On 15 November the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry — into police brutality and the Lekki tollgate killings during the #EndSARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) protests in October 2020 — finally submitted its report to the state government. Its contents, which were simultaneously leaked, will impact the race for the 2023 Presidency and will probably end any hope that Lagos State’s Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has of being re-elected for a second four year term.
The panel’s report was not supposed to be made public until the government’s position paper on its recommendations was published. On the day that the panel submitted its report, however, a copy was leaked to the media and its findings and recommendations are already causing a lot of political heat.
The panel — at which senior army officials initially refused to appear (Nigeria Focus, December 2020) — has now found that soldiers shot unarmed protesters ‘without provocation or justification.’ It indicated that deadly violence was compounded by the army’s obstruction of ambulances on their way to render medical assistance, and by police complicity in denying the true nature of events.
The panel’s characterisation of the incident as a massacre ups the ante, as do its recommendations for disciplinary action and reform, and its disclosure that over ₦400 million (US$972,000) in damages has already been awarded to numerous victims. More damages are likely as the judicial process continues, whether Sanwo-Olu follows through on his promise that victims of the violence will be fully compensated by the state. He also promises a white paper on the incident within two weeks, but this may do little to reassure domestic and international critics such as human rights lawyers, Amnesty International members, senior UN officials, and US government representatives.
The panel’s report has left the military, federal government, and state officials nowhere to hide.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s team suggests that the Federal Government will ‘wait for the steps taken by the states’ — whether Lagos or other states with #EndSARS investigative panels — rather than ‘impose’ a Federal Government response. And complaints by military officials that leaking the report was a violation of process will no impress outraged critics.
Pressure for military/security forces/police reforms are inevitable. The report moreover provides further momentum to opposition attacks on the government’s security record, and of its efforts to stifle both physical and social-media protest and criticism.
The leaking of the report also resurrects #EndSARS as a major domestic issue, following months during which some analysts viewed it as a movement that had fizzled out.
The report has boxed governor Sanwo-Olu into a difficult corner. If his government tries to discredit the report, which its lawyer has been doing, it is likely to be seen as an attempt to cover-up. If, however, it backs the report, the state government could put itself at odds with the Federal Government which has always insisted that no killings occurred at the tollgate.
The panel’s recommendations will also negatively impact Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his ambitions to succeed President Buhari. Some All Progressives Congress (APC) insiders are already insinuating that Tinubu instigated the Lagos panel report in a bid to blackmail the ruling party into giving him the presidential ticket. There is, however, no evidence that Tinubu had anything to do with the outcome of the report.
The November 2021 issue of Nigeria Focus also includes the following:
- What Abuja could win from a US Africa policy reset?
- Lagging oil output targets
- Shell in Nigeria and elsewhere
- Seplat reports improved profits
- Oil versus gas
- Bayan-Men on the march
- Aiteo oil leak prompts broadside
Politics & Society
- Soludo wins massive victory
- Electoral act amendment
- Hurry up and wait, APC
- PDP convention winners
- Lekki shootings report
Economy & Finance
- The financing shell game
- Interest, inflation, currency
- Corporate earnings and credit
- Eurobond market
- Mobile banking on the move