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The massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate | The Guardian Nigeria News

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For several years, the human rights community had called for the prosecution of the operatives of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) over incessant arrests, detention, torture and extrajudicial killing of citizens. As such calls were ignored by the authorities the SARS intensified the brutalization of citizens particularly young people. The video of the reckless killing of an unarmed young man in Delta State sometime in the first week of October 2020 by trigger happy SARS officials went viral and led to spontaneous street protests in many states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. In its initial reaction to the protests the Federal Government announced that SARS would undergo some reforms.

Since the Government had ignored the reports of many administrative panels that made a strong case for police reforms in the recent past the youths distrusted the authorities. They continued the peaceful protests and demanded for the immediate disbandment of the SARS. Having regard to the popularity of the protests, which spread like a bush fire in the harmattan the immediate past Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Abubakar Adamu announced the dissolution of the notorious SARS and replaced it with the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT). At that juncture, the Federal Government hurriedly released the report of the Presidential Panel on Human Rights Abuse by the Police which had been submitted since 2018 and directed the Police Authorities to dismiss indicted officers and prosecute those who had engaged in illegal execution of criminal suspects and other citizens. 

Furthermore, the Federal Government and the various State Governments instituted Judicial Commissions of Inquiry to probe sundry allegations of police brutality (which had been ignored over the years) in accordance with the directive of the National Economic Council. Notwithstanding that the protests were acknowledged to be peaceful the Federal Government became frustrated that they were not called off. In Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Asaba, Delta State, Benin, Delta State and other cities the police killed scores of protesters without any basis. In Lagos and Abuja the protesters were attacked by a gang of hired thugs. The protesters promptly arrested the thugs and handed over to the police for prosecution. But as the criminal elements were released by the police the so called saw a free rein for thuggery and stepped in to hijack the protests. 

The armed thugs engaged in the killing of policemen, set private and public buildings on fire, attacked police stations and correctional centres where they freed a number of convicts and awaiting trial inmates.  Under the pretext of collaborating with the police to restore law and order a battalion of the Nigerian Army invaded the Lekki Toll Gate, in Lagos.  Upon sighting the armed soldiers the #endsars protesters waived the Nigerian flag and sang the national anthem. Without any provocation whatsoever the soldiers opened fire on the protesters. Some of the protesters were killed while others were injured. It was a case of what Fela Anikulapo-Kuti once referred to as “sorrows, tears and blood.” As the killing of the unarmed protesters defied the rules of engagement of the armed forces the Army Headquarters became embarrassed and denied that troops were present at the Lekki Toll Gate.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN said that those who attacked the protesters were hoodlums who wore military fatigue. On not less than five occasions, the Minister of Information has categorically denied the killing of any protester. In challenging the claim of the survivors Alhaji Mohammed said that it was a case of killing without bodies and names. But when confronted with irrefutable digital evidence by the #endsars protest movement the army turned round to admit that soldiers were at the Lekki Toll Gate to stop the protests and that they only shot rubber bullets into the air!

Thereafter, four military officers appeared before the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters headed by Justice Doris Okuwobi (retd) where they gave evidence and denied the allegation of the killing of protesters.  But the military officers and their lawyers suddenly withdrew appearance from the Panel as soon as eye witnesses, victims including amputees, relations of those who were killed, medical personnel and other experts appeared to give evidence at the Panel. Thus, as the Commission rightly pointed out that the overwhelming evidence of the eyewitnesses and forensic experts, which implicated the military, and police personnel who carried out the brutal killing of the protesters was not challenged by way of cross examination. 

The Justice Okuwobi Judicial Commission submitted its report last week. Upon receiving the report, Governor Governor Babajide Sanwoolu confirmed that the Government did not interfere with the work of the Commission when he said “It is instructive for us to put it out on record that the panel has been totally independent. The panel has had its full request and has been given full authority to summon to inquire, to ask, to request anybody or anything so wish that would help them come to conclusion. The governor commended members of the panel for the work done, adding that posterity will be kind to them. He said the report would be submitted to the national economic council (NEC), adding that “proper response” will be accorded to the recommendations.

The Governor has already constituted a four-member committee headed by Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN, the State’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to come up with a White Paper on the panel’s recommendations within the next two weeks. Having accepted the report in good faith the Governor said 
that “I’m believing and trusting that this process will help us start the very difficult process of proper reconciliation, restitution, bringing together of anyone that must have been one form or the other being affected. By either the police or any of our citizens that must have been wronged by one form or the other, the process of healing, I imagine, with the submission of this panel report, will start that process.”

