Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu visits different parts of the State for an on-the-spot assessment to ascertain the level of destruction to the public assets and private properties by hoodlums during the EndSARS protests,…
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• Lagos Government Begins Probe Of Lekki Shooting On Monday, Asks Public To Submit Evidence
• Governor Relaxes Curfew From Saturday, Permits Movement Between 8am To 6pm
The oldest edifice of the Nigerian judiciary – High Court of Lagos State in Igbosere – has become a ghost of itself. Its unique architectural design has been tarnished, coated with smudge of soots. Its roof blown off flames; courtrooms littered with charred remains of files and wood charcoals.
The desecration of the court depicts, in part, the proportions of the Wednesday coordinated arsonist attacks on public assets and private property in Lagos. The destruction was instigated by the mayhem that resulted from the protests against brutality committed by operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) aptly tagged #EndSARS
Recovering from the shock wave in the aftermath of the arson, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu activated the process of healing the State from the large scale destruction.
From the early hours of Friday, Sanwo-Olu moved round the State on an inspection of the assets destroyed by the arsonists, taking stock of losses to the Government and private businesses.
The Governor stood in disbelief at the sight of the proportions of destruction wreaked by hoodlums, who took advantage of the EndSARS protest to destroy and loot.
Sanwo-Olu, who was joined by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and some members of the State’s Executive Council, stopped at every community affected by the violence, preaching peace and assuring residents that the Government was on top of the situation.
At the headquarters of Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area in Ajegunle, all that was left in the premises was the charred remains of the vehicles and office materials torched by the hoodlums. The imposing council’s secretariat was completely vandalised before it was razed.
Ajeromi Police Station, located in front of the council, was also razed. The barracks behind the station was not spared. Sanwo-Olu sympathised with the policemen attached to the station and their families, who are now rendered homeless.
It was a traumatising moment for the Governor when he visited the vandalised palace of the Oba of Lagos. Received by the palace chiefs led by Erelu Kuti of Lagos, Chief Abiola Dosunmu, Sanwo-Olu reeled in shock as he moved round the ravaged chambers in the palace built centuries ago.
The Governor visited 27 locations across the State where Government assets and private properties were destroyed and physically assessed the level of the vandalism.
Sanwo-Olu described the arson attack in Lagos as “coordinated wanton destruction”, saying it would take the State many decades to recover from the devastation.
“My heart bled after I went out today for a first-hand assessment of the destruction of assets of the Government and private properties. The level of destruction observed indicated that the violence was more than just a peaceful protest and agitations for police reforms. The proportion of the devastation is a lot. This is not the Lagos that was handed over to me on May 29, 2019.
“Moving forward from the destruction, we have to continue the process of healing ourselves. We need to stop some of our citizens still using the social media to instigate or incite the people. It will not be under my watch that we will lose the city that has the largest economy in the entire black nation. Enough is enough. I have moved round and I saw that our people want peace. On this, we are committed to bringing lasting peace back to the State.”
The Governor disclosed that the Justice Doris Okuwobi-led Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution set up last Monday to investigate human rights violations by SARS operatives has had its terms of reference expanded to also investigate the circumstances that led to the shooting of protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza on Tuesday evening by soldiers.
The panel, Sanwo-Olu said, will start its sitting next Monday at the Lagos Court Arbitration Centre international in Lekki. The Governor urged members of the public to send their petitions and evidence on the Lekki incident to the panel investigation.
Having assessed the situation in the State Sanwo-Olu ordered the relaxation of the ongoing curfew, permitting movement and business activities from 8am to 6pm.
He said: “I have consulted with various formations of security agencies. We have gone round the State to gauge the situation. We still have pockets of insecurity that we need to deal with and these are isolated cases which we are trying to bring to full normalcy. We have decided we will be easing the curfew from tomorrow (Saturday) morning. Residents will be allowed to go out from 8am to 6pm.”
The Governor urged residents to go about their businesses without fear, pointing out the workers of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) had been deployed to clear burnt materials off the roads.
The Governor also visited Reddington Lekki Hospital where some of the injured protesters were admitted after the shootings. All admitted persons had been discharged.
Sanwo-Olu was also at the razed BRT Station in Berger and Oyingbo BRT Terminal, where over 80 brand new buses were burnt.
Government-owned and private assets inspected by the Governor include Orile Divisional Police Headquarters, Ajah Divisional headquarters, Amukoko Police Station on Cemetery Road, Lagos State Public Works Corporation in Ojodu, Lagos Island LGA Secretariat, City Hall, Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) Building at Marina, Lagos State DNA and Forensic Centre at CMS, Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) headquarters in Ojodu and Toll Plazas at Lekki and Ikoyi Link Bridge, among others.
Sanwo-Olu also visited his family house on Omidundun Street, Lagos Island, razed by the arsonists.
…Governor: “No CCTV Camera Removed From Lekki Tollgate Before Incident’
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has, again, spoken on the ugly incident that happened at the Lekki Toll Plaza on Tuesday evening, in which military personnel used live ammunition to disperse EndSARS protesters who camped at the tollgate to demand for the end to police brutality.
