Monday, October 26, 2020

#EndSARS - The #LekkiMassacre: Call for International Commission of Inquiry

 by Eze Eluchie


After over two weeks of continuous street protests by Nigerian youths seeking three key demands, to wit: 1) proscription of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad {SARS} of the Nigeria Police Force which had been implicated in several cases of extra-judicial murders, extortion and dehumanizing/degrading treatment of civilians; 2) Action against Corruption which had become endemic in Government; and 3) Enthronement of Good Governance at all stratas of governance in Nigeria, the peaceful nature of the protests was brought to a most brutal end by 18.50pm on Tuesday, 20th October 2020, when a continuing staccato of live ammunition fired into the crown by Military personnel, sent the crowd of young protesters in a frenzied stampede, with several killed and scores injured.


The brazenness of the attacks had stupefied the protesting crowd, who least expected Nigerian soldiers to openly fire at unarmed Nigerians, who were peacefully protesting for the betterment of the country. 


In the ensuing confusion, the scene of the shooting was, in a jiffy, emptied of the mammoth crowd of protesters, with survivors trying to help one another, and hospitals in the vicinity overwhelmed with survivors suffering various forms of injuries. In Television reports following the crackdown, the shooting at the Lekki Toll-gates continued to reverberate in the background.


As news of the brutal crackdown went round the city and the country, youths across the country trooped out in their hundreds of thousands to confront authority, unleashing the worst scene of national violence since the current experimentation with democratic governance ensured in 1999. From Lagos, Osogbo, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Benin City, Onitsha, Enugu and Aba in the South, to Jos, Jalingo, Yobe, Kano and Kaduna in the Northern region, an orgy of violence enveloped Nigeria, leaving in its wake looting sprees, mob lynching’s, mass destruction of government and private properties, particularly the burning and destruction of several police station. Conservative reports put the total number of those killed at over 60 persons with properties amounting to several billions of dollars destroyed or looted.


Worrisome order of events

In assessing the events which took place at Lekki tollgate in the evening of the 20th of October 2020, it is important to appreciate and recognize key occurrences of the day. These are as follows:

1.      In the morning of the said 20th October, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Sanwo-olu issued a statement declaring a night time curfew across Lagos State. This statement clearly sought to provide a legal basis for the deployment of force to evacuate the #EndSARS protesters who had been at the Lekki Tollgates and at the Lagos State Government Secretariat, non-stop, for almost two weeks.

2.      Nigeria’s Federal Government owned media muzzling agency, the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) issued an ominous Press Statement warning media outlets and users of social media to be extremely careful on how they report the #EndSARS protests, promising dire consequences for ‘infractions’. A media blackout may have been envisaged via the NBC’s Statement.

3.      Close Circuit Television Camera’s (CCTVs) at the Lekki Tollgate were ominously dismantled – giving indication that someone somewhere had a foreknowledge that events that ought not be recorded were likely going to unfold;

4.      A convoy of soldier arrived at the Lekki tollgate shortly after 18.00 hrs – after the curfew announced earlier in the day by the State Governor ought to have commenced;

5.      Power supply to the Lekki tollgate was suddenly switched off;

6.      The shootings began.


Clearly, from the foregoing, there was premeditation of the events that was to unfold and shock not just Nigerians, but the entire international community.


Nigeria had just produced its own version of the Tiananmen Square.


The Cover-up?

As expected, within 24 hours of the beastly attack, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Army, issued a Press Release denying Army involvement in the shooting and attendant killings and injuries. A few hours later, the Lagos State Government, announced plans to set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the incident.


In the midst of the violence, the Nigerian ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, whose silence over the attack by security men at the Lekki tollgate had been condemned by well-meaning Nigerians, made a lackluster National Broadcast during which he did not even mention the carnage that took place at the Lekki tollgate.


In an incredulous stroke of folly, during a visit of a delegation of politicians led by the Minister of Works and comprised of several State Governors and Lawmakers, the Minister of Works claimed to have ‘discovered’ a hidden camera at the scene of the shooting, which the said Minister claims will be useful to resolving what actually transpired at the venue of the massacre.


Need for international panel of inquiry

When one takes into consideration the track record and penchant of the current Nigerian regime with regards to non-implementation, non-compliance and non-adherence to findings of Judicial Commission of Inquiry and interference in the administration of justice as evidenced in the recent unconstitutional removal of the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria and the elevation of ‘compliant’ persons to high judicial positions, one is immediately wary of the zeal with which the governments in Nigeria seem willing to set up Judicial Commissions to inquire into matters in which the government itself, and its military, are deemed complicit.


Can a panel instituted by a Government which itself is suspected of complicity in heinous acts be trusted to come out with just findings or outcomes?


Will justice be seen or deemed to have been served by the outcomes of a panel set up by a party that itself ought to be investigated for its role in the Lekki Tollgate shootings?


It is in view of the commonsensical negative answers that the two questions above will naturally elicit and the fact that the acts alleged constitute crimes within the scope of the Rome Statute (to which the Nigerian State is signatory), that it is prudent in the circumstances to call for the establishment of an International Commission of Inquiry into the Lekki Tollgate shootings which took place in Lekki, Lagos State, Nigeria on the 20th of October 2020.


Such an International Panel of Inquiry can validly be established under the charter of the International Criminal Court, the United Nations Security Council, the African Union - African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and the ECOWAS Community Court of the Economic Community of West African States.



Picture: #EndSARS sign and emoji