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Police/Lekki Shootings: Group Passes Vote of No Confidence in Sanwo-Olu’s Panel

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The Progressive Yoruba Youth (PYY) has passed a vote of no confidence in the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution instituted by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to investigate police brutality and high handedness.

According to the group, the panel has so far come short of high expectations of Lagosians, reduced to something of a “circus show”, especially as it concerns the Lekki toll gate incident.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday in Lagos, National President, Kola Salawu said members of the panel have been compromised, hence abandoned their duty for photo sessions.

He lamented that the state risks another outbreak of violence if the panel fails to get to the root of matters about human rights abuses.

The Yoruba youths said Governor Sanwo-Olu should shoulder the blame for commissioning the panel to arrive at conclusions that will make him re-electable in 2023.

The PYY noted that due to pressure from the governor, the panel may not arrive at a fair, objective and just conclusions on what transpired at Lekki.

To ensure transparency, the group, however, demanded that the panel be disbanded and the body of tainted evidence it has collected so far must be discountenanced.

It called on the judiciary and the Lagos State House of Assembly to jointly constitute a new panel.

Read the full statement below:

We the Progressive Yoruba Youth find it expedient to urgently call the attention of Lagosians, Nigerians and the entire world to what is brewing in the state and the potential for this to cause intractable crises in the land. Our specific reference is to the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanw-Oolu to look into incidence of brutality and human rights abuses by operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force after weeks of #EndSARS protests that later turned violent.

Those who desire to succeed or make progress in life must perpetually be students of history. This is exactly the situation we find ourselves in Lagos State where we must learn from the immediate history of not just the state but that of the entire country. The unfolding situation with the Judicial Panel of Inquiry is such that there could be a miscarriage of justice if care is not taken, which is why we are raising the alarm now for citizens to do the needful.

It is pertinent to ask ourselves why the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Lagos State governor? Our recent history tells us that the panel is meant to investigate cases of police brutality and human rights abuses that led to #EndSARS Protests. Nigerians had taken to the streets to protest police brutality and abuse of human rights and demanded judicial panels to be set up. Because the Federal Government is not in a position to set up a judicial panel of inquiry it became the responsibility of the state. Consequently, the federal government encouraged states to set up judicial panels of inquiry.

The panel became all the more important following the Lekki Toll Gate incident, in which there were allegations that as many as 78 persons were killed when pandemonium broke out among protesters staking out at the Lekki Toll Plaza. Although, there was widespread condemnation of an alleged massacre of protesters by soldiers shown to be shooting into the sky in videos, by the following day there was no trace that such occurred. Protesters continued to insist that there was a massacre while security operatives that were present at the scene have a different account. No one has been able to show the corpses of the 78 persons allegedly killed.

With the Lagos State Governor setting up the panel, the people of the state had hope and expectations that things will move on smoothly and that the panel will be able to uncover the information necessary for the state and its citizens to get closure on what truly transpired at the Lekki Toll Gate and to also be able to hold indicted operatives of the defunct SARS to account.

What is, however, unfolding with the panel confounds us the same way it is confounding the citizens of Lagos state. We have seen the panel become more of a circus show, a member of the panel is running riot all over the public opinion space, making statements that are prejudicial to the eventual outcome of whatever work the panel does. As it stands today, the panel has fallen into the trap of a made-for-television reality show. The panel members are more interested in photo and camera ops that have only served to further inflame passion.

These theatrics of courting television prime time and exposure instead of doing the actual work it was set up has already damaged the reputation of the investigation. Such tendencies have sunken previous panels that would have exposed the misdeeds of police operatives and necessitate remedial actions, which would have prevented the meltdown the entire country was thrown into. Now we stand the risk of the substance being lost and then repeating the violent circle of protests against brutality.

Gentlemen of the press note that the inability of past panels of inquiry to get to the root of matters about human rights abuses brought us to the sorry state we find ourselves in today. The failure of previous panels of inquiry to conclusively address allegations of brutality and human rights abuses against the police was responsible for the lack of trust and confidence, which pushed Nigerians into staging protests that eventually led to the violence of the recent weeks. In a situation where the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry continues along the line of previous panels that failed, it means that we potentially risk another outbreak of violence. This time around the differences is that things will be more difficult to manage because the panel would have successfully further eroded public trust.

On the surface, the bungling by the panel may appear like something arising out of lack of experience, but we have made our findings to conclude that the panel is acting from a script, one written and clandestinely handed to it by Governor Sanwo-Olu when setting it up. The Panel, from the much we have seen, is set to arrive at conclusions that will make the Governor re-electable come 2023. This is a shame. We are talking about institutionalizing enduring change and a Judicial Panel that should maintain the impartiality of a law court has reduced itself to a tool for actualizing the next election.

