleeping, adding that nine others were injured in the middle of the night.
Intervention: A Federal Government delegation led by the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, will meet with Governors of the seven North-West states to discuss a pathway to lasting peace and security across the country.
The Monguno delegation had earlier met with Service Chiefs, heads of law enforcement, and intelligence agencies.
Lateef Jakande: Days after his death, the memories of Lagos State’s first civilian Governor has been shared with incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Fayose: The former Ekiti State Governor said Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State cannot be his leader in the South-west region.
NCDC: Nigeria recorded 520 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five deaths on Sunday, the disease control agency said.
Ebola: Guinea has recorded seven new cases of the deadly disease, including three deaths. The head of the country’s health agency said the West African nation was in the midst of an Ebola “epidemic situation”.
Bill Gates: Solving the COVID-19 pandemic will be “very, very easy” compared to solving climate change, the Microsoft founder has said. According to him, the world produces 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. To save our planet, we need to get that figure to zero.
#EndSARS was one of the most prominent hashtags on Saturday as celebrities took to Twitter to condemn the arrest of peaceful protesters in the Lekki area of Lagos State.
Nigerian celebrities such as Folarin Falana, also known as Falz; Obianuju Udeh, professionally known as DJ Switch; Yemi Alade, and Rita Dominic among others, as well as, Barbadian singer, Rihanna, were among those who condemned the arrest of the protesters by the police.
Na civilians dey protect demselves against herdsmen, meanwhile police get dis kind kit up 4 peaceful protesters wey never even start d protest.U dey arrest https://t.co/e1xzvoLrwA good thing 4m this thing be say u don even provide more evidence 4 us to use to show abuse #EndSARS
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has condemned the arrest of some protesters by the police in the Lekki area of Lagos State.
In a statement on Saturday following the arrest of the youths at the Lekki tollgate, he decried that the police abandoned their responsibility of protecting the protesters.
“The 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended (Section 40) guarantees the right of citizens to peaceful protest; the courts have also affirmed that right, anything contrary to that is not acceptable and stands condemned,” said Atiku who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He added, “It is the security agents’ responsibility to provide a secured conducive environment for citizens to protest peaceably, in line with constitutional provisions and the African Charter on Human rights.”
Atiku’s reaction is one of several others who insisted that the arrest of the youth by the police stands condemned.
The young Nigerians had occupied the tollgate a week after the Lagos State Judicial Panel granted the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) the approval to repossess the toll gate.
This informed the decision of the youths to stage a protest, which was met with stiff resistance by the security personnel on the ground.
Several of them were arrested at the protest venue by the police, including popular comedian Mr. Macaroni.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has called for the immediate release of protesters arrested at the Lekki Toll Gate on Saturday.
The protesters were railing against the decision of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to reopen the toll gate.
The toll gate was symbolic of last October’s #EndSARS protests.
On October 20, military officials opened fire at peaceful protesters gathered at the toll.
Although the Nigerian government and military have denied any wrongdoing, critics say it is premature to reopen the toll gate until all investigations are concluded.
In a statement titled ‘The Arrest, Detention and Dehumanization of Protesters at Lekki Toll Gate Are Unacceptable’, Adegboruwa, one of the members of the Lagos Judicial Panel who disagreed with the decision to reopen the toll, condemned the arrest of the protesters.
“My heart is very heavy,” he said. “I’m saddened and devastated. My soul is sorely troubled at this time.
“For decades before the advent of this administration, Nigerians have risked their lives, liberties, their times and their energies, their resources, to win back this country on the side of democracy and good government, from military dictatorship. Some have paid the supreme price with their lives.
“I have been monitoring events at the Lekki Toll Gate since morning, and I am totally overwhelmed with the images, videos and sundry evidence of police brutality of armless civilians, who ventured to protest at the Toll Gate. In one particular video, I saw citizens of Nigeria being dehumanized, striped half naked and cramped together in a rickety bus. This is totally unacceptable.
“While we are yet to come to terms with the events of October 20, 2020, it becomes worrisome that the security agencies have not learnt any positive lesson from those occurrences. I commend the protesters for their peaceful conduct.”
Adegboruwa also said he was considering exiting the panel.
“I cannot in good conscience continue to sit at any Panel of Inquiry to heal wounds and end police brutality, when fresh assaults are being perpetrated with impunity,” he said. “Consequently, I am presently consulting with my constituency within the civil society, as to my continued participation in the EndSARS Judicial Panel.
“I hereby demand the immediate release of all those arrested in connection with the peaceful protest at the Lekki Toll Gate today. On no account should anything happen to any of them while in the custody of the police.
“I appeal for calm on all sides, in order not to escalate the worsening security situation across the land. I cannot fail to point out the fact that the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is a product of protest and civil disobedience. Let history vindicate the just.”