…Retired generals condemn shootings, probe begins Monday
…Lagos, others warn hoodlums as looting, arson continue
The United States Government may impose a visa restriction on persons found culpable in the shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos on Tuesday.
This is just as the judicial panel set up by the Lagos State Government to probe the Lekki killings is set to begin investigation into the incident on Monday.
Soldiers deployed to quell the protests had opened fire on protesters. While the Defence headquarters has denied deploying soldiers in the Lekki Toll Plaza, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu insisted the military carried out the shooting on the peaceful protesters at the toll plaza.
The governor said, “For clarity, it is imperative to explain that no sitting governor controls the rules of engagement of the military. I have, nonetheless, ordered an investigation into the rules of engagement adopted by men of the Nigerian Army that were deployed to the Lekki tollgate last night.”
Although the casualty figure remains a subject of controversy, global rights group, Amnesty International, says 12 persons were killed in the incident.
Saturday PUNCH subsequently sent an email inquiry to the US Foreign Mission to Nigeria on whether those found wanting in the shootings would be banned from visiting the US.
The email enquiry read, “With regard to the shootings at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos and attack on protesters in various parts of the country, will the United States Government be considering a visa ban on persons found wanting in the last few weeks?”
In its response, the embassy stated, “We stand by Secretary Pompeo’s statement of October 8, 2020: Adherence to these democratic norms and to the rule of law allows all citizens to engage in political dialogue and support their choice of candidates, parties, and platforms.
“We will watch closely the actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process and will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions.”
Earlier, senior officials of the United States Government on Thursday met with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and expressed displeasure over the shootings.
Although the Nigerian Army had denied deploying soldiers to the scene, the US officials demanded that the soldiers behind the shootings be brought to justice.
The spokesperson for the State Department, Morgan Ortagus, said in a statement that the officials were led by the Counsellor of the US State Department, Ulrich Brechbühl.
Others at the meeting include Assistant Secretary Robert Destro and Assistant Secretary Denise Natali.
The officials, according to the statement, raised concerns over the ongoing violence in Nigeria as well as human rights violations and human trafficking.
The statement read in part, “Counsellor T. Ulrich Brechbühl met with Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo today in Abuja, Nigeria as part of a previously scheduled delegation, which included Assistant Secretary Robert Destro and Assistant Secretary Denise Natali, to raise US concerns about ongoing violence in Nigeria, human rights, religious freedom, and trafficking in persons, and to hear from senior Nigerian government officials how they are addressing those issues.
“The counsellor expressed the US condemnation of the use of excessive force by military forces that fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos. He expressed condolences to the victims of these shootings and urged the government of Nigeria to abide by its commitment to hold those responsible accountable under the law.”
According to the statement, Osinbajo, as well as the counsellor, noted that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles.
“Counsellor Brechbühl and Vice-President Osinbajo emphasised the importance of US and Nigerian collaboration on common goals of improving security cooperation and strengthening economic partnership to foster mutual prosperity,” the statement read.
The Nigerian Army had on Wednesday denied that soldiers were at the toll plaza despite eyewitnesses’ accounts and video evidence showing soldiers shooting.
International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, had also acknowledged receipts of complaints over the incident.
She tweeted, “My office has been closely following the events around the current protests in Nigeria and the reaction of Nigeria’s law enforcement and security agencies.
“Any loss of life or injury is concerning. We have received information alleging crimes and are keeping a close eye on developments, in case violence escalates and any indications arise on that Rome Statute crimes may have been committed.”
However, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) made no mention of any investigation or arrest during his national broadcast on Thursday.
Retired generals condemn shootings as probe begins Monday
Retired military generals on Friday condemned the shooting of unarmed protesters by soldiers at the Lekki Toll Plaza. They tasked the investigative panel set up by the state government to bring those indicted to justice.
A former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Major General Ikpomwen Idada (retd.), faulted the deployment of military men to disperse the protesters, noting that the President should have addressed Nigerians much earlier to douse the tension.
He stated further, “What happened is unfortunate. It is absolutely untenable for military force to be used on protesters exercising their constitutional right to express their views on how they are governed.
“At this level, unless God is on our side, everything is pointing towards chaos. We should never have reached that stage where protesters are shot at.”
He said Nigerians saw videos of people who looked like DSS officials releasing thugs to attack protesters, and that the provocation aggravated the situation, leading to violence.
“Those who are responsible for it should be disciplined. The army denying that it happened makes it necessary for proper and thorough investigation to be done. Everything points to the fact that those who did the shooting were soldiers.”
Also, a former General Officer Commanding, 1st Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Abiodun Role (retd.), said the #EndSARS protest and the resultant violence had shown to those in position of authority that an important segment of Nigeria’s population had woken up to hold them accountable.
