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EndSARS panel report: ‘Withdraw White Paper, implement panel recommendations’ – Group tells Sanwo-Olu

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu

ABUJA (Sundiata Post) –  A civil society organisation, Raising New Voices, has urged Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to withdraw the White Paper the state government issued on the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the October 2020 EndSARS protest.

Accotding to a statement made available to Sundiata Post on Monday, Victor Terhemba, director of communications of the group, said Sanwo-Olu should implement recommendations of the panel.

The group said it was optimistic that the report of the panel would unravel the true details of what happened at LTG (Lekki Toll Gate) and put an end to the government’s denial. 

The full statement reads:

We have observed with keen interests the events that heralded the introduction of the judicial panel of inquiry (JPI) on #EndSARS, the panel’s report after more than a year of receiving petitions and the Lagos State Government’s decision to publish a whitepaper on the panel’s report. After the unfortunate events at Lekki Toll Gates (LTG) on 20th of October, 2020, the denialism of both the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government of Nigeria as to the nature of the actual events that occurred at LTG has continued in spite of the establishment of the nationwide panels and the publishing of the Lagos State’s Panel’s report. 

We were optimistic that the report of the panel’s findings will unravel the true details of what happened at LTG and put an end to this outright denial. Unfortunately, this attitude has continued even after the report established clearly that a massacre happened on the evening of the 20th of November, 2020. The Lagos State Government and the Federal Government has now extended their philosophy of denialism to the panel which they themselves set up and appointed its panelists.

Raising New Voices as a civil society organization joined other well-meaning Nigerians to welcome the decision by the government to set up the Judicial Panel of Inquiries to investigate the allegations of police brutality and make the appropriate recommendations. Expectedly, almost everyone’s focus was on the Lagos state panel.

Following the submission of the panel’s findings to the Lagos state government, we were utterly dismayed by the cherry picking style adopted by the state government in the proposed  implementation of the panel report as contained in the white paper. We consider this a very dishonourable act in line with the pattern of showing bad faith in regards to the #EndSARS movement as a whole. It is a clear attempt to discredit the work and findings of the JPI. By this act, we are made to know that the Lagos State Government led by Governor Jide Sanwoolu is not interested in establishing the truth of what happened. ‘Mr Governor’  is only interested in reinforcing the opinion of his government as his truth. We are therefore forced to ask, of what purpose is the setting up of the panel in the first instance if the Governor is going to jettison the recommendations and the findings of the panel that he disagrees with and then go ahead with programs on how to move forward based on “his own truth”?

We would like to state categorically that Governor Jide Sanwoolu is not just the Governor of Lagos State Secretariat and the prevailing opinion within the apparatus of government cannot be forced on the people of Lagos State whom the Governor swore an oath to serve. This was evident in how the government cherry-picked what to accept and what to discard. The government exerted energy in finding loopholes in the report so as to discredit it rather than exhibiting equanimity in addressing findings of the report.

We would have expected LASG to demonstrate openness and sincerity in its commitment to the findings of the panel and regain confidence of the citizens by acting on the findings of the panel, seeking clarifications where there are perceived errors and asking for explanations where the government’s appointees into the committee are incapable of understanding the premises to which the panel reached its conclusions. Instead, the government went to town with the testimony of one of the many witnesses who testified to the panel confirming that an acceptance of the individual’s testimony nullifies all other testimonies given by other witnesses. This is a slap on the faces of the dead, an insult to those of us who are alive and pouring salt on injury for the hardworking panelists who are now being daily threatened for releasing such a report confirming the truth that we already know and some witnessed. 

We would have also expected the government to recognize that the #EndSARS protests were beyond protests against police brutality but also a demonstration of lack of faith in the government. Thus, the setting up of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry was a right step towards healing all wounded hearts and regaining the confidence and trust of the people. That the Lagos State Government has decided to rollback this commendable action is disheartening to say the least.

It is our belief that the Lagos JPI did a credible job and conducted themselves credibly. We, therefore, call on the Lagos state government to shelve all forms of denialism and ill thoughts towards the JPI report, take back its whitepaper which is dead on arrival and begin to earnestly implement ALL the recommendations of the panel where it is within the legal jurisdiction of the LASG to do so. 

We have been consistent in calling the government to take necessary steps to end police brutality and extrajudicial killings and help protect the young people of Nigeria who are the future and backbone of our great country, Nigeria. The progress of a society is inhibited when the young people of that society cannot freely express themselves. The Lagos State Government has an opportunity to begin to build trust with the people once again. Every journey starts with a step. The journey towards healing and peace will start, not with the steps that Governor Jide Sanwoolu intends to take on his peace walk, but with accepting in whole the report of the panel, coming into terms with the truth of what happened and implementing the recommendations of the panel. 

May God Bless Nigeria.

Victor Terhemba,

Dir. of Communications 

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