We want to remind Nigerians that Governor Sanwo-Olu has already given his verdict on the Lekki Toll Plaza incident in several instances. The first time was when he visited the scene on the following day after the pandemonium and he ruled that no life was lost in the shooting. He has also ruled as a medical doctor that the one fatality that resulted afterwards was from blunt force trauma and not gunshot. He has said that forces beyond the Lagos State Government were responsible for the incident. It has on several occasions made comments that were prejudicial to the ongoing work of the panel.

Secondly, Governor Sanwo-Olu is a person of interest in the Panel’s investigation because he is also an accused person. Several people are pointing accusing fingers at him for contriving the situations that led to the pandemonium and the consequent injury and reported deaths from the incident. His business and political associates are reported to have interests that resulted in the deployment of violence during protests so he should not be the judge in his case.

We have therefore lost confidence in the ability of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to arrive at a fair, objective and just conclusions since its members are automatically under pressure to align with the governor’s views and stance on what transpired at Lekki Toll Plaza.

We consequently demand that the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry, as constituted and inaugurated by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, should be immediately disbanded and the body of tainted evidence it has collected so far must be discountenanced. Its members should be barred from being part of any investigation that is connected to the Police brutality, #EndSARS protests or the Lekki Toll Gate incident.

We insist that a new panel should be constituted. Its membership should be jointly decided by the Judiciary and the Lagos State House of Assembly since the executive arm is an interested party. The panel to be constituted should be barred from leaking information to the media or talking to the press while its activities are opened to coverage and livestreaming to ensure transparency.

We thank you for listening.

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Current Service Chiefs More Mentally Prepared To End Boko Haram Insurgency – Security Expert

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The efforts of the Service Chiefs at ending insurgency in Nigeria have been commended by Philip Agbese, a Middlesex University London trained human rights lawyer and security expert.

Phillip Agbese who is also the President of the pan-Nigerian group, Nigeria First, spoke with select journalists on the sidelines of the occasion of the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebrations in Lagos. He stated that Nigeria has indeed made substantial progress in the prosecution of the war against insurgency in the country and contributed immensely to the global war against terrorism .

” The 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day is indeed a time to reflect on the sacrifices of our soldiers in preserving the territorial integrity of the country, and there is no doubt that the Boko Haram insurgency has indeed brought to bear the invaluable role of the Armed Forces in keeping Nigeria safe and secured for all. ”

He further added that Nigeria had made substantial progress with the present crop of Service Chiefs’ efforts in the country.

“The efforts of the present Service Chiefs have been outstanding so far, and this is largely responsible for the numerous gains that have been recorded in the prosecution of the war against insurgency in the country.”

“I would like to mention that the Nigerian Army, which is at the forefront of the war against the Boko Haram insurgency, has displayed a great commitment which must be acknowledged by all well-meaning Nigerians.”

The President, Nigeria First also noted that competence, character, credibility, and confidence remain the game-changer in the war against insurgency.

“We must admit that there was a time where the Boko Haram insurgents ran riot and took over local government areas in parts of North-East Nigeria. That was also a period where the leadership of the Armed Forces was at its lowest.”

“That there is a turnaround in the fortunes of the country is not by accident, but rather a function of sound leadership provided and the Nigerian Army comes to focus under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai who led by example in addressing the threats posed by the Boko Haram insurgents.”

“Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai has no doubt redefined the rules of engagement through measures that emphasized competence, strength of character and confidence that indeed boosted the morale of the troops in the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram insurgency in the country.”

“As we all know, there is no Nigerian territory that is under the control of the Boko Haram insurgents, and we are all witness to the fact that the activities of the group have been restricted to the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin region.”

When asked if there is a need to rejig the operational strategy towards ending the Boko Haram war in the country, he stated that current Service Chiefs are mentally prepared to end Boko Haram insurgency.

“For those of us in the security sector, we have followed with keen interest the operational strategies deployed by the Armed Forces and I dare say, it is top-notch and yielding the desired results. If this is not the case, I am sure the Boko Haram insurgents would have run over Nigeria going by the sophistication of their operations and the numerous external support they have been receiving locally and internationally.”

“This is a function of leadership. Like I mentioned earlier, the Chief of Army Staff has indeed distinguished himself in this regard. His strength of character is infectious, and the confidence with which the Nigerian troops display in battle is also worthy of commendation.

He further added that if the current tempo is sustained, the war against Boko Haram insurgency would be a thing of the past by December 2021.

