2Years after tragedy: Lagos Government Awards Over N61Million Contract For Mass Burial Of 103 EndSARS Victims… Says none is from Lekki Tollgate

#Endsars protesters at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos State, on October 20, 2020.
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2Years after tragedy: Lagos Government Awards Over N61Million Contract For Mass Burial Of 103 #EndSARS Victims
… Says none is from Lekki Tollgate

A letter from the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency has confirmed a move by the state government to carry out a mass burial for 103 victims of #EndSARS close to three years after their deaths.

The letter dated July 19, 2023, and titled ‘Letter Of No Objection. Mass Burial For The 103. The Year 2020 EndSARS Victims’ was addressed to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and signed by the Director General of the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency, Mr. Onafowote Fatai Idowu.

The details of the killings that occurred during the 2020 #EndSARS protests in Lagos have been a subject of controversy, particularly the incident of October 20, 2020, at the Lekki toll gate where soldiers and the police killed an unspecified number of peaceful protesters.

Meanwhile, the letter confirms the award of N61,285,000.00 (Sixty-One Million, Two Hundred and Eighty-Five Thousand Naira) contract to TOS Funerals Limited for the mass burial for the 103 victims of #EndSARS protests. However, the letter did not state the number of people killed in Lekki or in any part of the state.

The letter reads, “We refer to your letter dated 13 July, 2023 with Ref No: LSMH/G/NS/013-1/23 in respect of the above subject matter.

“Following our review of your letter and the documents attached, we note the following I. Mr. Governor’s Approval II. Minutes of Ministerial Tenders Board III. Meeting Procurement Planning Committee IV. Sign-off

“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 N61,285,000.00 (Sixty-One Million, Two Hundred and Eighty-Five Thousand Naira) only for the mass burial for the 103, the year 2020 EndSARS victims.

“In view of the above, please note that I. Ensure a quadruplicate copy of the letter of award for MESSRS. TOS FUNERALS LIMITED registered with the PPA within 72 hours.

“II. Ensure the submission of Certificate of Suppliers Registration with PPA in Appropriate class.

“III. Ensure all statutory taxes and deductions are remitted by the supplier.

“IV. The letter of award is to be accompanied with a copy of this letter of “NO- Objection, Certificate of Registration / Renewal with PPA and receipt of payment of Admin fees (0.25%) to be paid before Release of Fund.

“Refer to Head of Service Circular with Reference No: CIR/II05/20/Vol.1/051 dated 15 May, 2020, it is mandated that the 0.25% Admin fee is paid to PPA and 0.5% agreement fee is paid to Ministry of Justice.

“Service providers should indicate in writing where there is the need for STO/MDA Finance and Accounts to deduct at source or payment directly by the Service Providers before the release of funds.

“Pursuant to Sections 18 (1) (b) and 18(1) (k) of the Lagos State Public Procurement Law 2021), your office is required to keep proper records of this project which shall be subject to Procurement Audit by the Agency after. Please be guided accordingly.”

When SaharaReporters contacted TOS Funerals to confirm the contract and find out if the company has a record of the number of victims from Lekki toll gate out of the figure, one Mr. Dele who answered the call, said, “How would I know anything about that? This is ridiculous. The right place to go to will be the Ministry of Health.”

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And when our reporter told him that he was speaking based on the figures and information from a contract document sent to the health ministry, Mr. Dele said, “Go back there and let them be the one to feed the information.”

“Go back to the ministry and let them give you the information!

“If you think it is right, then you can go and look for where it is and get the information because we don’t have anything like that,” he added.

When asked if he was denying the contract, he abruptly ended the call.

However, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Gboyega Akosile, told SaharaReporters that the government will officially respond to the issue.

“We have asked the ministry concerned to issue a statement just to set the records straight and possibly refresh people’s memories. Lagos State government is not hiding anything.”

However, a source in the government said the 103 bodies did not come from the Lekki toll gate.

The source said, “People just want to create a sensation out of it. If you take your mind back to the period, you will see there is nothing there that is not in the public domain already. Were people not killed during #EndSARS protest?

“Almost 200 people died across Lagos. Did people read Lekki in the letter? There is absolutely no Lekki in the letter.

“If they wanted to hide it, they would not have put Lekki there. The pathologist, Prof. John Obafunwa confirmed that he carried out autopsies on 99 bodies from across Lagos.

