23rd June, 2021
By Taiwo Okanlawon
Lagos Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola on Tuesday told the Lagos State Judicial Panel that many of the people reported to have been killed at the Lekki Toll Gate refuted their rumoured deaths.
According to him, most of the injuries recorded in the aftermath of the alleged shootings at the Lekki Toll Gate and environs were predominantly fractures, machete wounds and minor cuts.
Muri-Okunola testified before the panel to help unravel the truth following controversy over October 20 incident.
The Nigerian army had been accused of opening fire on and killing some of the #EndSARS protesters at the toll-gate plaza on the 20th of October, 2020.
But the Army’s 81 Division, which appeared thrice before the panel, denied the allegations, saying soldiers fired blank bullets in the air to disperse the crowd.
It has, however, shunned repeated summons by the panel requiring it to respond to petitioners’ further questions and evidence debunking its claims.
However, appearing before the panel, Muri-Okunola gave oral, visual and documentary pieces of evidence on the Lekki shooting incident.
Pointing at the projector showing visuals of when the Governor visited injured #EndSARS protesters at the hospitals, the Head of Service said: “These are some of the pictures of the hospitals that we visited.
“In this Reddington Hospital, these individuals were injured in that axis, some of them alluded to being injured in a stampede of running, falling over each other.
“Predominantly, there were about 13 people injured in Reddington Hospital Admiralty Way. The General Hospital also had 12 patients.
“The doctors in charge said there was one of those patients that were being moved to LASUTH (Lagos State University Teaching Hospital) who had more severe injuries from machete wounds.
“At the time we were there, most of the injuries were all in the nature of cuts, bruises from machete wounds and stampede. Nobody at the hospitals said they were shot at.”
Muri-Okunola noted that there has been controversy about the actual number of alleged deaths at the Lekki Toll Incident but that since last October 20, many of the people reported to have been killed refuted their rumoured deaths.
He pointed out that Nollywood actress, Eniola Badmus, Stephen Becky, Iraby of Oto-Auch and Joshua Ogbodo who were said to have been killed during the Lekki shooting denied the rumour.
Others are “Anthony Chechukwu alleged to have been shot by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate; (he) has been confirmed to have died in a motorcycle accident and Lucia Adu who was claimed to have died at the Lekki Toll Gate was confirmed to have been killed in an accident involving a stationary truck on 20th October 2020.”
The HoS, who gave a chronological order of events from 8 October to 20 October 2021, said the “protesters congregated in two major hotspots” in the state, Alausa Government House and the Lekki Toll Gate.
He noted that on October 9, 2020, Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat alongside other officials spoke to the protesters who converged at the Lagos Government House in Alausa, on their rights to demonstrate peacefully and shared foods and drinks with the protesters, he said.
He noted further that on 13 October, Sanwo-Olu again visited the #EndSARS protesters and went “straight to the airport” to present their five-point demands to President Muhammadu Buhari and the then Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu.
A “statement was released by the spokesman of the President, Femi Adesina that the Nigerian Government had agreed to the five-point demand of the #EndSARS protesters.”
Muri-Okunola said some days later, some “guerilla protesters” hijacked the “noble” demonstration, which prompted Sanwo-Olu to announce a curfew.
He added: “Violence escalated throughout the city of Lagos, with hoodlums infiltrating and… the peaceful protest of this decentralised movement of #EndSARS.
“Across the city, young men were manning makeshift checkpoints and barricading major roads and stopping cars on routes. They were not carrying the placards and signs that had characterised earlier peaceful protests. The lives of both protesters and the rest of the citizens alike were put in danger.
“At about 10am on the 20th of October 2020, a police station was set on fire by suspected hoodlums who had hijacked the #EndSARS protest in a reprisal attack fuelled by the alleged shooting of one of them by a policeman.
“Hoodlums who had carted away ammunition looted from various police stations around the city unleashed mayhem around the city while destroying properties, mugging innocent citizens and threatening the lives of everyone that they came in contact with.”
The Head of Service disclosed that Sanwo-Olu confirmed two deaths, one of which was said to have died as a result of blunt force trauma at Reddington Hospital.
During cross-examination, Muri-Okunola confirmed that he heard that military men from Bonny Camp were at the Lekki tollgate and based on video evidence they were armed and “shots were fired.”
Nevertheless, he noted that the police and the army in the state confirmed that their officers were not deployed specifically to the Lekki tollgate on 20th October 2020.
One of the lawyers representing the #EndSARS protesters, Mr Adeshina Ogunlana, contended Sanwo-Olu ought to come forward and testify.
But panel chairperson, Doris Okuwobi reminded Ogunlana, a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) Ikeja Branch, of the Constitutional provision relating to state executives.
She said the Governor was not “compellable” because he has been conferred immunity by the constitution under section 308.