After the official presentation of the report a leaked version was circulated on social media. In its 309-page report the panel found that soldiers stormed the Lekki Toll Gate to disperse #EndSARS protesters on the night of October 20, 2020 and that at least 48 protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullet wounds or assaulted by soldiers.

According to the report, nine protesters were confirmed dead, while four were presumed dead.

Among the 48, about 20 sustained gunshot injuries, while 13 others were assaulted by the military. The panel also noted that 96 other corpses were presented by a forensic pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Prof John Obafunwa. It was confirmed by the Panel that the protesters were killed by policemen and soldiers.

Consequently, the panel recommended that all officers and soldiers that were deployed in the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020 should be made to face appropriate disciplinary action, stripped of their status, and dismissed as they are not fit and proper to serve in any public or security service of the nation.” The Commission further recommended that the Divisional Police Officer of the Maroko Police Station along with policemen deployed from the Maroko Police Station on October 20 and 21, 2020 be prosecuted for arbitrary and indiscriminate shooting and killing of protesters. The Commission recommended that the Lekki Toll Plaza be made a memorial site for the protest by renaming it the #EndSARS Tollgate and that October 20 of every year be made a “toll free day” at the plaza as long as the tollgate exists.

The findings of the Commission is a complete negation of the consistent claim by the Federal Government that there was no massacre at the Toll Gate during the nationwide protests against extrajudicial killings and police brutality by operatives of the SARS. Having read the report, I wish to state without any fear of contradiction the panel gave everybody fair hearing, analysed the oral and documentary evidence, summarised the findings and made profund recommendations. The Nigerian Army which withdrew its officers from the proceedings of the Panel has itself to blame for the indictment of its personnel. In defence of the security officials a few  persons had attempted to poohpooh the findings of the Commission and discredit the members. 

Furthermore, the Lekki Concession Company Limited, an agency of the Lagos State Government which later disabled the CCTV camera at the Lekki Toll Gate which captured the tragic incident of the night in question had issued a press statement to condemn the wanton killing of the protesters. A copy of the press statement was tendered and admitted in evidence during the proceedings. In any case, the controversy surrounding the findings of the Commission is centred around the number of the protesters that were killed and not that the killings did not occur. But it is on record that a few hours after the incident Governor Sanwoolu had disclosed that two people were killed at the Lekki Toll Gate. The disclosure was made after the Governor had visited several injured people who were then receiving treatment in some hospitals. It is therefore crystal clear that those who are out to discredit the report are obviously weeping more than the bereaved. 

But no amount of campaign of calumny can impeach the solid credencials of members of the Judicial Commission. The panel was led by Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge and former Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice. Other members are  Taiwo Lakanu, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ebun Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Patience Udoh (representing the Civil Society), Segun Awosanya (human rights activist), Olutoyin Odusanya (Director, Lagos Citizens Mediation Center), and Temitope Majekodunmi, a youth representative. The remaining two members, who were among the protesters, resigned from the panel.No doubt, the Lagos State Government must have been stunned by the findings of the Commission.  

Unlike similar bodies in other states of the Federation the Okuwobi Commission was empowered by the Lagos State Government to pay compensation to the victims of police brutality in deserving cases.  Based on its findings the Commission was able to pay not less than N409 million to victims of illegal detention and torture as well as bereaved family members of unarmed citizens who were extrajudicially executed by some trigger happy police officers. However, as police brutality has continued unabated the Okuwobi Judicial Commission has rightly recommended the establishment of a standing Human Rights Committee to address the allegations of human rights abuse by security forces. Since the Panel was only able to attend to 186 out of the 252 petitions submitted to it by victims of police brutality the Panel urged the Government to authorise the proposed human rights committee to consider the remaining petitions.

Contrary to the antics of the critics of the report of the Commission the Lagos State Government has demonstrated its readiness to implement the recommendations. It is pertinent to note that while the Commission was sitting the Governor Sanwoolu visited the homes of the 6 police officers who were killed in Lagos during the protests, paid them N60 million and announced that the State Government would educate the children of the slain officers up to university level. The widow of a spy policeman who was killed by the mob has equally been compensated by the State Government. To stop the police from killing participants during peaceful rallies and public meetings the Lagos State Government has equipped the State Police Command with cannisters of teargas and water cannon. 

