President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, said the federal government would not take any action to block or anticipate the outcomes of the various panels set up by state governments to investigate last year’s #EndSARS protests.
Rather, Buhari said his government would wait to see the steps the governors would take before considering any action on the outcomes of the inquiries.
The nationwide protests in October last year had resulted in loss of lives and wanton destruction of property.
Buhari, who spoke during a meeting with United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken,in Abuja, said his administration was inclined to allow the system work, and that the state governments would be required to take steps to address the issues raised in the panels’ reports before the federal government would step in.
But the United States government, which has since shown interest in the #EndSARS matter, said it would like to see that both the federal and the Lagos State governments ensured that the report of the panel received due accountability and attention.
However, counsel to the Lagos State government on the #EndSARS panel, Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), has rejected the findings of the panel, which were leaked on Monday. Owonikoko also disputed the casualty figures recorded by the panel.
He claimed the leaked document was fraught with discrepancies and should not be in the public domain or be taken as an accurate document, especially, as one of the signatories to the document, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), was absent for the most part of the hearing.
Meanwhile, sources close to Alausa, the seat of the Lagos State government, said the government spent N800 million to fund the #EndSARS inquiry, which lasted 13 months.
Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, that, “So many state governments are involved, and have given different terms of reference to the probe panels.
“We at the federal have to wait for the steps taken by the states, and we have to allow the system to work. We can’t impose ideas on them. The federal government has to wait for the reaction of the states.”
The president told the US Secretary of State that his administration remained committed to freedom of worship, adding, “No one is discriminated against on the basis of his or her faith.”
He expressed his appreciation to the US for the sale of weapons to Nigeria to fight insecurity.
“It’s helping us to stabilise the situation in the North-east, and we’ve made a lot of progress since 2015,” Buhari said.
But Blinken, who spoke at a joint press conference with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, at the State House, Abuja, charged the governments to see to it that the grievances of victims of security agents’ brutality were attended.
Blinken, who had held separate meetings with Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), and Onyeama, during which some agreements were signed, also noted that his country was working with Nigeria to address its security challenges.
“We’re working with Nigeria to address security challenges, including those posed by Boko Haram, ISIS West Africa and other terrorist and extremist groups. In meetings with the President, with the Vice President, with the foreign minister, we discussed the importance of a comprehensive approach that builds effective security forces, addresses the underlying drivers of extremism, and respects Nigerians’ basic human rights.
“The United States is committed to helping Nigeria do that by continuing to invest in our security partnership, and the institutions that strengthen the rule of law, and that hold accountable those, who commit human rights abuses, corruption and other acts that harm the Nigerian people. By tackling these issues, we can help to address some of the problems that have been key drivers of insecurity.
“To that end, let me say that we welcome the conclusion of the investigation by the independent inquiry established by the Lagos State government to look into the events that took place at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, in October of 2020, and this, of course, was amidst the #EndSARS protest, including the killings and other alleged abuses by the security forces.
“We anticipate and look to the state and the federal government’s response to the findings, and expect those to include steps that ensure accountability and address the grievances of the victims and their families.