Local state authorities in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, have rejected a judicial inquiry’s report that concluded a massacre occurred during a crackdown on protesters in the city last year.
The #EndSARS protests in October 2020 began over police brutality but spread into the largest anti-government rallies in Nigeria’s modern history.
Protests ended with a crackdown by security forces at Lagos city’s Lekki tollgate, where a panel set up by the state government to probe the incident said security forces killed 11 people in what amounted to a massacre.
In its official response to the commission’s findings released last month, Lagos State government said it accepted only one person was shot and killed in the Lekki incident as confirmed by the state’s pathologist.
“The state government is, therefore, unable to accept the finding that nine (9) people died of gunshot wounds at LTG (Lekki tollgate),” it said in a document released late on Tuesday.
It said “there was no massacre” at Lekki based on the evidence of a pathologist that “only one (1) person died of gunshot wounds.”
Amnesty International has said 10 people died when security forces opened fire on protests, while the army has denied it used live rounds and said troops only fired blanks to disperse the crowd.
Nigeria’s federal government has already dismissed the panel’s report as flawed and filled with inconsistencies and insisted there was no massacre at Lekki.
Lagos State government’s document said inconsistencies and contradictions rendered the panel’s finding on the deaths and “conclusions there upon totally unreliable and therefore, unacceptable”.
Activists involved in the protests quickly criticised Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who on Tuesday had called for a march for peace this month as a way to help reconciliation.
“Where are u walking to?” DJ Switch, an organiser who went into self-imposed exile after the Lekki incident, wrote on Twitter.
“The first step you should be taking is 2 order the prosecution and incarceration of all the players involved in killing innocent people.”
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a lawyer and member of the judiciary panel told journalists “we are still studying the government’s white paper and we shall comment appropriately”.
The youth-led #EndSARS protest started as a campaign to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) — a police unit notorious for extortion, torture and extrajudicial killings.