Serah Ibrahim, a self-acclaimed human rights frontier, shared an official document online from the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency on the morning of July 23, 2023. Ibrahim was the first social media user to make the document public. Many people, including news platforms, demanded answers and criticised the government.
What was the document about?
Dated July 19, 2023, the document revealed the approval of N61.2 million. This was for a mass burial for 103 victims of the #EndSARS massacre of October 20, 2020. Onafowote Idowu, the agency’s Director-General, signed the letter and addressed it to the Ministry of Health.
An excerpt from the letter reads, “Following review of your request and based on the information provided therein, the agency has ‘No Objection’ to award the contract to MESSRS. TOS FUNERALS LIMITED at a total cost of N61,285,000 only for the mass burial for the 103, the year 2020 EndSARS victims.”
What was Lagos State’s response?
For the Lagos State Government, their reaction was to “set the record straight.” According to the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Olusegun Ogboye, the 103 bodies in question were not from the Lekki Toll Gate.
They were retrieved from various parts of the state, such as Fagba, Ketu, Ikorodu, Orile, Ajegunle, Abule-Egba, Ikeja, Ojota, Ekoro, Ogba, Isolo, and Ajah. The government says that some were even retrieved from a jailbreak at Ikoyi Prison.
Ogboye also mentioned in the statement that the Lagos State chief pathologist was legally summoned to produce the full records of unclaimed bodies in the Lagos State Central Mortuary. This was immediately after the tragic incident of October 20, 2020.
He also confirmed that relatives of the lost or dead victims were advised to contact the Department of Pathology and Forensic Science at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). However, “nobody responded to claim any of the bodies.”
“After almost three years, the bodies remain unclaimed, adding to the congestion of the morgues. This spurred the need to decongest the morgues. This procedure follows very careful medical and legal guidelines if a relative may still turn up to claim a lost relative years after the incident,” he explained.
What were citizens’ reactions?
We can use two words to describe citizens’ reactions: outrage and dismay. This was because the state government had initially denied that there was “no casualty” recorded during the #EndSARs protest, particularly with the event that led to “Lekki Massacre”. Till today, the government has not been able to share a clear statement on what actually happened the night of October 20, 2020.
With this, Nigerians are reacting to the news of the mass burial and the government’s statement.
Here’s more on what’s stirring the reactions:
In November 2021, the Lagos State Government released a White Paper on the report by the EndSARS panel. This panel investigated the events of the Lekki Toll Gate incident of October 20, 2020.
According to this report, armed soldiers trying to scatter protesters away from the grounds killed nine people at the toll gate.
But Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu dismissed the report as “assumptions and speculations.”
Human rights organisations like Amnesty International and CNN International, which carried out independent investigations into the event, continue to stand by their reports that protesters were shot at.
Their claim also carries weight, as many Nigerians watched Obianuju Udeh (aka DJ Switch) livestream and heard gunfire while protesters at the scene waved their flags in the air and sang the national anthem.