In an interview with one of our correspondents in Ibadan on Friday, Role said, “Nobody was shot at directly. I think they were using training ammunition and they were shooting in the sky. The sound of bullets coming out of the guns scared the protesters and whatever injuries sustained there was not because somebody was shot at directly but because of the stampede.
“That is not an excuse anyway, if a unit deploys its men to go and carry out such an action, then whoever is responsible for sending them there should be held responsible.”
On his part, a former Chairman of the Nigerian chapter of Transparency International, Major General Ishola Williams (retd.), condemned the shootings.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, Williams said, “Any sensible person will condemn the act of soldiers shooting at unarmed protesters. Anywhere in the world, that is condemnable. If you obey an order to shoot at unarmed persons, you have committed murder. Period!”
“Obeying order alone is not enough to absolve the soldiers from the shootings. So, they are as guilty as the person who gave the order.”
He advised that people should wait for the judicial panel of enquiry set up by the governor on the matter, noting that the state’s Neighbourhood Watch and Civil Defence corps should have defended the state and federal buildings from being vandalised by the hoodlums.
Meanwhile, Sanwo-Olu said during a live broadcast on Friday that the seven-member Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses in the state would also investigate the Lekki killings and would resume sitting on Monday.
Sanwo-Olu said, “That same panel headed by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi would also investigate all the issues that happened at the toll plaza on Tuesday. The sitting would start on Monday at the Lagos Court of Arbitration International Centre in Lekki.”
Investigate Lekki killings, 30 rights groups tell African Commission
Over 30 human rights groups in Africa under the aegis of Coalition of Human Rights Organisations in Africa have asked the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to investigate the alleged murder of protesters at Lekki Toll Plaza.
The coalition comprises organisations like the Human Rights Development and Advocacy Centre; Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (Ivory Coast); Network of Human Rights Journalists (The Gambia); Nigeria Human Rights Commission; Pos Foundation (Ghana); Campaign for Human Rights and Development (Sierra Leone); and Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (Togo).
Others are Campaign for Democracy (Nigeria); Media Right Concern (Nigeria); Partnership for Justice (Nigeria); Human Rights Defenders in Liberia (Liberia); Coalition Malienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (Mali); Forum des Organisations Nationales des Droits de l’Homme (Mauritania); and Lagos Civil Society Participation for Development (Nigeria).
In a statement on Friday tagged ‘Dark Tuesday,’ over 30 human rights groups in West Africa asked the Banjul, The Gambia-based African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to investigate and make recommendations on the alleged killings.
Speaking on behalf of the coalition, the Executive Director, HURIDAC, Ayodele Ameen, condemned the shooting of the protesters, saying that the alleged killings were a violation of the Rome Statute, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The statement partly read, “The Nigerian citizen has a legitimate right to protest under the Nigerian constitution and their Freedom of Expression and Association is enshrined under the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, which is domestic law in Nigeria.
“The loss of lives is unnecessary; the military shooting the youth was avoidable. We hereby call on the African Commission to investigate and make recommendations on these alleged killings; the Nigerian President (retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari) to ensure that the military is brought to justice for these alleged killings.
“The Lagos State Government (who has jurisdiction) should ensure that the incident is independently investigated. ECOWAS should continue to monitor the situation and support the Nigerian government to avoid the repetition of the alleged incident of unlawful killings.
“The Nigeria Human Rights Commission and other Civil Society Organisations should get justice for all victims of #ENDSARS campaign.”
Lekki shootings: Soldiers killed 15 protesters, took their bodies away –DJ Switch
Popular disc jockey, Obianuju Udeh, aka DJ Switch, said the bodies of 15 people killed by soldiers during the protest in Lekki, were taken away by the soldiers.
The entertainer, who livestreamed the Lekki shootings and rescue efforts of fellow protesters for several hours via her Instagram Live, debunked claims attributed to her that 78 protesters were killed at the scene.
In a tearful video posted to her Instagram page, she said, “I want to appeal to the people opening fake accounts in my name; please it is already hard as it is.
“Please, I never said 78 people died. I do know that as of the time I was doing the live video, seven people had died. When my battery went flat, we had counted about 15 people. I don’t know if it was more than that because we had a lot of people that were hit by stray bullets. 78 people? I do not know where you got that information from.”
She urged Nigerian leaders not to insult the intelligence of its people by downplaying the incident.
Lagos, others warn hoodlums as looting, arson continues in states
The Lagos State governor on Friday warned hoodlums to desist from further destroying and setting fire to public and private properties in the state. He said, “enough is enough.”
Ogun and Kwara state governments also raised the alarm on Friday over plans by hoodlums to vandalise government facilities across the states. The two states in separate releases noted that the hoodlums planned to attack public and private warehouses including storages, commercial premises, public buildings and private businesses.
Sanwo-Olu said during his visit to 27 of the properties that had been vandalised and burnt by the hoodlums left him traumatised, noting that what he saw during the visit was the highest level of wanton destruction as if it was a war zone.
