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#EndSARS: Lagos State Plans N61m Mass Burial

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has approved the burial of at least 103 people #EndSARS who were shot dead by the Nigerian military and police in the October 2020 protests against police brutality.   An article released by the Lagos State Health Office stating that the state government has approved 61,285,000 naira for the burial of 103 people who were said to be victims of EndSARS in 2020 has surfaced on social media, sparking outrage. The bill, filed on July 19, 2023, lays out the process for funding once approved by the governor.  Earlier, it was reported that the Ministerial Staff Meeting sat on the proposal of the procurement committee, after which nothing was raised in awarding the funeral contract to the undertaker. The five-paragraph article also points to the necessary taxes and deductions that are approved by the company. In response, the Ministry of Health in Lagos confirmed the letter in a statement on Sunday evening but insisted that the details were incorrect. The state government argued that the casualties were caused by the violence that followed the EndSARS protests. There has been controversy over the number of deaths recorded in the EndSARS protests, prompting the governor to open an investigation led by Justice Doris Okuwobi. Since the 2020 protests, the Lagos government and the federal government have denied any killings during the EndSARS protests.   The article comes more than two years after widespread protests across the country. The Lagos government has yet to comment on the released note.   

Thousands of Nigerians across the country have taken to the streets to protest against police brutality and call for radical reforms, including in the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The week-long protest, which attracted international attention, culminated in the controversial shooting of protesters at the popular Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, one of the main gathering points for those taking part in the protest.   However, the Lagos State government, in its response to the memo, insisted that the burials were not from the Lekki Tollgate massacre. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr Olusegun Ogboye has said that the Lagos State Environmental Health Unit (SEHMU) has received dead bodies as a result of the #EndSARS violence and civil war.   The mentioned areas include Fagba, Ketu, Ikorodu, Orile, Ajegunle, Abule-Egba, Ikeja, Ojota, Ekoro, Ogba, Isolo and Ajah of Lagos State. Ogboye also said that there is also an escape route from Ikoyi prison. “The 103 persons mentioned in the document are from these events and not from the Lekki Toll-gate as alleged. For the avoidance of doubt, nobody was recovered from the Lekki Toll Gate incident,” the statement said.

“The 103 casualties mentioned in the document were from these incidents and NOT from Lekki Toll-gate as being alleged. For the avoidance of doubt, no body was retrieved from the Lekki Toll Gate incident,” the statement read. In a tweet signed by Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr Olusegun Ogboye, The Lagos State Government said “The 103 casualties mentioned in the document were from these incidents and NOT from Lekki Toll-gate as being alleged. For the avoidance of doubt, nobody was retrieved from the Lekki Toll Gate incident.”

The State Government also claimed that the proposed mass burial is in a bid to decongest the morgues to free up spaces. Part of the statement reads: “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 if a relative may still turn up to claim a lost relative years after the incident. Decongestion of our public morgues is a periodic and regular exercise approved by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to free up space in mortuaries that have a large number of unclaimed bodies.”