“I am of the considered opinion that the mental preparedness of the present crop of Service Chiefs in leading the war against insurgency is excellent. We should do well to analyze issues objectively. And not until we do that we would still be carried away by the mischievous narrative and propaganda been peddled by associates of the Boko Haram insurgents under various nomenclatures in the country.”

“We must also have at the back of our minds that there are conspiracies against the efforts of the Armed Forces and despite this fact, successes have been recorded in ways too numerous to mention.”

He advised Nigerians to extend their support to the Service Chiefs’ efforts in the final push for the decimation of the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents.

“We all have a role to play. We cannot afford to continue to join the bandwagon of those mischief makers against the country’s interest. We must extend our support and see to the end of the Boko Haram insurgents in the country. As for the Service Chiefs’ mental preparedness, I say that they are more than prepared in this regard and the end of Boko Haram Insurgency might be in sight. This is what Nigeria needs at this critical point of our existence.”

It would be recalled that in some quarters they have been widespread criticism of the commitment and efforts of the Service Chief towards ending the Boko Haram insurgency in the country.

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Capitol Hill Has Exposed Amnesty International, Falana, Others Hypocrisy Against Nigerian Military – Group

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The invasion of the United States’ Capitol by pro-Trump protesters has exposed the hypocrisy of Amnesty International, Femi Falana and others in the forefront of the EndSARS movement against the Nigerian military.

This was the submission of the March4Nigeria Movement in reaction to the violent attack of December 6 at the U.S Congress aimed to overturn the presidential election.

In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Richard Augustine Adie, on Thursday, the group wondered why AI, Falana, Omoyele Sowore, Aisha Yesufu and others have suddenly gone mute after troops were deployed to forestall law and order in the Capitol.

Adie recalled that these group had criticised the military for doing the same in Nigeria despite more wreckage, arson and killings.

According to Adie, the Capitol invasion shows that it isn’t unlawful for the government to deploy troops when the other agencies have been overwhelmed in a situation that requires urgent action.

The group, however, advised the activists and all the EndSARS protesters that the country will no “longer tolerate their madness as the government lives up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property”.

It also warned those who want to destabilise Nigeria that a tall task awaits as they will be met with “Citizens’ Soldiers” who will address their madness on the streets of Abuja without hesitation.

Read the full statement below:

The so called international human rights and civil rights groups and their leaders in Nigeria are not sincere.

During the Anti-SARS protests which rocked major cities and towns in Nigeria last October, these so called civil rights activists and groups frowned at the deployment of troops to quell the violent riots which had  claimed the lives of innocent persons and some security agents.

To people like Lagos based lawyer, Femi Falana, online publisher, Omoyele Sowore, BBOG campaigner, Aisha Yesufu, Amnesty International and the rest, it did not matter that people were being killed and multi million dollar edifices and other facilities were being burned while economic activities were grounded.

The only evil they saw was when the government deployed troops to disperse the mob who have overpowered other security agents and restore normalcy.

Then, it was common to hear from the tribe of these activists, that in saner climes like the US and UK, the government would not send troops in such circumstances, but would have invited the rioters to negotiate ways of discontinuing the protests.

Falana even described the mobilization of troops to contain the excesses of the hooligans who had taken to the streets and were burning public property as illegal saying it is oppressive and despotic.

When the Nigerian army announced its plan to carry out operation “CROCODILE SMILE V1” from 20th of October to the 31st of December 2020, the civil rights groups misinterpreted the action and said it was targeted at the EndSARS protesters even when the army explained that it is a yearly exercise that is pre-planned regardless of what is going on in the country.

Said Falana, “The so- called Crocodile Smile VI exercise should be shelved as it cannot be justified under the Armed Forces Act.”

Amnesty International on it’s part says it has been investigating alleged rights violations by Nigerian forces and disapproved of the deployment of troops saying it would rather that the police be strengthened to handle such matters.

The Nigeria Centre for Liberty, led by one Ariyo Dare, also complained about the measures taken by the government to restore normalcy in Lagos.

But the hypocrisy of these activists have been exposed with the recent invasion of Capitol hill by supporters of President Donald Trump in part of an insurrection aimed at shutting down Congress as it formalized President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

The insurrection, just like the EndSARS protests led to several deaths including that of a Capitol Hill police officer, after the pro-Trump mob overwhelmed security lines at the Capitol.

As the hoodlums broke into the complex, the US Government immediately mobilised a quick-reaction force assembled by the Defense Department which moved against the rioters. The Force was stationed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and authorized for use by acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller.

