Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has approved the mass burial of at least 103 protesters who were massacred by joint forces of the Nigerian Army and the police during the October 2020 mass protest against police brutality tagged #EndSARS.
According to a letter seen by Peoples Gazette and dated July 19 by the public procurement agency, the state government engaged the service of Messrs Tos Funeral Ltd, a private firm, at the cost of N61,285,000 to bury 103 bodies which were identified to be victims of the killings.
“Following review of your request and based on the information provided therein, the agency has “No Objection” to the award of contract to MESSRS TOS FUNERALS LIMITED at a total cost of N61,285,000 (Sixty-one million, two hundred and eighty-five thousand Naira only) for the mass burial for the 103, the year 2020 Endsars victims,” the letter read.
This move comes almost three years after Mr Sanwo-Olu and his colleagues in government barefacedly denied the brutal killing of unarmed protesters who were waving the Nigerian flag and chanting the national anthem when the military opened fire on them at the Lekki toll gate on the night of October 20, 2020.
Chief press secretary to Mr Sanwo-Olu, Gboyega Akosile, was asked about how this new move reflects on the past denials of the state government, he laughed and simply told The Gazette that “the government will release its response soon.”
The move also comes after a call for identification of missing persons by the Lagos state government was ignored due to several reports of intimidation and harassment, which was meted out to individuals who appeared before the panel of inquiry to make claims that indicted the government.
Mr Sanwo-Olu had issued a white paper to affirm his denial of the findings of the Lagos State’s judicial panel of inquiry, which described the incident as a massacre. The judicial panel had ruled that nothing could justify the war-grade violence unleashed on peaceful protesters, which led to the death of scores during the incident.
While Mr Sanwo-Olu and his government continue to uphold their denial as the official version of events, a great deal of evidence and a number of government decisions, such as the appointment of former Army chief Turkur Buratai as a diplomatic envoy to the Benin Republic, which many believed was done to protect him from prosecution by the International Criminal Court, confirmed the incident and further demonstrated that the government was aware there was sufficient evidence to conclude that the incident was a massacre.
The judicial panel affirmed that the casualty of the incident was worsened because the army refused to allow ambulances and medical help to get to injured protesters who were in need of them. The panel also added that the army stole the corpse of the protesters and wiped blood stains off the scene to hide evidence of its crime and hinder the investigation of the panel.
Chief pathologist of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Professor John Obafunwa, testified before the panel of inquiry that at least 99 bodies were deposited in morgues across Lagos from the EndSars protests, with several of them carrying bullet wounds, some blunt trauma, and some bruises. Of these 99 bodies that were confirmed to be that of protesters, three were successfully traced to have been brought in from the toll gate.
A video investigation published by CNN also complimented several videos that were taken during the incident and confirmed that the men of the Nigerian Army and police indeed shot directly at protesters using live bullets. Mr Sanwo-Olu has asked citizens to “snap out of the incident,” and build back better but families who lost their loved ones in the incident struggle to find closure in the face of the government’s suppression of the truth.