The Lagos State Government has approved the sum of N61.2 million for the mass burial of 103 victims of the 2020 #EndSARS protest in the state, according to a leaked memo dated July 19 by the Lagos State Government Public Procurement Agency.
The memo stated that the state government engaged the service of a private firm, Messrs Tos Funeral Ltd, to conduct the burial of the unclaimed bodies, which were picked up by the Lagos State Environmental Health Unit (SEHMU) in the aftermath of the protest that turned violent.
However, the state government has denied that any of the bodies was recovered from the Lekki Toll Gate incident, where soldiers allegedly opened fire on unarmed protesters on October 20, 2020.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Olusegun Ogboye, said in a statement that the bodies were from other parts of the state where there were clashes and looting during the protest.
He said: “It is public knowledge that the year 2020 #EndSARS crisis that snowballed into violence in many parts of Lagos recorded casualties in different areas of the State and not from the Lekki Toll Gate as being inferred in the mischievous publications.
“For the records, the Lagos State Environmental Health Unit (SEHMU) picked up bodies in the aftermath of #EndSARS violence and community clashes at Fagba, Ketu, Ikorodu, Orile, Ajegunle, Abule-Egba, Ikeja, Ojota, Ekoro, Ogba, Isolo and Ajah areas of Lagos State. There was also a jailbreak at Ikoyi Prison. The 103 casualties mentioned in the document were from these incidents and NOT from Lekki Toll-gate as being alleged. For the avoidance of doubt, nobody was retrieved from the Lekki Toll Gate incident.”
The state government’s claim contradicts the report of the Lagos State Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS-Related Abuses and Other Matters, which admitted that there was a massacre at Lekki Toll Gate and awarded compensation to some of the victims.
The state government and the military have repeatedly denied any killings at Lekki Toll Gate, despite evidence from eyewitnesses, media reports and international organizations.
The approval of N61.2 million for mass burial has sparked outrage and controversy among activists and Nigerians on social media, who accused the state government of covering up the truth and disrespecting the memory of those who died during the protest.
The #EndSARS protest was a decentralised social movement and a series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria. The slogan calls for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police with a long record of abuses. The protest lasted two weeks and was peaceful until it was hijacked by hoodlums, who looted public and private-owned warehouses, burnt police stations and destroyed property.