It was also established that the Pentagon also approved the use of 154 members of the National Guard at the Capitol who were sworn in to work with Capitol Police.

The combined forces were able to arrest people suspected of involvement in the breach and through that, brought the situation under control. It has been reported that more arrests are expected as investigators scrutinize photographs, videos and social media posts to identify the protesters while the F.B.I. has received more than 40,000 tips, including photos and videos of suspects.

To forestall further breaches, the Pentagon is even moving ahead  to review agents who will be a part of the security detail for the Jan. 20 inauguration to ensure security.

From these, the Nigerian activists should know that Nigerians have now realised that there’s nothing wrong for a government to take an action that would ensure the safety of citizens and prevent chaos.

Nigerians now know better how their government should handle any security threat and that what matters is the overall interest of the country.

They know what constitutes unpatriotic actd and that it is not unlawful for the government to deploy troops when the other agencies have been overwhelmed in a situation that requires urgent action.

In the past, the civilian government of President Shehu Shagari had deployed troops to quell the Maitatsine riot in Kano when the police were overwhelmed.

The deployment of troops in the US, serves as warning to people like Falana, Sowore and the rest who would rather the country goes up in flames.

These activists and all the endsARS protesters should note that Nigeria and Nigerians will no longer tolerate their madness as the government lives up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property.

Those who want to destabilize Nigeria will from now on have a tall task as they will be met with Citizens’ Soldiers who will address their madness on the streets of Abuja without hesitation.

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Centre To UK House Of Lords: Attaching Religion To Insecurity Crisis In Nigeria For Any Sanction Will Harm Humanity

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The Centre for International and Strategic Studies (CISS) has warned the House of Lords in the United Kingdom against attaching religion to Nigeria’s security challenges, as any sanction would do the country more harm than good.

The centre, which gave the warning in a press conference on Wednesday, in Abuja, also advised the British parliamentarians to be properly guided in their assessment, noting that any wrong move could lead to a crisis of unimaginable proportion.

In his address, special rapporteur, Professor Peter Maidoki rubbished the call by some lawmakers for sanction on Nigeria over an “erroneous report of the rising number of killings of Christians by terrorists and state actors”.

According to Prof Maidoki, it is wrong to reduce security threats in Nigeria to the fault lines of religion.

The special rapporteur noted that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and his service chiefs have made the most impact in addressing the country’s security challenges and it is unfair to even mutter the idea of sanction.

Prof Maidoki added that both Christians and Muslims have been at the receiving end of the crisis in northern Nigeria.

The CISS, however, advised the House of Lords not to play into the hands of the terrorists based on the ignorance expressed in its report.

The centre further demanded that the lower chamber of the UK’s parliament treats the letter calling for sanctions on Nigeria in a similar manner the world rejected the invasion of the US Capitol.

Instead of such sanction, the CISS urged the parliamentarians and the entire world to join hands with Nigeria to stamp out terrorism.

Read the full statement below:

You are aware that some members of United Kingdom House of Lords have called on the UK Government to apply sanctions on Nigeria based on an erroneous report of the rising number of killings of Christians by terrorists and state actors in Nigeria.

The call, which was contained in a letter to Dominic Raab, MP, UK’s Foreign Secretary, House of Commons, London, was signed by David Patrick Paul Alton, the Lord Alton of Liverpool, a Liberal Democratic member of UK Parliament; Caroline Annex Cox, a  cross-bench member of the UK House of Lords; and others but most remarkably, the former Nigeria President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

We had thought that since one of our own is involved in writing the letter, that at least the UK parliamentarians would be properly guided in their assessment of the security situation in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case as we have seen traces of partisanship and deliberate attempts to twist facts to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.

THE ISSUES

The petitioners, rather than be objective in their analysis, reduced the entire Boko Haram terrorism and other criminal activities by armed groups to a religious conflict.

They also alleged cases of human rights abuses against a particular faith by the armed groups and state actors.

While it is true that more needs to be done about the security situation in Nigeria, it is definitely misleading to reduce the challenges to the fault lines of religion and to accuse the Nigerian military of either collusion or inaction or perpetrating human rights abuses.

The most uncharitable is to use such baseless allegations as a basis to call for sanctions against Nigeria.

This is most unfair because if there is an administration that has given the issue of security a deserved attention, it is the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Since May 2015 when the Buhari administration was inaugurated, it has taken bold steps to curb terrorism, insurgency and other crimes in the country hence cannot at all, be accused of sleeping on the matter.

Within the last year, the Nigerian military has neutralised over 2,000  terrorists across the northern part of the country, arrested over a hundred of their members and informants and destroyed their weapons and operational facilities.