“They sought approval from the governor for the mass burial of the corpses that were not claimed. In 2020 thereabouts, there was an advert in the papers, asking people to come and claim the bodies of their relatives. Some people came forward and we did DNA but some people stayed away. But the remaining corpses were causing congestion in the morgue.

“That was why the ministry sought the approval of the governor to evacuate the dead bodies and bury them.”

Background

The Lekki shooting occurred around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 when soldiers opened fire on peaceful protesters at Lekki toll gate.

The #EndSARS protest was a peaceful campaign against extrajudicial killing and brutality by the police, and the disbandment of a special unit of the force called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protests were also a campaign for the reform of the police, and they held many states across Nigeria for over two weeks.

The protesters had gone on for over a week before the incident at the Lekki toll gate, which was condemned locally and internationally.

The state government subsequently set up a panel to look into the incidents and make recommendations.

In July 2021, the Lagos Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS and Other Related Abuses admitted in evidence post-mortem results and Compact Discs of 99 corpses deposited at the Lagos morgue between October 20 and 27, 2020.

A consultant pathologist to the Lagos State Government, Prof. John Obafunwa, who testified before the panel, tendered the results following an order made on June 5, 2021, for it to be produced.

The documents contained in two bags – blue and white – were admitted by the Chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi after the counsel for some EndSARS protesters, Yinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN) moved for the documents to be admitted.

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The pathologist had testified that the coroner’s office conducted post-mortem autopsies on 99 bodies during the period, but said only three bodies were labelled as #EndSARS Lekki.

But in November 2021, the panel in its report said at least nine persons were confirmed dead at the Lekki toll plaza on the night of October 20, 2020 when soldiers stormed there to disperse the peaceful #EndSARS protesters there.

In its report submitted to the Lagos State Government titled, ‘Report of Lekki Incident Investigation Of 20th October 2020’, the panel said at least 48 protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullet wounds or assaulted by soldiers.

It noted that nine protesters were confirmed dead, while four were presumed dead. The panel listed 48 names as casualties of the incident among which 20 sustained gunshot injuries, while 13 were assaulted by the military.

Those killed were identified as Victor Sunday Ibanga, Abuta Solomon, Jide, Olalekan Abideen Ashafa, Olamilekan Ajasa, Kolade Salami, Folorunsho Olabisi, Kenechukwu Ugoh and Nathaniel Solomon while those presumed dead were listed as Abiodun Adesanya, Ifeanyi Nicholas Eji, Tola and Wisdom.

The 309-page report noted that the protesters were allegedly killed by policemen and soldiers.

“The atrocious maiming and killing of unarmed, helpless and unresisting protesters, while sitting on the floor and waving their Nigerian flags, while singing the National Anthem can be equated to a massacre in context.

“It was alleged and corroborated that the soldiers had their vans parked at the Lekki tollgate and removed as many bodies and corpses of the fallen protesters, which they took away with their vans,” the report read in part.

The report contradicts the consistent claim by the then-President Muhammadu Buhari-led government that there was no massacre at the toll gate and no bodies.

Subsequently, in November 2021, the Lagos State Government released a White Paper on the report by the EndSARS panel that probed the Lekki toll gate incident of October 20, 2020.

The Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration faulted the panel’s report that nine persons were killed by the police and soldiers at the toll gate.

In the White Paper, the government described the position of the panel that nine persons were shot dead as “assumptions and speculations”.

A human rights activist, and a member of EndSARS panel, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), said the government’s position in the White Paper was inconsistent with facts.

Adegboruwa in a document released in December 2021, titled “Comments On LASG White Papers On ENDSARS Panel Reports,” explained that the decisions of the Panel on Petitions were self-executory and not subject to review or rejection by the state government, affirming that this was the agreement and modality adopted from the day the panel was inaugurated.

Adegboruwa described the white paper as illegal, stressing that there was no provision for the issuance of a White Paper under the law setting up the Panel.

“There is no provision for the issuance of a White Paper under the law setting up the Panel. Under and by virtue of section 15 of the Tribunal of Inquiry Law, upon conclusion of any inquiry, the Governor is only empowered to issue directive for the enforcement of any decision emanating from the inquiry.

“The Governor cannot issue a White Paper to overrule the decisions of a Judicial Panel of Inquiry,” he said.

Credit: SaharaReporters

By Famous Reporters

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