The members of the Okuwobi Judicial Commission of Inquiry deserve commendation for the thorough investigation of police brutality in Lagos State. In view of the integrity of the members of the Panel and the quality of the findings I am confident that the Lagos State Government will pluck up the courage to implement the remaining recommendations of the Commission. President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the Federal Government is awaiting the report of all the Judicial Commissions of Inquiry instituted by the State Governments with a view to taking appropriate action on the recommendations. The Lagos State Government and other State Governments should not hesitate to forward the reports of the Commissions to the Federal Government. To that extent, the Commissions that are still sitting should conclude the national assignment without any further delay. 

Finally, while commending the witnesses and their lawyers for exposing the official cover up of the egregious human rights abuse perpetrated by the merchants of death in the country last year the Federal Government and the various State Governments should ensure that venues are designated where aggrieved citizens can hold rallies in exercise of their fundamental rights to freedom of  expression and assembly guaranteed by sections 39 and 40 of the Nigerian Constitution.  The violent attack of unarmed protesters during peaceful rallies by military personnel should be completely halted by the Federal Government. This demand is in line with several decisions of Nigerian courts against the involvement of military personnel in the maintenance of internal security in the country. Since section 83 (4) of the Police Establishment Act, 2020 has imposed a duty on the police to provide adequate security for citizens who participate in public meetings and rallies the Inspector-General of Police should stop the police from subjecting protesters to unwarranted attacks. 





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Ekiti 2022: APC’s lethargic outing, PDP’s crowded race

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In about two months, political parties interested in the 2022 governorship election in Ekiti State are expected to conclude their primaries.

The post Ekiti 2022: APC’s lethargic outing, PDP’s crowded race appeared first on The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News.



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Delta Independent Power Project Is A Fraud—Groups Accuse Vice President Osinbajo Of Inaugurating ‘Illegal’ Project

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Delta State Coalition of Civil Societies has described the state’s newly inaugurated Independent Power Project (IPP), located in Asaba, the state capital, as a ‘fraud and conduit for government officials to loot the state treasury’.

The coalition described the project which was inaugurated on Monday as ‘illegal’, saying it does not have the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and approval from government regulatory bodies. 



It, therefore, blamed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for allowing himself to be used to inaugurate an illegal project that has no approval.

The multi-billion naira 8.5 Megawatts IPP project has continued to generate controversies and ripples across the state following the alleged fraudulent manner it was done in utmost secrecy. 

The project was done by the state government in partnership with Bestanchury Power Solutions Nigeria Limited (BPSL) and Africa Plus Partners.

The coalition condemned the project in an open letter titled, “Open Letter To Delta State Governor And Deltans Who Will Have Cancer In The Nearest Future Due To Poor Government Regulations”. 

The letter was addressed to the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa and also sent to the state Commissioner for Environment and other relevant authorities. 

Signed by its public relations officer, the coalition of civil societies and the state Director-General of Young Nigerian Rights Organisation, Victor Ojei, in the letter called on the Nigerian government to stop the project because of its health hazards to residents in the area.

The coalition said, “The IPP project of Asaba located at NTA Junction, Asaba does not have EIA license and exposes residence of that region to respiratory diseases and cancer in future. Prior to this petition, we had sent two petitions with respect to the above subject on our concerns as watchdogs of the society. 

“We are social justice crusaders, we consulted with appropriate stakeholders and state actors but till date, we did not get any response thus making it obvious that the government is trying to legalise illegality with respect to enforcement of power laws that thus violates the rights of Deltans be it in construction of shops under high tension transmission cables or setting up an IPP at a location which poses a risk to the lives and properties on the immediate environment it was setup.

“We have made efforts to drag in other stakeholders who can help resolve these challenges which obviously calls for concerns over lives and properties. But since the consultations did not work based on the silence of both state actors and non-state actors (NERC, BEDC and NEMSA- Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency), then confrontation via institution of legal action means becomes inevitable. The IPP does not have any authorisation document to be in operation. The Company needs a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) because the former expired in 2019. They were supposed to have an EIA from the Federal Ministry of Environment, of which the Federal Ministry of Environment is not aware because nobody has told the ministry that the project exists.

“PPA is an agreement between the parties, the government and the company involved. The original arrangement was that the Delta state government will pay the private investor N300,000,000.00 (N300 million) monthly, this will last for ten years thus giving billions of naira which eventually the project will become theirs based on the project is a B.O.O (Build Operate and Own) as against B.O.T (Build Operate and Transfer). The state government before now paid an estimate of N25,000,000.00 monthly to BEDC for all parastatals which the state has abandoned and negotiated with the IPP investor to pay the sum of N215,000,000.00 monthly after we raised our concerns.

