#EndSARS: What we know so far about the alleged mass burial in Lagos

a few months away from the three-year anniversary

It’s been three years since the EndSARS protests swept through the country, claiming the lives of young Nigerians who were sat peacefully protesting at the Lekki-VI Toll gate against the now-defunct police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The scars of that horrendous event still loom around young Nigerians who have become increasingly active in the country’s political and economic climate.

Earlier this month, reports began circulating of an alleged leaked government memo which signed off on the mass burial of 103 unidentified persons. According to official reports from international media, the country’s Health Ministry claimed that the fatalities were from violence in several parts of the state, but not from the notorious protest site at the Lekki toll gate, where soldiers allegedly shot protesters.

The letter, dated July 19th, 2023 was signed by Director General of the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency, Mr Onafowote Fatai Idowu however, the Lagos State government denies, further raising suspicion of the death toll from the protests.

Back in 2021, John Obafunwa, the Chief Pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) submitted an autopsy report, detailing the death of 99 persons from the #EndSARS protests. Obafunwa attested that of the 99 identified persons, only three were victims of the events at Lekki Toll Gate. The report was submitted to the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry, from which the Panel head, Doris Okuwobi, ruled that the records presented be accepted as evidence before the courts hearing June 26, 2021.

Despite the contradictory evidence, the Lagos state government maintains its position on the identity of the victims. The Permanent Secretary Minister of Health, Dr. Olusegun Ogboye released a statement sharing, “Peddlers of the news are deliberately misinterpreting and sensationalising a letter from the Lagos State Government Public Procurement Agency entitled: ‘Letter of No Objection: Mass Burial for the 103, the Year 2020 #EndSARS victims, to misinform the public, stir public sentiment and cause public disaffection against the Lagos State Government.”

Ogboye goes on to reinforce that the bodies retrieved were victims of community clashes in areas such as Ogba, Isolo and Ajah areas of Lagos State, adding that a jail break occurred at Ikoyi Prison around the same time. Ogboye also adds that despite the announcements made by the office of the Chief Coroner, inviting relatives to undergo DNA tests for identification purposes, the bodies at the morgue remain unclaimed.

It goes without saying that the value of human life in Nigeria is at an all-time low. With only a few months away from the third year anniversary of the tragic and seismic event, it’s alarming that such an order can be called for a burial. Currently, international bodies such as Amnesty International, are urging the state government to disclose the identities of the victims and demand more thorough investigation into the new claims.

Featured Image Credits/The NATIVE