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Jide Sanwo-Olu promises reform for Lagos after a fortnight of international pressure

The Lagos State governor finds himself facing International scrutiny as Nigerian’s at home and abroad demand answers.

Lagos State governor Jide Sanwo-Olu committed to a full investigation to determine who shot at protestors in light of the Lekki Toll Gate massacre. In his interview with CNN, the governor admitted that there was both “reform and change” which needed to take place, yet the interview featured segments which have proved difficult to reconcile with for many Nigerians.

Striking inconsistencies

The first contention was the governor’s continued denial regarding the extent of casualties. He initially rejected any talk concerning the loss of life in the local media, but this had been tallied up to two in time for his interview with Becky Anderson of CNN. This is despite investigations from independent organisations such as Amnesty International placing the number killed at the Toll Gate and a separate protest in Alausa (also in Lagos) closer to, ‘at least 12’. Moreover, this is also without mention of the eyewitness accounts describing events on the ground, which included the swift removal of bodies from the scene, and the use of barricades to block the arrival of ambulances.

Also notable was the governor confirming the presence of, and publicly hinting toward the shooting having been from military officials. This is important because it arrives after military officials initially denied all involvement and presence at the toll gate.  

Major Osoba Olaniyi, a military spokesman, eventually admitted to soldiers being employed to enforce a curfew. However, both he and leading army officials continue to deny that the troops shot at the protesters. This is despite the multitude of accounts on the ground suggesting otherwise. Attorney General Abubakar Malami has since speculated that the fault could lie with “hoodlums” wearing military uniforms. 

National response and shifting the narrative

The past two weeks have seen some leading officials return to areas which had been damaged in the days following the massacre. Some appear to have used it for ill-judged photo opportunities, as was the case for Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola and his mystery camera debacle. Though others appear to have used this time to find solutions. Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed revealed that the Federal government had created a ₦25bn youth fund. While it is not a direct remedy for ‘#5for5’ it offers some push in the right direction. Yet Nigerians, now tired of promises, will wait to see whether the new funds are allocated with purpose and substance before celebrating.

Lagos assembly members Desmond Elliot, Ibrahim Layode and Mojisola Alli-Macauley were among the most vocal. Their complaints fluctuated between misplaced ire at the impact of social media (which the Senate is considering regulating) and a culture which sees Nigerian youth “high on drugs all the time”. These are of course erroneous comments, but ones which crystalize a far too common level of detachment within state and national government. They may not represent the whole (there will of course be outliers) but they do reflect an overwhelming number with more than enough influence to ensure that key structures resistant to change, remain as they are.

As of now, the Judicial Panels formed to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality continue to sit in Enugu State and Lagos.

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