By Sonnie Ekwowusi
Most of those who run our affairs in Nigeria are minutely making us a laughing stock before the civilized world. Most of us admit this unpleasant fact about our country. In his classical essay entitled, Common Sense, Tom Paine maintained that the English government was evil. “Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness: the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is patron, the other punisher”, he opined.
To a striking degree in line with Tom Paine’s thought, our government in Nigeria is an engine of fraud if not complete evil. For example, the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up to investigate the 2020 Lekki Toll Gate Massacre (#Lekki Massacre) has recently submitted its Report to the Lagos State government. The Report is a damning incitement on the Buhari government as well as the Lagos State government.
Not unexpectedly, the Federal government through Information Minister Lai Mohammed has rejected the Report of the Panel. Why? Because the Report indicts the Federal government. The Report finds the Nigerian soldiers and policemen culpable in the massacre of young protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate despite the fact that some of them were waving the green-white-green Nigerian flag as a testament to their national pride and unalloyed patriotism and loyalty to their country. Perhaps the saddest aspect is that right now some members of the Panel are either receiving death threats or are being physically assaulted in broad daylight in the streets for letting truth and justice prevail or come to light in the Report of the Panel. I can’t understand this country. If one waves the Biafra flag or the Oduduwa flag one is hounded and killed by blood thirsty and trigger-happy State agents. Now if one waves the green-white-green Nigerian flag one is also shot at and killed by the same blood thirsty and trigger-happy State agents. So what is happening in Nigeria? What should a true Nigerian patriot do in the face of oddities? Stand hands akimbo, jaw dropped and watch the oddities unfold? Must the truth offend?
At first the Federal government washed its hands off the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry Report on the illogical contention that it was purely a Lagos affair. Now the Federal government argues that since none of the relatives of the murdered protesters has come before the government to claim compensation, the Report lacks merit and therefore should be rejected. This is laughable. It is also an infantile afterthought. It is on record that the soldiers, police, other State agents and the Federal government itself freely submitted to the jurisdiction of the Judicial Panel. They freely participated in the proceedings of the Panel. Each was represented by a lawyer of its choice. Each was given ample time and opportunity to argue its case before the Panel. Each called its witnesses, examined them in chief, re-examined them as well as cross-examined the opponents’ witnesses. Why is the Federal government through Lai Mohammed rejecting the Report of the Panel simply because it indicts the Federal government? The refutation of the truth contained in the Panel Report by the State may be an instruction that our country Nigeria is built on criminal foundation otherwise why should anybody in his right senses continue to say that the shooting, killing and maiming of Lekki young protesters which we all watched on that live streaming in the night of October 20 2020, is “a massacre without bodies”.
At the Press Briefing organized last week by Civil Society on harassment and intimidation of the members of the Lagos Panel, an NGO called the Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) distributed one of its publications where some of the Lekki Massacre survivors gave detailed accounts/testimonies of what transpired during the shooting. Hear them. “We were hinted that soldiers were coming…we began to hear gunshots…My friend was shot in the chest in my presence” (Edwin Augustine Ekene); “They were shooting up and down, and suddenly they began to shoot towards our direction. They said they used rubber bullets but how can that lead to amputation(Faleye Olalekan, an amputee); “Patrick Ukala was by my side when I was shot. We have known each other for a long time before the protest. We live in the same area. When it happened, I turned to him saying, Patrick they don shoot me o…The blood of protesters lost in the struggle is crying for justice” (Nicholas Anthony); “They shot my son in the forehead” (Ayedungbe Olufunmi); “They came to kill, not to scare protesters away” (Ajumobi Olajide); Soldiers will tell people to run and as they go, they shoot at them” (Dabira Oluwa); “My brother was killed at Lekki Tollgate”;(Nathanial Solomon); “We were still singing our national anthem and holding our flags but the worst happened at exactly 6.14-6.40 pm, the soldiers attacked. They started shooting at us straight, they said it was blank bullets, how can a blank bullet penetrate and kill somebody, how can a blank bullet pull someone’s skull up?” (Ibeh Perpetual Kamsi). I can go on reeling out the Lekki Massacre victims’ accounts.
The foregoing evidence and the evidence contained in the Report of the Panel are overwhelmingly incriminating. Where in any civilized world are agents of the State dispatched to kill or main peaceful protesters? Where in any civilized world are agents of the State dispatched to carry out a nocturnal raid of the residences of the Supreme Court justices or, indeed, the residence of any citizen for that matter? Mind you, the Lekki shooting and killing of unarmed civilians is not the first and certainly would not be last of its kind in Nigeria. The Nigerian soldiers and Nigeria police have gained notoriety across the world for opening fire and killing unarmed civilians. If the military only fired blank bullets in the thin air as Lai Mohammed claims, how come there were mutilated human corpses lying in the pool of human blood after the shooting? If the military didn’t shoot at the protesters, why were the Nigerian flags carried by the protesters smeared with human blood? If the military didn’t fire live bullets, why was the scene of the crime littered with bullet casings and pellets after the shooting and murder?.
Therefore the Lagos State government is humbly advised to release the White Paper on the Lekki Massacre forthwith. The Paper, firstly, should commend the Judicial Panel for a job well done. The White Paper should order that all those culpable in the Lekki Massacre, whether soldiers, police, personnel of the Lekki Concession Company, big men or big women, should be brought to justice forthwith. Nobody is above the law. It should order that all the relatives of those who lost their loved ones and victims of the Lekki Massacre in general, including amputee Faleye Olalekan, should be adequately compensated. Considering that the commercialization of the Lekki Toll Gate further prompted the Lekki Massacre, the White Paper should ban further collection of tolls at the Lekki Toll Gate and recommend that the Toll Gate should be converted as a national monument in remembrance and immortalization of the victims of the Lekki Massacre. The White Paper should also order that no member of the Panel should henceforth be harassed, intimidated, visited with death threats or otherwise be made to suffer any disadvantage or inconvenience or fatality. Finally, the Paper should recommend that October 20 of every year should henceforth be declared in Nigeria as #EndSARS Remembrance Day in honour of the victims of Lekki Massacre. The Lekki Massacre has cut deep into the heart of the nation. No Lai Mohammed lie, denial, or dirty politics or pseudo-rationalization can erase away the murder from our collective memory.