Hoodlums and arsonists began vandalising properties in different parts of Lagos State on Wednesday morning after soldiers killed innocent protesters at the Lekki toll plaza on Tuesday night while enforcing the 24-hour curfew earlier imposed by the state government.
The state government on Tuesday imposed the curfew following the violence unleashed by hoodlums trying to hijack the peaceful demonstration by EndSARS protesters.
The properties destroyed included BRT buses, Nigerian Ports Authority building at Marina, Federal Road Safety Commission and Vehicle Inspection Office in Ojodu, Toll Plazas at Lekki and Ikoyi Link Bridge and Television Continental station, while many others, like the office of The Nation newspaper, were looted.
Meanwhile, Sanwo-Olu during a live broadcast on Friday, said, “I was moved to tears when I saw our oldest court in Nigeria (Igbosere), my heart bled. I was asking myself how did we get here? The level of destruction and pain that we have been subjected to is a lot.
“I want to use this opportunity again to appeal (to the people). This was not the Lagos handed over to me on May 29, 2019. I’m the 15th governor of this state since 1967. I’m not sure we have witnessed anything close to this before.
“It certainly would not be under my watch that we would lose the city that has the largest population in Africa and largest economy in the whole of the black race. I want to say that indeed, enough is enough.”
The governor pointed out that people should desist from using social media to incite others.
He said their visit to the different hospitals showed that there were two patients at Reddington Hospital in Victoria Island, one patient at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, two at Lagoon Hospital and four at the General Hospital, out of which two had been given Plaster of Paris. He added that the government would pay for their treatment.
The governor also announced the easing of the curfew in the state, noting that from Saturday morning, the curfew would be in place between 6pm and 8am. “People would be allowed to go out from 8am to 6pm,” he added.
Reacting to the debris, sticks and burnt tyres left on the streets by the hoodlums, he said the cleanup of the city by the Lagos State Waste Management Authority had commenced.
In Ogun State, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Waheed Odusile, in a release said, “Our combined team of law enforcement agents have been put on the alert to protect public buildings and similar properties belonging to the government and other prominent facilities in all locations around the state. Anyone planning to attack any of these facilities is advised in their interest against such a move.”
In Kwara, the state Commissioner for Communications, Mrs Harriet Afolabi-Oshatimehin, in a statement said intelligence report available to the government revealed that some miscreants planned to burn down some public buildings in the state.
She said, “The government is in possession of intelligence reports that some anarchists, backed by certain political interests, are planning to attack public facilities in the state, especially the capital city, Ilorin.”
Hoodlums, miscreants have taken over Ogun roads –Police
Ogun State Police Command has raised the alarm that hoodlums and miscreants have taken over some roads in the state.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, who disclosed this in a statement on Friday, said while peaceful #EndSARS protesters had left the streets, the hoodlums who disguised as protesters had taken over.
Oyeyemi said the hoodlums were targeting property of the state and attacking police stations for arms.
He said, “It is now obvious that responsible #EndSARS protesters are no longer on the streets in the state. Hoodlums, brigands and miscreants alike, pretending to be #EndSARS protesters, have taken over the space.
“The command will no longer tolerate deliberate blocking of highways to impede free flow of human and vehicular movements, molestation and extortion of innocent members of the public, arson, destruction of public and private buildings, looting and setting bonfires on the roads. This will be resisted decisively.”
ASUU backs #EndSARS protesters, seeks probe
The Academic Staff Union of Universities has broken its silence on the nationwide protests.
ASUU President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, in a statement on Friday, said a mere change in the name of SARS was not enough, adding, “It will certainly not end the cruel murders widely perpetrated by SARS, now changed to Special Weapons and Tactics Team.
“The repression and killing of any citizen for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights to protest is unjustifiable and criminal. We call on the Federal Government to get to the root of the crisis and ensure that justice is done and seen to have been done.”
Int’l group warns FG against suppressing protesters
A global research group, the Institute for Economics and Peace, has cautioned the Federal Government against using the police and other security agencies to clamp down on protesters, saying such action would only intensify the demonstrations.
The IEP stated this in a release on the disbanded “Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Nigeria” signed by its founder, Steve Killelea.
Killelea said, “If, as has happened in Nigeria, demonstrations are suppressed by the police, especially when it results in the death of demonstrators, this will only increase the intensity of the demonstrations and break the trust in the political institutions.
“Governments in all countries need to make the police accountable for their bad behaviour. The next five years will be the most difficult period since the end of the Second World War. To avoid large scale civil unrest governments need to be seen as responding genuinely to citizens’ concerns.”
By Eniola Akinkuotu, Friday Olokor, Jesusegun Alagbe, Tunde Ajaja, Tobi Aworinde, Olaleye Aluko, Adeyinka Adedipe, Daud Olatunji, Tunde Oyekola and Olufemi Olaniyi