“The Delta state government went on with the investors to pay these monthly payments in two components. (i) Energy which cost N185,000,000.00 (ii) Fuel component which mandates the Ministry of Energy to pay for the fuel at the cost of N30,000,000.00 monthly and totally N215,000,000.00 monthly. Be conscious of the fact that nobody also confirms the usage of fuel to measure fuel consumption from the Ministry of Energy. Nobody also confirms the usage of energy, they lack the capacity of an engineer. The project also doesn’t have any electricity metering to measure the energy consumed. The project does not have NEMSA certificate, the role of NEMSA is to validate the materials used for the installation of the IPP. NERC and BEDC were compromised by the Delta state government because they both failed in enforcing statutory duties.

“The IPP was supposed to have NERC certificates, one certificate for power generation and the second certificate will be for power distribution. Below are the disadvantages of CNG (compressed natural gas) being used to power the project. Its low energy density results in low engine performance. It has low engine volumetric efficiency because of gaseous fuel. It needs large storage tanks, which is a safety concern. It has inconsistent fuel properties. Its refuelling is a slow process. It’s highly combustible. Disadvantages of Liquified Natural Gas include combustion, temperatures. There are some disadvantages of NLG such as leakage of gas; they may be explosive, main problem is that it is odourless and undetectable so without odourless.

“Combustion of NLG produced carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other toxic carbon. With the above disadvantages, you can see that the Delta State government, state actors and non-state actors do not care about the health and safety of an average Deltan. It is now very obvious that the Federal Ministry of Environment is not aware of the project so where did they get EIA from? NEMSA only gave them a temporary certificate which does not permit them to operate and has been expecting them to undertake corrections and invite NEMSA to come and inspect the said corrections before issuing them a proper certificate that will permit them to operate fully.

“Both documents are requirements for them to get a NERC license which they need to be recognised and operate as a GenCos on the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI). NERC is compromised as they are authorising plant commissioning verbally and without reference to any of their regulatory documents. (It is) a project which seeks to take from the Delta State government a monthly bill of N215 million (on average) for ten years. At the end of the ten years, the Delta State government would have paid the IPP a total of N29 billion and still not own the project because it is a B.O.O (Build, Operate and Own) business model and not a B.O.T (Build, Operate and Transfer) business model.”

Our correspondent gathered that the project was the result of an alleged deal between some top government officials and private individuals. However, it was observed that following the controversy trailing the IPP project, the vice president, Osinbajo declined to make comments on the IPP during inauguration but rather commended Governor Ifeanyi Okowa while inaugurating the multi-billion naira state secretariat shortly after the IPP inauguration.

Meanwhile, when contacted about all the allegations on the inauguration of the IPP by the vice president, Osinbajo; the state Commissioner for Energy, Jonathan Ukodhiko, dismissed all the allegations, saying the project is not under Public-Private Partnership (PPP), as the state government didn’t contribute a dime to the entire project adding that the IPP project is a better deal, favourable and convenient for the state government.

Ukodhiko, who seemed angry and incoherent, wrongly insisted that projects are not inaugurated but commissioned.

 “Please, please, please correct yourself, that English is not correct, the Vice President didn’t inaugurate the project but commissioned. There’s no English like inauguration, you don’t inaugurate projects but commission. You can only inaugurate a board, committee or panel, so, there is nothing like inauguration of projects. You commission a project, not inauguration. 

“However, all those, especially the civil societies criticising the project are fools who don’t know anything about such a project. They are mad, stupid and foolish. What the state government is paying now is far better than what the state was paying to BEDC at the end of the month. We were merely paying for darkness. Let anyone who is angry go to court. Where were the so-called civil societies when Nigerians were being killed and with the hike in prices of commodities?” the commissioner said.

 



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‘Citizens should be free to come forward with cases of rights violation’ | The Guardian Nigeria News

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Hon. Jerry Alagbaso is a PDP chieftain and member representing Orlu/Orsu/Oru east federal constituency of Imo State. He is the current chairman, House of Representatives committee on public petitions. In this interview, he tells MSUGH ITYOKURA how his committee has resolved many issues through alternative dispute resolutions.

