By Ayo Oyoze Baje
Youthful revolutions in countries such as the US, Germany, UK, South Africa, DJ Switch has been vindicated-….. What Lai Muhammed said about the EndSARS and CNN TV, First Anniversary which he described as a ‘phantom massacre’
‘’One year later, and despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging massacre to present evidence, there has been none: No bodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing’’- Alhaji Lai Muhammed (Minister of Information and Culture during the Media briefing on the First Anniversary of the Lekki Toll Gate tragedy).
‘’The Nigerian Army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenceless protesters, without provocation or justification, while they were waving the Nigerian flag and singing the National Anthem and the manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre’’ – Justice Doris Okwubi-led Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the Lekki Toll Gate tragedy said that Amnesty International said 12 people were killed, CNN went for 38. The report claimed that at least 48 protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullet wounds , or assaulted by soldiers
For those concerned citizens still blessed with the human heart beating in their heaving chests, the million-Naira question you ask yourself is, if indeed, those who made the above-stated quotes truly live in this same blood-letting country called Nigeria? The statements no doubt paint a perfect picture of the clear-cut distinction between the lords of listless lies and the torch-bearers of timeless truth as performed in the Greek play, Oedipus Tyrannus(Oedipus Rex) by Sophocles. That was way back in 429 BC.
Unfortunatley, here we are in the 21st century Nigeria still grappling with the paradox of asphyxiating political power playing ‘kalo-kalo’ games with irreplaceable human life. Virtually on daily basis, the news making the headlines are mostly torrid tales of killings of innocent and defenceless citizens by Boko Haram extremists, Sheik Gumi-protected bandits, kidnappers and unknown gunmen! But as it was in the Biblical time, ‘’the voice of the blood of Abel’’ has cried unto the maker and the wicked Cain has nowhere else to run and hide!
With increasing pressure from the UNO, US, Amnesty International, Femi Falana, Civil Socity Organizations, CSOs and the international community the Buhari-led administration therefore, has a golden opportunity to redeem its mired image. That is, by accepting the recommendations of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution on cases of police brutality and human rights violations on the Lekki toll gate horror. It should muster the moral courage, stand on the side of unimpeachable truth and show that indeed, the life of every Nigerian counts under our questionable democracy. But will the government do so? The answer hangs in our tear-whipping, torrid wind.
To do the needful, the president should listen to the voice of reason. As stated by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr.Edward Kallon: ‘’I urge the government to implement the recommendations of the judicial panel to rebuild trust and start the process of healing and reconciliation’’.
In a similar vein, the US Embassy in Nigeria said that: ‘’We look forward to the Lagos State government’s response as part of a process that represents an important mechanism of accountability regarding the #EndSARS protests and events that took place near the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20,2020’’. Adding its humanist voice to the clarion call for justice, Amnesty International, AI insists that perpetrators must face justice. According to Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, ‘’President Buhari must act promptly to ensure that those found to be responsible for shooting and attacks on peaceful protesters are brought to justice in fair trial.’’ He also asked for access to justice, effective remedies, including adequate compensation, restitution, and guarantee of non-repetition to victims and of course members of their families.
Also, ace human rights activist and legal luminary, Femi Falana whose celebrity son, Falz was at the front of the #End SARS protests in October 2020 has asked for justice to be served on the perpetrators of pure evil and speedily too.
In fact, according to the Report released by the Judicial Panel set up by the Lagos state government to investigate the shooting incident at the infamous Lekki toll gate, armed soldiers intentionally shot at flag-carrying protesters. Not done, some of the policemen that took over from the soldiers also shot directly at the protesters, maiming and killing the patriots. But the pain runs deeper. For instance, the glaring fact that the victims were joyfully singing the National Anthem on that unforgettable black *Tuesday of 20/10/2020 makes it as a bloody metaphor for the outright silencing of the voice of patriotism, especially by the future leaders of this embattled country. There was neither provocation or any criminal act from the indefensible youth, rightfully protesting the persisting and unjustified harassment and killings by men of the #EndSARS!
While one must commend the Governor Sanwo-Olu led administration for practicalizing patriotic principles of giving a freehand to members of the judicial panel to conduct the findings and mustering the uncommon courage to release the report, knowing full well that the government stands indicted for the invitation of soldiers.
•For setting up a four-man panel to come up with the White Paper, In addition, Triggers several burning questions, all begging for answers:
*Do the citizens not have the inalienable right to protest acts of brigandage by members of the EndSARS?
*Should a government, more so under a so called democracy exhibit the unpatriotic acts of might-is-right?
*Are policemen and soldiers not supposed to be friends to their fellow citizens and therefore, protect the lives and property of the citizens?
* For how long are Nigerians going to be subjected to the nauseating reeling out of listless lies to cover up obvious acts of violation of Section 14,Sub-section (2) (b) of the 199 constitution as amended?
* Must hoodlums always be sponsored by politicians to disrupt protests that are patriotic in nature?
* Does it not cost far less to enthrone good, people-friendly governance than to deploy harsh instruments of power to silence the voice of reason?
*Why should an elected government be openly averse to criticisms aimed at fostering peace and unity?
* Should the Chief of Defence Staff be more concerned about protecting the image of the Army or rather ensure that any of his officers indicted in the report should be made to face the full wrath of the law? His stand that only a White Paper will confirm the alleged incidents.
* The report presents an opportunity for the government to show that the lives of the perpetrators of pure evil, including members of the Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers are not more important than that of the voiceless and defenceless victims.
* Panel made 32 recommendations
-sanctioning of the officers of both the Nigerian Army and the Police who took part, especially with regards to the maiming and killing the protesters. -development of more robust engagement between the youth and the government. -setting up a Standing Committee to deal with cases of violation of human rights by security agencies. -a Trust Fund to settle compensation as awarded by such a Committee or Tribunal
-Calls for a public apology. -Suggestion of October 20 to be declared Nigerian Youth
Baje writes from Lagos