Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja; Chiemelie Ezeobi, Segun James, Emma Okonji and Nosa Alekhuogie in Lagos; Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt; Fidelis David in Akure; Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba; and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
The youth of the nation made good their threat to hold memorial marches yesterday commemorating those who died during the nationwide anti-police brutality protests last year. This was despite warnings by the Nigeria Police that marches to mark the one year anniversary of the #EndSARs protest would not be condoned.
As the memorial rallies held in some states yesterday, the National Economic Council (NEC) directed state governors to forward final reports of the panels of inquiry into the protests to their Attorneys-General for prompt arraignment and prosecution of the indicted persons.
In Lagos State, youths gathered at the Lekki tollgate to mark the EndSARs anniversary. But the rally was marred by police brutality and clampdown on journalists covering the peaceful event.
In Abuja, security operatives acting on the order of Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, pushed a procession to the National Assembly complex back.
But Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, yesterday, inaugurated a Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in the state with an appeal for more citizen participation in peace and nation building.
In Rivers State, over 200 youths staged a candlelight procession at the popular Waterline junction in Port Harcourt.
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, who revealed the decision of NEC in Abuja, during a media briefing, also accused those he labelled “champions of a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate,” including Amnesty International and CNN, of holding on to “their unproven stand.”
The federal government said where incidents in the inquests related to matters of discipline, in addition to prosecution, NEC had urged the Nigeria Police to take disciplinary action against the affected officers in line with the provisions of the Police Act 2020.
Mohammed spoke on measures that had been taken to improve the efficiency of the police and other security agencies’ architecture. He explained that NEC had called on the leadership of the security agencies to ensure that persons recruited into arms-bearing security organs underwent psychiatric evaluation and drug test before enlistment.
He also said personnel of the agencies had been advised to dutifully observe rules of engagement in the discharge of their duties.
While acknowledging the various initiatives introduced by the federal government to strengthen police accountability through the Police Service Commission, the minister said the council had urged the government to prioritise the general welfare of security agencies.
“In particular, it advocated the review of pension and gratuity of retired police officers and attainment of parity of remuneration by police officers with sister security agencies,” he stated.
Mohammed also said the council advised the government to “undertake a comprehensive assessment of all police stations across the country with a view to ensuring that they are fit for purpose.
“Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies should deploy cutting-edge technology in the fight against crimes.”
The council also urged the police to ensure that all those detained as a result of the #EndSars protests were expeditiously processed with due regard to the principles of fair hearing.
However, the federal government maintained its stance that there were no evidence of massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate a year ago.
The minister stated, “Today marks the first anniversary of the phantom massacre at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, which was the culmination of an otherwise peaceful protest that was later hijacked by hoodlums.
“At earlier press conferences, I had called the reported massacre at the toll gate the farce. On Monday, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry that was set up by the Lagos State Government after the #EndSARS protest wrapped up its sitting.
“During the sitting, CNN was summoned but it never showed up, thus, missing a great opportunity to prove its allegation of massacre at the toll gate. Also, Amnesty International had a golden opportunity to convince the world, but it rather opted for issuing meaningless press releases.”
Mohammed claimed that in its latest attempt to grasp at straws and, “redeem whatever is left of its battered credibility on this issue, CNN has continued with its baseless report that soldiers shot at protesters.
“In a report currently running on the network, CNN brazenly and unashamedly held on to its flawed narrative, relying on an unidentified mother whose son was reportedly shot dead at Lekki, but without convincing evidence of who shot him dead.”
The minister said the federal government remained proud of the security agencies for acting professionally and showing utmost restraint all through the #EndSARS protest and the ensuing violence, an action he said saved lives and property.