The Lekki Concession Company, operators of the Lekki Toll Gate, has submitted video footage recorded by its surveillance cameras on the night of 20 October when soldiers opened fire on #EndSARS protesters. The LCC’s Managing Director, Abayomi Omomuwa, submitted the video footage on Tuesday to the judicial panel of inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government to probe the Lekki shootings as well as complaints of human rights abuses against members of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Tendering the video footage to the panel, Omomuwa said, “I can confirm that inside here is the video footage that our surveillance camera was able to record for the 20th of October.” Explaining why the camera stopped working, Omomuwa said, “The major cause is because of the network. I can confirm categorically we never, ever, tampered with the surveillance camera. That is why we can get the footage. It remained there until about 8 pm when it was tampered with, and we couldn’t get anything.”
The FG has denied generating a ‘no-fly’ list of youths and persons who participated in the recent #EndSARS protests against police brutality. The Federal Ministry of Interior made this known in a tweet on Tuesday in reaction to media reports. The publication alleged that the Nigerian authorities have started collating a no-fly list of Nigerians that helped organise the #EndSARS protest last month. Reacting on the ministry’s Twitter account, the statement said, “The Ministry of Interior did not, has not and will not generate any no-fly list. Ignore fake news, please!” This denial comes on the heels of news that the Nigeria Immigration Service on Monday prevented a prominent #EndSARS facilitator, Modupe Odele, from leaving the country. Although the officers did not disclose the reason for their action, there is wide suspicion that the action was taken because of her alleged role in the protests. She had offered free legal aid services to persons who were arrested during the demonstrations. This comes as northern governs have unequivocally backed the FG’s commitment to regulating social media. At a meeting in Kaduna on Monday, the governors said the effect of uncontrolled social media is devastating. They also condemned the “subversive” actions of some #EndSARS protesters, saying some people took advantage of peaceful protest to push their “separative agenda”. The governors also asked security agencies to keep “strict watch” on Abuja to guide against “unwarranted and destructive protests” and to safeguard critical assets of the country.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, has begged personnel of the force to return to their duty posts. The IGP made the appeal while addressing his men at the Federal Capital Territory command in Abuja immediately after he returned from an assessment tour to various police facilities destroyed by the hoodlums. He also charged them to protect themselves against any assault at their respective duty posts. He said his move to embark upon the tour was to boost the morale of officers who have abandoned the streets for the past few days sequel to various attacks suffered by the security operatives in various states. Shortly after he returned to force headquarters, the IGP inaugurated a 9-man committee to assess losses suffered by the force and pay a condolence visit to all families of deceased police officers and the injured ones. The committee, which has a Commissioner of Police, Abutu Yaro, as its chairman, is expected to submit its report within three weeks.
Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike has described the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group and signed an executive order to reinforce the ban on IPOB’s activities in the state. According to Mr Wike’s spokesman, Kelvin Ebiri, the state government will neither accept nor allow any individual or group from within and outside to violate the peace, endanger lives and property under any guise. Mr Ebiri said, “the state government is opposed to the presence and activities of the legally-proscribed and anarchic IPOB and whatever it stands for in Rivers State. And so, let it be understood that we have nothing against all or any specific tribe and will continue to live in peace with people of all other tribal extractions residing or doing business in Rivers State. But we have everything against the presence and activities of the legally-proscribed IPOB and whatever that group stands for in Rivers State. This is clearly a terrorist group whose existence, creed, mission and activities are strongly denounced even by the governments and peoples of the South-Eastern states of the country.’’ Governor Wike also “directed security agencies and the chairmen of local government areas to fish out and resolutely deal with any member of IPOB found in any community following the executive order and other legal instruments”.
- While a lot of the documentary evidence for the sequence of events of 20 October will be strengthened by CCTV footage, we must state that there is already overwhelmingly independent corroboration establishing the key facts of the night. We must express our reservations about the LCC MD’s story as a perhaps too convenient occurrence. Going by the currently accepted timeline, the cameras worked while the army shot protesters at the location – triangulated approximated to be at between 7:15 PM and 8 PM – and stopped working right after missing both the times when eyewitnesses said the DPO of the Maroko Police Station returned and shot protesters, as well as a visit to the site on the night by Governor Babajide Sanwoolu. The panel must, as a matter of justice, seek to get second opinions from independent experts on the camera footage and make the findings of such an investigation public. We owe both the dead, living survivors and shellshocked Nigerians that much clarity.
- It is disappointing that after 21 years of democracy, the Nigerian government continues to employ tools reminiscent of the dark periods of military rule. The government seized passports in 2014 during the Bring Back Our Girls protests, and President Buhari’s government has continued in this faithful and shameful tradition with the EndSARS protests. This is in spite of existing Supreme Court rulings to the effect that seizures of this nature are illegal except ordered by a court of law. It is nothing other than an effort to intimidate by abusing state power, and it must be roundly condemned. The coordinated onslaught on social media speech feeds into this obsession with silencing an engaged citizenry. The Nigerian government already exerts stifling control over the traditional print and broadcast media and its inability to do the same with social media frustrates it, hence these repeated attempts. There are existing laws, the most recent being the Cybercrime Act, that aim to make an effort at regulating social media. In light of the mixed record of these efforts, good old fashioned travel restrictions are back in vogue. The government should face the real issues that have a real potential to tear the country apart – rampant unemployment, debilitating poverty, insecurity and a lack of justice in the land. We think the government would be more than occupied with addressing these concerns.
- The comments by the IGP come as reports of policemen being absent from duty posts and rumours of officers threatening to be absent from their duty posts during the Christmas holidays intensify. Added to that, morale in the force is said to be down as a result of the EndSARS protests, with public perception and trust sinking even further from already abysmal levels. While the IGP is right to make efforts to shore up morale, his actions and statements (such as claiming that the police acted professionally throughout the protests, contrary to well-documented evidence of violence, killings and brutality) point to a systemic problem where protecting and cover-ups take priority over the interests of people; thus allowing those who have done wrong to escape unpunished. His charge for policemen to protect themselves is likely to be taken as a license to use disproportionate force against citizens at a time when they should be making a concerted effort to rebuild public trust. This might sound cavalier to say but more, not less police brutality may be on the horizon.
- Mr Wike’s position is backed by law (IPOB was proscribed as a terrorist organisation in September 2017, a decision which was upheld by a court in January 2018) and it is a response to violent clashes between security agents and the group’s members. However, being backed by law does not support the use of hard force that has been brought to bear, especially when it is applied extrajudicially as has been done in Oyigbo. A heavy-handed approach only serves to push the group further into militant behaviour, and the group’s response is an indication of how it has gradually become more militant over the past five years. Nigeria needs to learn that force alone is not the solution to every problem. The problem of IPOB is a problem of ideas and can be won with persuasion, precise and targeted social interventions and better governance in general. It is unlikely that Mr Wike’s statement is going to stop IPOB from remaining active in Rivers State; instead, his actions, along with that of the Army, have set the stage for more clashes with the group.