A leaked judicial report has found that Nigeria’s army and police shot and killed unarmed anti-police brutality protesters in October last year, before cleaning up the scene to remove evidence.
The report, submitted to the Lagos state government on Monday, was based on a year-long inquiry into abuses by police forces and the killings at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos. It found that 11 unarmed people had been killed and that a further four were missing and presumed dead. The report identified 48 casualties in total.
The leaked report described the incident as a “massacre”, said most of the army officers deployed to the toll gate were “not fit and proper to serve”, and recommended prosecuting certain policemen for their actions.
“At the Lekki toll gate, officers of the Nigerian army shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenceless protesters, without provocation or justification, while they were waving the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthem, and the manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre,” the report said.
The contents of the report have not been confirmed by the state government, but a figure involved in the inquiry confirmed to the Guardian that it was submitted to the Lagos government on Monday.
It is the clearest admission yet at the official level that security forces killed unarmed protesters, following a year of denials and contradictory theories offered by Nigerian government ministers, the army and the police.
Many thousands of mostly young Nigerians took to the streets in “EndSars” protests across several cities last year, demonstrating against the infamously brutal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) unit, and then more widely, against police brutality and bad governance.
Protests across the country were met with extreme force by security agencies, including at the Lekki toll gate, where protesters livestreamed footage on Instagram showing live rounds being shot and demonstrators with bullet wounds.
Amnesty International said at least 12 people were killed, including at another protest in Ikeja, Lagos.
In the aftermath of the killings, Nigeria’s attorney general, Abubakar Malami, said the livestreams were likely to have been manipulated and said “hoodlums” wearing army fatigues could have been at the scene. The country’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, described the incident as “a massacre without bodies”.
The 300-page report by the judicial inquiry found that the army came to the scene at the request of Lagos’ governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who also set up the inquiry.
The report said incomplete CCTV footage of that night, provided by the Lekki Concession Company, was manipulated before being presented at the inquiry.
Officers involved in the atrocities should be prosecuted and state authorities should provide a public apology, the report said.
As the demonstrations intensified last year, the government officially disbanded the Sars police unit, and many states initiated judicial inquiries into police abuses. Yet despite the reforms, Sars officers accused of violence have not been held to account but moved into other parts of the police infrastructure.
Sanwo-Olu vowed a “proper response” to the panel’s recommendations, adding that a “white paper” would be published within the next two weeks.
“This process will help us start the very difficult process of proper reconciliation, restitution, bringing together of anyone … affected,” Sanwo-Olu said.