A judicial panel of inquiry in Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos has got underway into last week’s shocking events at the Lekki tollgate where a demonstration against police brutality went tragically wrong soldiers opened fire on protesters.
Amnesty International and eyewitnesses say the military opened fire on peaceful protesters at the toll gate, killing at least 10 people. Two people were killed in another part of Lagos on the same day, Amnesty said.
The military has vehemently denied involvement in the shooting.
Panel members are now tasked with investigating happenings in the EndSARS protests, who shot protestors, who is affected, how much compensation they should get, and who should be prosecuted.
They will also investigate historical allegations of human rights abuses carried out by police officers of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The country’s President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged his support for the Lagos panel of inquiry and is confident that all state panels will help ensure that justice is done on behalf of the peaceful protestors and the law enforcement agents who lost their lives.
A man who testified at the judicial inquiry narrated how officers of the disbanded SARS tortured him and extracted two of his teeth after arresting him in 2014.
In his testimony, the man said that his property had been forcefully taken by SARS officers and the police had refused to pay him compensation despite a court order.
Tuesday’s proceedings were held up for almost two hours as the youth representatives on the panel refused to sign an oath of secrecy, a dispute that was later resolved.
Independent investigations into police abuses were a core demand of the protesters who rallied across Nigeria for more than two weeks.
The chair of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi had said the panel was independent of the government and would ensure justice for victims of police brutality and “for those affected by the unfortunate incident of the shootings by the military.”
She was however quoted by Reuters as saying that none of the 15 complaints received so far were related to the shooting in Lekki, an upmarket suburb in Lagos.
By Abel Ejikeme