A civil society organisation, Lagos Democratic Coalition, has revealed that the soldiers who carried out the killing and maiming of unarmed protesters at Lekki Toll Gate were members of Operation MESA (known as OP MESA) in Lagos State.
The coalition said contrary to the denial by the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-olu on his involvement in the shooting of the protesters on the 22nd of October, 2020, he (Sanwo-Olu) actually ordered the operation.
The OP MESA is a joint internal security outfit comprising military personnel drawn from the Army, Navy and Air Force and set up by the Nigerian Military in 2008 to complement the efforts of the Police in fighting violent crimes in Lagos and in other states.
The Lagos Democratic Coalition said that the Governor’s order to violently dislodge peaceful protesters from the Lekki toll gate with lethal force was carried out by and in conjunction with the command instruction to the coordinator of OP MESA by the Commander of the 9th Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Musa A. Etsu-Ndagi (allegedly without prior notice to or approval from the military authorities) as well as ACP Tunji Disu, the Commander of RRS.
The group said that whilst the total number of persons killed in the state sponsored shootings is yet to be ascertained, “we are aware that not less than 12 persons have been confirmed to have died from the fatal shooting and many have been confirmed to have been fatally shot during the carnage some of whom do not have access to and/or cannot afford medical treatment.
“It is mind-boggling that Governor Sanwolu would order the killing and maiming of the very citizen he swore an oath (and has a constitutional duty) to protect. It is indeed a sad irony that the protesters gathered at the Lekki Tollgate to protest against police brutality and bad governance in the country only to be slain and maimed by their own Governor.
“We know that the blockage of the Lekki Tollgate by the protesters caused significant financial loss to the Governor’s Godfather and benefactor who is known to have a controlling financial interest in Lekki Concession Company (LCC) – the operators and concessionaires of the Lekki Toll Road.
“Nonetheless, the flouting of curfew as well as temporary and minor injury to the financial interest of the Governor’s Godfather does not warrant and cannot justify the use of lethal and deadly force against unarmed protesters by Governor Sanwolu and his military and political collaborators.
“Governor Sanwolu’s inconsistent, conflicting and unintelligible explanations bare implausible denials with respect to who deployed the soldiers, snipers and armed policemen to the scene of the protest.
“We dare to say the Governor has been speaking half-truth on this matter. And as such, there are questions begging for answers: why the soldiers and policemen were deployed when the curfew declared by the Governor was yet to commence?
“Why the Governor had hurriedly imposed a curfew when there was relative calm in the state and without adequate prior notice?
“Why the CCTV cameras mounted at the tollgate were dismantled shortly before the shootings began and why the lighting and streets lights at the scene of the protest were switched off shortly before the soldiers and armed policemen arrived the scene of the protest and began shooting at protesters are the babbling of a guilty man trying to absolve himself of a heinous crime he knows fully well he is guilty of.
“The Governor’s promise to investigate the killing and maiming of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate would be an exercise in self-deceit.
“Aside those injured and slain at Lekki Tollgate at the behest of Governor Sanwolu and their distraught families, all Lagosians are victims of Governor Sanwolu’s misguided and callous decision to attack unarmed protesters with lethal and deadly force.
“Our offices, houses, warehouses and shops have been looted and burned to the ground. Our lives, livelihoods and businesses have been grounded. Our streets and public spaces are burning, unsafe, polluted and have been taken over by criminals and hoodlums.
“Public institutions, facilities and buildings which offer essences services – courts, police stations, prisons, mass transit buses, government offices, banks, shopping malls, bridges and roads have either been destroyed or razed to the ground.
“Even our traditional institutions, such as the palace of the Oba of Lagos, were not spared. The destruction of the Oba’s palace is without a doubt a sad consequence of the Governor’s reckless judgment and callous disregard for human life even though the Oba of Lagos is unabashedly tainted politically and disconnected with the people that the youths of his kingdom did not rise in defence of their monarch’s throne and palace.
“We call upon Governor Sanwolu to own up to his involvement in and responsibility for the death and fatal injury of patriotic, unarmed and innocent young Nigerians who were protesting and fighting for a better Nigeria to the good people of Lagos State.
“We also demand that an independent panel of inquiry be set up by the Federal Government to investigate the killing and maiming of our compatriots for simply exercising their constitutional rights to protest.
“Given his culpability for the death and fatal shooting of protesters, Governor’s Sanwolu’s promised panel of inquiry on the Lekki massacre will be nothing but a shambolic exercise designed to mislead Lagosians and will not be independent of the government of Lagos State and its Governor who is himself complicit and implicated in the killing and fatal shooting of protesters.
“We demand an independent panel of inquiry that will be led by the Nigerian Bar Association and the Nigerian Labor Congress with public hearing as modus operandi as anything short of this will be tantamount to a charade and journey to where.”