A senior lawyer,and member, Body of Benchers, Chief Kunle Uthman has called on the governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu to cancel his proposed Peace Walk slated for sometime this month as it will have suicidal consequences on the people of the state.
Chief Uthman is particularly worried about the surging crowd that will attend the event in the time that a new variant of COVID-19 is raging across the world, Nigeria inclusive.
In a letter to the governor, Uthman asked: “What is the purpose, intention and reason for a Government (anywhere) to gather in one place tens of thousands of people at this time of COVID-19 pandemic? As an addendum, how does His Excellency intend to manage these large number of divergent groups and persons?”
The letter reads:
RE: PEACE WALK 🚶♂️ AND COVID-19 PANDEMIC COMMUNAL SPREAD.
The above subject matter refers. I refer to my appearance yesterday on 99.3 FM radio on Jimi Disu (Live). The subject matter of the one hour programme was to discuss the White Paper of the Lagos State Government on EndSARS and to make suggestions on the way forward to tackle the hydra-monster social logjam and menace and to suggest how best to handle the Youth unrest in our dear Lagos State.
For a proper appreciation of these issues, it is important and indeed obligatory to highlight some of the ENDSARS panel report and the White Paper of the Lagos State Government relating thereto.
In the course of its assignment, the Panel received memoranda from concerned members of the public and inquired into cases of abuse, brutality, torture, extrajudicial killings by the disbanded SARS in Lagos State and other related matters.
The Panel’s key findings included inter alia, the following:
That the Nigerian army was invited for intervention, officers of the army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenceless protesters, without provocation or justification while they were waving the Nigerian flag and singing the National Anthem and the manner of killing could be described as a Massacre.
The Panel also found that the conduct of the Nigerian Army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances render medical assistance to victims who required such assistance.
The Panel found that LCC hampered the Panel’s investigation. It manipulated the incomplete CCTV video footage of the Lekki Toll Gate (LTG) on the night of the 20th of October, 2020.
The Panel found that there was an invitation to the Nigerian Army to Lagos State made by the Lagos State Government through the Governor before the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army deployed its soldiers to the Lekki Toll Gate (LTG) on the night of 20th October, 2020.
Upon this, the Panel made recommendations, which inter alia included the following:
Holistic police reforms covering welfare, training and proper equipping of policemen and their working environment.
Sanctioning of the officers of the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force, who participated in shooting, injuring and killing of unarmed protesters.
Development of more robust engagement between the Youth and the Government.
A public apology to EndSARS protesters who were killed, injured and traumatised by the incident of October 20.
Sequel to the Panel’s Report, your Excellency set up a committee to examine the recommendations and produce a White Paper. As Head of this Committee was the Hon. Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice of Lagos State.
The White Paper inter alia made the following recommendations:
The findings of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry that 9 people died at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 from gunshots fired by the military were based on assumptions and speculations.
The inconsistencies and contradictions in the entire Judicial Panel of Inquiry Report concerning the number of persons who died at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 and the cause of death, rendered the Judicial Panel’s findings and conclusions thereon as totally unreliable.
According to the government: “The only victims of gunshot injury from Lekki Toll Gate was picked at 7:43 pm on 21st of October, 2020 after curfew commenced. Furthermore, there was no shred of evidence regarding who shot him.”
On the Panel’s recommendation that disciplinary actions be taken against officers including Col. S. O. Bello and Major General Godwin Umelo, who refused to honour the summons, the State Government has indicated in the White Paper that it would forward this recommendation to the Federal Government and NEC as well as the Nigerian Army for their consideration.
Further to other recommendations, the Lagos State Government said it has no control over the internal affairs of the Nigerian Police, and that the recommendation would be forwarded to the appropriate authorities namely, the Federal Government of Nigeria, NEC, Police Service Commission (PSC) and Nigerian Police Force (NPF).
The State Government commended all medical personnel and hospitals that treated citizens who suffered injuries during the protest. It stated that it would continue to engage youths through dialogue and other programmes including Youth / Police Dialogue, Youth Peaceful Conflict Resolution Programme.
In a broadcast recently, His Excellency, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State has announced that he would lead a Walk For Peace this month and listed persons invited to accompany him on this Walk For Peace. He has also invited several institutions to join on this glorious Walk and while most of the Youth leaders listed have categorically stated that they will not participate, because what is desirable is Justice and not a Peace Walk. However the students of the Lagos State University (LASU) have promised to join the Walk in large numbers. Other organisations under the control of the Lagos State Government have assured His Excellency that they will participate in large numbers.
In these circumstances, the following issues are germane for consideration:
1. What is the purpose, intention and reason for a Government (anywhere) to gather in one place tens of thousands of people at this time of COVID-19 pandemic? As an addendum, how does His Excellency intend to manage these large number of divergent groups and persons?
2. His Excellency should recognise as a fact that there is a new variant of COVID-19 in the world, no decipherable cure and travel bans are being imposed globally. The British Government have imposed travel restrictions on Nigerians travelling to the United Kingdom.
3. What is the macro benefits, if any, to be derived from a Walk that will lead to communal spread of COVID-19 in a State where most of the residents have not been vaccinated?
As it were, His Excellency should cancel the Peace Walk, because it cannot be justified and there are no reasons whatsoever for this Peace Walk stated for this month of festivities or at any other time, because it would serve no useful benefits to anybody and will further exacerbate the situation and make us a “laughing stock” in the comity of nations. This Walk, as contemplated is suicidal and any dire consequences resultant thereat, the Lagos State Government will be held accountable and indeed responsible.
A Stitch In Time Saves Nine.
Be assured of my highest regards and consideration at all times. May the “Centre of Excellence” henceforth be peaceful and liveable.
Chief ‘Kunle Uthman
[Legal Practitioner, (Member, Body of Benchers)] Lekki, Lagos.