Yours is one of the critical committees of the National Assembly, owing to the work you do. Can you tell us how much work the committee has done to promote citizens rights?
For you to appreciate this committee, you must attend some of our sessions to see how busy we are and understand how some of these things are being taken care of, in terms of examination and investigations. I have a formidable team ranging from my secretariat where I have seasoned clerks who are in charge of documentation and other things. A visit to the secretariat will reveal to you the number of cases we have discharged in the 9th assembly. We have statistics on how these cases are documented, we have files where they are enclosed, especially those that have been discharged. The rule is that, when we discharge this cases, we present them on the floor of the House for consideration after which the overall clerk of the house will write to those whom it may concern, giving them the resolution of the National Assembly for them to implement, but where it is difficult to implement, we have what we call status compliance. You go to that place and they will also write as a way of reminder for the respondents to carry out the resolutions of the House. So, if you want to know the number of cases discharged. You go to my secretariat and the clerk will show you. But I assure you, you will be satisfied with the number of cases we have discharged as far as the 9th National Assembly is concerned. 

What are the functions of your committee?
We deal with petitions all over the country and even abroad that borders on even administrative injustice, whether private or public. But we don’t deal with cases that are in court because we are talking about ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution. What we do is to provide a platform for people to sort out their cases, settle matters and then go home, exchange banters and be happy with themselves. And during the COVID-19, a lot of people were laid off without payment and we are still resolving some matters arising from COVID-19 now that it has subsided, even though it is not yet uhuru and the victims are usually happy with how we have been carrying out our duties. We don’t deal with frivolous petitions, the petitions must stand the test of time before we handle them and that is what we have been doing

Are there challenges your committee faces while discharging its duties? 
During COVID-19 it was difficult to receive and preside over cases through zoom meetings, as far as communications is concerned, that was difficult. Another thing is that, some cases were that of the 8th Assembly that were carried over into 9th and we started afresh. You see that when some of the cases are inconclusive like the ones taken over from the 8th Assembly, it lingers and time is being wasted as far as those good cases are concerned. However, they are not serious challenges as we are equal to the task. We have discharged so many cases we inherited from the 8th Assembly and even more of the new ones, so I won’t say that these are challenges. We have experienced members, we have accountants, lawyers, educationists and other experts on the committee and we discovered that we are familiar with some of the cases, so we are talking out of experience.

How do you ensure your committee’s recommendations are enforced?
We know because we usually give a plan. When your case is finished and it is remaining implementation and you are having any problem especially when the clerks of the National Assembly write and the respondents are very slow, you come back to us and we tell you what to do. We always give that advice. When you come back, we write a reminder even if it is a court case that is in your favour. What we do is to align the committee with the court case. We monitor cases and not only that we give judgement and monitor the resolutions. We don’t look back and the Speaker has never intervened in our work and that gives us satisfaction in terms of speed. The Deputy Speaker that considers the report as a matter of our standing rules also moves with speed. So we have a record of about 95 percent of implementation of judgment and recommendations.

What are some of the achievements of the 9th House Committee on Ethics, privileges and public petitions?
We have cases of those who lost their jobs and if they are 50, we have restored the dignity of about 40 of them, especially the police through alternative dispute resolutions. Sometimes, I commend the Inspector General, (IG) of police and his team, they always take the recommendations of the National Assembly serious. So in terms of achievements, I can tell you that we have conducted a lot of cases successfully. We have performed even more than our predecessors. We have speed in this 9th Assembly maybe, because of our commitment because we don’t stay up to six O clock, by two O clock we are done with our cases and this gives our clerk enough time to do his work effectively and everybody is happy. We also had a case of the police assaulting a naval officer in Delta State, but we were able to resolve it, the police apologised and the naval officer accepted and everyone was happy. We also had a situation where somebody took money to the bank like today and the next day the money vanished and we asked the bank to pay her and they paid. We have several of such cases we resolved, including extra judicial killings. Anytime we write the army, civil defence and NDLEA, they come and we seek God’s intervention to give us the right direction to handle the cases and we resolve the matter and everybody is happy.

How do you avail citizens the opportunity the committee provides for them to deal with human rights violations?
We have various media organisations that cover us especially when we have critical cases and we are always open. Our meeting room, the 429 is a popular place that has COVID-19 compliance. There are times people just come in to listen to how we handle particular cases. There are some cases that are very easy to solve, like when you are discharged from police over one thing or the other, it is not something that will take you so long, we look at the merit of the case and then judge it.

Would you need additional support from the National Assembly to ensure resolutions of your committee are complied with by respondents?
We don’t have any problem, the Speaker is doing very well for the various committees. We have enough support in terms of manpower and the finances are available for us to carry out our work. The speaker is doing very well for us so we are not complaining.





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