The Lagos State government and activists now appear to be at daggers drawn following attempts by the former as well as the Federal Government to discredit the #EndSARS Panel report.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, as well as Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo (SAN), had picked holes in the report and some commentators claimed that they were not surprised when the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, after the white paper on the report, last Tuesday, toed the line of the Federal Government that there was no killings at the Lekki Toll Gate, the alleged point of blood spill during the mass protests.
Perhaps, to douse the embittered emotions arising from governmnet’s stance on the report, Sanwo-Olu announced plans to stage a ‘Peace March’, which would include the activists that led the #EndSARS protest as well as the Lagos State Police Commissioner.
But a large part of the activist community have rejected the ‘Peace Walk’ just as the state government have received backing, notably from the Lagos State University students and some pro-Yoruba groups.
It therefore seems that the vitriolic fallout of the #EndSARS Protests will occupy sensitive space for a little longer than was thought.
Commenting on the development, human rights activist and lawyer, Barrister Alaowei E. Cleric, said he was not surprised with the decision of the Lagos State government considering the pressure from the Federal Government.
He stressed: “My worry, however, is the government’s double stand. You are talking about the Peace Walk, but you refused the process that will bring lasting peace.”
Cleric, the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT), Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (CHURAC), continued: “How can you talk of Peace Walk when the people who are crying for justice are being denied thereby continuing writhing in pain?
“Since the Lagos State Government proved that it has no political will to do justice to the Lekki shooting then Gov. Sanwo-Olu should forget about his inimical Peace Walk.
“Peace cannot come in the absence of justice. A peace process must proceed with the enthronement of justice to lull the aggrieved minds.”
On his part, a political activist and media expert, Hon. Dennis Adikwuru, stated: “I can only say that Governor Sanwo -Olu of Lagos State meant well and felt for the slain innocent citizens whose lives were cut down by the Nigerian military during the peaceful and armless protest of October 2020 against SARS.
“From his initial steps and setting up the panel, the composition of the membership of the panel and to the release of the panel’s report, I saw the real Sanwo-Olu.
“Unfortunately, the content and revelations in the report brought pressure on the governor in view of the global awareness and consequences on the Buhari government with growing cases of irrational killings of citizens.”
Another activist and cleric, Rev. Dr. Kennedy Saltlove, stated: “Considering the integrity and impeccable character of the panel head as a retired jurist and selected members from different groups that were directly and remotely impacted by #EndSARS, the report should have been published.
“But it seems the implications of the impacts the report will have against the government made them find a way to leak it as to discredit it.”
Rev Saltlove, President/Executive Director, Citizens Rights and Empowerment Advocacy Initiative (CREMA Initiative), noted: “Out of the 31 recommendations, 11 were accepted by Lagos, 14 referred to FG and six were rejected.
“This is like avoiding the issues and window dressing them, which will not address recommendations of the white paper.”
The cleric cum activist stressed: “The Peace March is not necessary. It does not heal anything. If the government has ensured justice is done and seen to be done by implementing the White Paper report, there would not be a need for a ‘Peace March’.”
Similarly, Dr. Felix Nwosu, a public affairs commentator, stated: “Going by the question you asked about the #EndSARS panel report, my take on that is that the Lagos Judicial Panel council came up with the real findings regarding the Lekki Toll Gate incident of November 20, 2020 by their verdict that there was shooting and killings.”
Dr Nwosu, a United Nations-POLAC Messenger of Peace, added: “Based on Sanwo-Olu’s action, no responsible activist will want to join the proposed Peace March because everything looks like a kangaroo decision to Nigerians and the families of those that lost their loved ones during the #EndSARS protests.”
Comrade Aluh Moses Odeh, the National Leader, All Middle Belt Youth Forum (AMBYF), however, commended members of the Lagos Judicial Panel on The #EndSARS protests for a job well done and the Lagos State government for being able to fish out those good Nigerians for the important assignment.
On the proposed Peace March by Governor Sanwo-Olu, Comrade Odeh said: “For us Middle Belt Community in Lagos, who was chased from home as a result of the incessant Fulani herdsmen’s killings, we will continue to pray and look out for peace.
“For me, I see nothing wrong with the Peace March the governor wants to embark on. We, the Middle Belt Community in Lagos are with him in this because we want a peaceful coexistence.”