The Lagos State Government has approved mass burial for 103 corpses recovered in the wake of the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, demanding the disbandment of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
The government, however, stressed that the 103 corpses were not recovered from the Lekki tollgate.
The protracted nationwide #EndSARS protest occasioned violence with loss of lives in Lagos, which was the epicentre of the protest.
Of note was the alleged killing of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate by soldiers on the night of October 20, 2020, with the state setting up a commission of inquiry to probe the allegation.
In a statement on Sunday, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Olusegun Ogboye, confirmed the authenticity of a leaked letter indicating planned mass burial for 103 corpses.
The letter, dated July 19, 2023, emanated from the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency and was addressed to the Ministry of Health.
The letter, signed by the Director-General of the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency, Mr. Onafowote Idowu, revealed the approval of the sum of N61,285,000 for the mass burial.
It read, “We refer to your letter dated July 13, 2023 with Ref No: LSMH/G/NS/013-1/23 in respect of the above subject matter.
“Following our review of your letter and the documents attached, we note the following: I. Mr Governor’s Approval; II. Minutes of Ministerial Tenders Board; III. Meeting of Procurement Planning Committee; IV. Sign-off
“Following a review of your request and based on the information provided therein, the agency has ‘No Objection’ to the award of 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.”
However, in the follow-up statement titled Re: Mass Burial Of Endsars Victims (Mischief Makers At Work), the Ministry of Health said the corpses for mass burial were not recovered from the Lekki Tollgate.
The Perm Sec, Ministry of Health, Ogboye said, “The attention of the Lagos State Government has been drawn to some social media publications about a purported mass burial plan for casualties of the 2020 #EndSARS incident. Peddlers of the news are deliberately misinterpreting and sensationalising a letter from the Lagos State Government Public Procurement Agency titled: 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.
“It is public knowledge that the year 2020 #EndSARS crisis that snowballed into violence in many parts of Lagos recorded casualties in different areas of the state and not from the Lekki Tollgate as being inferred in the mischievous publications.
“For the records, the Lagos State Environmental Health Unit picked up bodies in the aftermath of #EndSARS violence and community clashes at Fagba, Ketu, Ikorodu, Orile, Ajegunle, Abule-Egba, Ikeja, Ojota, Ekoro, Ogba, Isolo and Ajah areas of Lagos State.
“There was also a jailbreak at Ikoyi Prison. The 103 casualties mentioned in the document were from these incidents and not from Lekki Tollgate as alleged. For the avoidance of doubt, no body was retrieved from the Lekki Tollgate incident.”
He said contrary to the narrative weaved around the recently approved mass burial, the #EndSARS panel subpoenaed the Lagos State Chief Pathologist to produce full records of unclaimed bodies of dead deposited with the state central morgue during the days immediately preceding and following the event at Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020.
“The list with their autopsies of provable cause and circumstances of death was duly submitted and testified to before the panel. This subpoena was at the request of lawyers who represented #EndSARS protesters and the chief pathologist complied. There was not a single finding in the report or ensuing White Paper attributing the death of any named citizen listed in the autopsy to the Lekki incident,” the government said.
Ogboye said the planned mass burial followed a newspaper advertorial of November 18, 2020, in The PUNCH and November 19, 2020, in THISDAY for those “who had lost loved ones or whose relatives had been declared missing between October 19 and 27, 2020 from various clashes as mentioned above, to contact the department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital to help with identification of these casualties deposited in state-owned morgues.”
“It is important to state categorically that nobody responded to claim any of the bodies.
“However, after almost three years, the bodies remain unclaimed, adding to the congestion of the morgues. This spurred the need to decongest the morgues – a procedure that follows very careful medical and legal guidelines in the event that a relative may still turn up to claim a lost relative years after the incident.”