A Nigerian judicial commission of inquiry found that last year’s shooting of 37 toll gate attendants in Lekki area of Lagos was “not a mere killing but an orchestrated massacre,” the News Agency of Nigeria reported on Sunday.
In a 260-page interim report, commission chairman Charles Oguntade also said the killing of attendants in September 2018 in the area by armed gunmen, who fled after a shoot-out with security officials and police, was “an unprovoked and wrongful killing that cannot be justified.”
The three-member commission, which met from November 28 to December 3, also said there was strong evidence that gunmen who operated in several states in Nigeria may have financial support from the federal government or from the National Assembly.
The commission’s preliminary findings said the toll gate shooting was politically motivated, adding that it was likely intended to intimidate members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) political party and the youth wing of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the area.
The commission said an exit from Ejigbo Divisional Police Station to the toll gate was blocked by armed men and, “men from Ejigbo, Oja Oba, Iyana-Ipaja, Ojota and Ajah Divisional Police Headquarters officers were in pursuit. The aggrieved persons had to retreat and fled to a bush in Orile area of the state after the show of force.”
However, the commission rejected a claim by a prosecution witness that the convoy of Ooni of Ife (Ooni Olusola 11) was surrounded by armed men, saying: “it is impossible for the convoy of the Anointed One to run into the hoodlums since the command of such procession could not be achieved with standard road safety procedure. It is also implausible that the hoodlums and people loyal to the king would attack such procession even in a deserted spot.”
The commission also said it was consistent with its earlier report that the shooting by the gunmen was deliberate and premeditated, and that it was caused by the shooting of one of the gunmen who was also shooting at the gate and the gatekeeper and his wife.
Oguntade said a chronology of events was extremely clear.
“There are various degrees of stories and unwritten narratives about the morning of the incident. However, it is almost certain that the initial casualty figures ranged between 10 and 20 with the bodies being evacuated by some of the officers present at the scene,” the report said.
The commission also said people associated with the APC and PDP suspected to be business rivals were identified as armed with guns in readiness for a reprisal attack. The gunmen exchanged sporadic shots, some breaking through the gate’s iron grilles.
“However, it was reported that none of the gunmen had access to vehicles at the toll gate,” the report said.
The commission also determined that the death of one of the gunmen in the shoot-out may have been due to an accidental discharge and said additional investigation would be conducted to determine the cause of death.
Oguntade also said that pictures taken at the scene and the accounts given by toll gate attendants and witnesses, including the shooting of 10 security officials by gunmen, led the commission to establish that the toll gate incident was not a spontaneous incident but rather premeditated and coordinated.
“This demonstrates that the issue was brought to the attention of the checkpoint authorities several days before the incident. It also confirms the hypothesis that the perpetrators of the shooting could easily have caused the deaths of those officers by forceful entry into the toll gate,” he said.
The commission also found that although they arrested the slain gunmen and recovered guns from them, the head of the state anti-robbery squad, Andy Okolo, and the security guard, who fired shots at the assailants, were not charged to court for a fair investigation.
The commission said it will conclude its assignment, including compiling the data of witnesses and providing its report to the President of the Republic of Nigeria.