The judicial panel set up by the Lagos State government in Nigeria has commenced hearings into the killing of activists during a peaceful protest in the country on Tuesday. The panel announced that it would begin the hearings on Tuesday, exactly a week after some of the protesters were reportedly killed.
The President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, stated in a tweet on Sunday that he fully supports the panel, but the protesters accuse him of completely ignoring their pleas for change for years.
Protesters held protests in different states in the African country every day for two weeks to decry the kidnapping, assault, and bribery allegedly perpetrated by officials of one of the Nigerian police units known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which has subsequently been disbanded on October 11 following the widespread protests.
The judicial panel of eight members promised to look into the alleged shootings of peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, and also investigate the activities of the now-defunct SARS operatives.
Only two complainants appeared before the judicial panel on Tuesday to share their brutal experience at the hands of the SARS officials, but no complainant showed up to say anything about last Tuesday’s incident at the toll gate in Lekki.
Okoye Agu, the first complainant, told the panel that the SARS officials detained him for 47 days in 2012; he said they tortured him, forcefully removed two of his teeth, and beat up his mother and wife who tried to bail him out. Mr. Agu also revealed that the officials sold his property and vehicle and even though a court ordered the payment of N10 million ($26,000) as compensation, he is yet to receive anything.
The second complainant could not go into details because the police commissioner was absent, so his case was adjourned.
Reports from Amnesty International revealed that not less than 12 protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate and other places across the country were shot and killed by Nigerian Army soldiers and that the soldiers took the corpses away to eliminate traces of their deeds. Human rights groups in Nigeria reported that 56 people have died all over Nigeria since the protest began – 38 of which were allegedly killed on Tuesday. The Nigerian Army denounced these claims on its official Twitter account.
During an interview, Lagos State Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu stated that only two people were killed by the soldiers. He also revealed that the panel will use CCTV footage from the Lekki Toll Gate scene but it is still uncertain whether the government will make the footage available to the public. The United States, the UN, and other international bodies have condemned the killings but Gov. Sanwo-Olu maintained that no international bodies were calling for reforms in the country.
The panel which will sit on Friday and Saturday this week has urged citizens to come forward with their complaints.
Two of the eight members of the panel are young Nigerians who were part of the protests. Apart from the judicial panel, the Nigerian government has not taken any other steps in response to Tuesday’s incidents. Protesters have started asking for more than just the end of the SARS unit, they are now asking for an end to bad governance and police brutality. Though the protesters have left the streets, they have vowed to continue the protests online.