Sanwo-Olu maintained that the State Government did not order the military shooting, which left about 11 of the youths severely injured. The Governor also sustained his earlier assertion that, no protester died in the incident, stressing that he and officials of the State Government had gone round private and public health facilities across the State without being able to identify bodies of those allegedly killed in the incident except one that died from blunt force trauma and another corpse that was recovered by the police in the Victoria Island area with bullet wounds.
The Governor appeared on The Morning Show programme aired live on Arise News, said the State was already investigating whether the deceased was a protester.
Sanwo-Olu asked members of the public with credible information on anyone or group of persons killed in the incident to come forward with the claim. He said the social media overblew the proportion of the incident with what he described as “false information” being shared by those who were not at the scene of the incident.
He said: “There have been several false information that we have seen over the incident and we will appeal to people to show more restraint in posting information that cannot be verified.”
The Governor spoke on the alleged removal of Close-Circuit Television (CCTV) security cameras at the Toll Plaza before the shooting started, debunking the claims that he ordered the action. Sanwo-Olu said the cameras that were removed were not security cameras but laser cameras meant to capture vehicles’ electronic tags and number plates. He said the removal of the laser cameras was a decision taken by Lekki Concession Company (LCC) that owns the facility.
He said: “When I spoke to the Managing Director of LCC over the matter, he told me the company took the decision to remove installations critical to their service when the curfew was announced. Those cameras that were displayed in the viral pictures were not security or motion cameras. They are laser cameras for vehicles, specifically designed to pick electronic tags and number plates on cars. Security cameras installed at the Toll Plaza are still there as I speak and the footages from them are the ones that we will be using in probing the Lekki incident. Since Tuesday, the security cameras at the Toll Plaza are still there and nobody can touch them.”
Sanwo-Olu said multi-agency investigation into Lekki incident may begin next Monday when order would have been fully restored across the State, pointing out that the recordings of the CCTV security cameras at the Toll Plaza would be useful in unraveling the circumstance that surrounded the incident.
Members of the public, the Governor said, will be part of the investigation for transparency. He added that security experts would be involved to analyse the recordings of the CCTV security cameras to ensured the footages captured since the time the protesters started camping at the tollgate were not tampered with.
On the allegation that he influenced the switching off of the billboard that illuminated the Toll Plaza area at night, Sanwo-Olu said the concessionaire that operates the billboard took the decision independently after the curfew order was announced.
Speaking on the aftermath of the organised attacks on government properties, iconic buildings and private assets, Sanwo-Olu said the nature of the destruction indicated an attempt by the arsonists to keep the State in limbo. He said the attacks were specifically targeted at emergency response infrastructure of the State to weaken its response in the case of large-scale violence.
The Governor disclosed that the arsonists, in the organised destruction, razed four State-owned fire stations and five fire trucks. He said the reconstruction of the damaged assets would cost billions, but said the State would bounce back after the devastation.
Sanwo-Olu said it would be insensitive for him to buttress the narrative linking the arsonist attacks on public buildings to sectarian elements, saying his immediate priority was to salvage the damaged assets and prevent further attacks. He, however, said all materials suggesting the arson may have been organised by secessionists would be left for security agencies for proper analysis.
Clarifying his statement that forces beyond him were behind the deployment of troops to Lekki axis, the Governor said: “The hierarchy and chains of command in the military are not within my purview. This is not something I have responsibility for. I do not have such power to control or activate the military. That essentially is what I was trying to say in that particular phrase.”
He also explained that he reached out to President Muhammadu Buhari on two occasions to seek for more help as public assets in the State were being destroyed. He said the President responded, directing the Chief of Defence Staff to liaise with him.
He said: “I made phone calls to speak to the President twice yesterday (Wednesday). The first time, he (president) hadn’t come to the office. The second time, he was at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. Indeed, I haven’t spoken to him directly. He was actually the one who directed the Chief of Defence Staff to call me and I feel that it was when he got my message. Because, when the Chief of Defence Staff called me, he said to me it was the President that asked him to call. But, I haven’t spoken to the President directly; maybe later today, that might happen.”
Aftermath of the destruction, Sanwo-Olu urged the residents of Lagos to come together and heal the wounds inflicted on the State by the arsonists. He said the ugly incident put citizens’ patriotism to test, urging them to unite and re-build the State from the ruins left by the attacks.
He said: “We are at a point where all of us as a people living in the State must come together more than ever before. Our patriotism has been put to test and we need to re-engage ourselves and heal the several wounds that have been inflicted on us. We do not have any other country; this is our country.
“In Lagos, we cannot afford to put to waste what our forefathers and the generation of leaders before us have put in place. We need to preserve our heritage and we need to know that indeed we can build a future for our children. We need to put an end to any form of anger, protest, confrontation and bleeding. Let us come together and start a real healing process.”