LAGOS (BLOOMBERG) – The Nigerian government rejected a leaked report’s findings that its security forces shot and killed unarmed protesters in Lagos last year.
The unsigned report by a panel of inquiry set up by the Lagos state government, which began circulating last week, said 11 civilians died on Oct 20, 2020, after soldiers and police officers opened fire.
The document said the events that unfolded at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, one of the main venues for last year’s largely leaderless demonstrations against police brutality, could be described as a “massacre”.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the “unofficial and unvalidated report” contained “discrepancies, errors and omissions” in a news conference on Tuesday.
“We reject the notion that our soldiers and policemen massacred innocent Nigerians at the Lekki Toll Gate,” he said.
The report listed 48 casualties among the protesters, including four that are missing and presumed dead, 11 deceased and 18 victims of gunshot wounds.
Following the release of the report, the US State Department urged both the Lagos state and federal governments to take “suitable measures to address those alleged abuses as well as the grievances of the victims and their families”.
Demonstrations against the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which started in early October last year, spread through much of Africa’s most populous country, becoming one of the sternest tests to President Muhammadu Buhari’s authority.
While the head of state agreed to disband the widely hated police unit, the protests continued, drawing a more forceful response from the government.
Mr Buhari’s administration has always maintained that no one died when the security forces moved in to disperse the protesters that had gathered at Lekki Toll Gate.
“There is absolutely nothing in the report that is circulating to make us change our stand that there was no massacre at Lekki,” Mr Mohammed said.