This is in addition to major feats it recorded in the previous years which have restored normalcy to most parts of the region.

Nigerian troops, for instance, have entered the base of the terrorists at Sambisa Forest and captured their centre, called Camp Zero.

The troops have also recaptured territories seized  y terrorists including 20 local governments spread across the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe and brought them back to Nigeria.

They have retaken captured military bases in  Bama, Monguno and Gwoza as well as recapturing territories captured by the terrorists while the efforts of the military have made it impossible for the insurgents to launch further attacks on communities.

Added to that, Nigeria’s annual military expenditure has grown from $1.8bn in 2016 to $2.1bn by 2021, at a compound annual growth rate of 3.73%, according to a report by Strategic Defence Intelligence.

To boost its preparedness and resolve to flush out the terrorists, the Nigerian Army last year purchased more equipment including the Chinese Rotary Wing AVIC AV500 drone to carry out ISR missions at medium altitude, carry out strikes and stay airborne for nine hours while fighting terrorists.

The Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai at a time, even relocated to the centres of the conflict and stayed in the trenches with troops until substantial damages were inflicted on the ranks of the terrorists.

The battle was so fierce against the terrorists that the leader of the Boko Haram terrorists, Abubakar Shekau was heard weeping in an audiotape about how his men have been subdued by Nigerian forces and had even considered surrendering.

For a government that has taken these steps and has made it a priority to defeat terrorism, it is most unfair for anyone to contemplate taking sanctions against them.

We recall that it was similar gestures based probably on such misleading reports that led the US government and other nations to stop selling weapons to Nigeria during the past administration which gave the insurgents an upper hand in the fight and enhanced their recruitment drive.

But the impression given by this letter is that the Nigerian Government is not doing anything about exterminating the problem.

We do not want the UK to be misled by the current report into believing that the Nigerian government is either lax about the situation or supporting the insurgents.

This is far from the truth.

THE RELIGIOUS CARD

The most misleading aspect of the letter is the claim that the attacks are purely religious and targeted at only Christians.

The letter reads in part: ‘’We write following the publication of a new report by Nigerian human rights group`, Intersociety (December 14, 2020,  Intersociety, an estimated 34,400 Christians have been killed in Nigeria since 2009 – including 17,000 by Boko Haram (and its splinter groups) and 15,500 by Fulani militia.”

We ask, what is the total number of people that have died as a result of terrorism in Nigeria since 2009 that only Christians would be up to 34,400.

We, therefore, a state without fear of contradiction that the report is not only misleading but is an attempt to incite the people against religious lines.

While some terrorists have tried to use primordial fault lines to instigate a large scale crisis in the country, it is wrong to conclude that the victims of the crises have been only Christians.

Attacks in the northern states and the Middle Belt have been visited on all persons in those areas irrespective of religious beliefs or ethnicity.

In fact, the demographics of the affected areas, indicate that non-Christians have been more at the receiving end of such atrocities like killings, rape, abductions, arson etc by the terrorists.

The areas worse affected by the attacks in the Northeast include the Northern and central parts of Borno State which are populated mainly by Muslims.

Same with the other parts of the Northeast like Yobe and Adamawa States.

In the Northwest, all the areas affected like Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina with the probable exception of Kaduna State are almost hundred per cent Muslims.

Even in the Middle Belt states, the crisis cannot be termed religious as people of different faith in states like Niger, Nasarawa, Plateau and Benue have suffered similar fates.

It is also not true that Nigerian security forces have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Nigerian Army has conducted itself most professionally by always observing the rules on engagement.

The chief of Army Staff to check the few reported cases even set up a desk for civilians to report cases of abuse and since then there have been no reports of human rights violations.

OUR CALL

We, therefore, consider the call for sanction against Nigeria based on these inexact and misleading reports as callous and unacceptable.

such calls aim to further polarise the people of the country and set them up against each other on religious lines which is exactly what the insurgents have been praying for.

The UK Government should not be based on the ignorance expressed in this report play into the hands of the terrorists.

We have seen how a young UK parliamentarian goofed when he said a former Nigerian Head of State stole the Central Bank.

This is one of such faux pax that should not be allowed to stand.

We demand that the same manner the world rebuffed the UK parliamentarian for getting his facts twisted should be applied here.

Furthermore, we demand that the manner  the world treated the invasion of US Capitol as despicable, should be the same way it treats this letter as it tends to violate the right of the people of Nigeria to be protected by its government and armed forces.

We call on all to join hands with Nigeria and the rest of the world to stamp out terrorism.

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