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US report says no evidence of massacre at Lekki tollgate

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A report just released by the United States Department of States says there is no verifiable evidence of killings of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, last year, over five months after the protest.

This is stated thiins in a report entitled: ‘2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria’.

There had been reports and claims of massacre at the toll gate by the military during the protests by youths against the activities of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad and bad governance.

A special report by Cable News Network (CNN) had also said soldiers shot at protesters, killing many.

But the US report stated that accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available.

The report read in part, “Although the protests were allowed to proceed unimpeded in most places, civil society observers reported the arrest of some peaceful protesters in Lagos, Osun and Kano states on charges of conduct likely to cause a breach of public peace. All those arrested were released within days of their arrest.

“In October, #EndSARS protests were staged in states across the country to demand an end to police brutality. Demonstrations were largely peaceful, but some protests turned violent after criminal elements infiltrated the protests and security forces fired at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20.

“According to #EndSARS Legal Aid, by year’s end, a network of volunteer lawyers had secured the release of 337 protesters, but it was unable to confirm how many remained in detention.”

The report also stated, “Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end.

“Amnesty International reported 10 persons died during the event, but the government disputed Amnesty’s report, and no other organisation was able to verify the claim. The government reported two deaths connected to the event. One body from the toll gate showed signs of blunt force trauma. A second body from another location in Lagos State had bullet wounds.

“The government acknowledged that soldiers armed with live ammunition were present at the Lekki tollgate. At year’s end, the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution continued to hear testimony and investigate the shooting at Lekki tollgate.”

On human rights abuses generally, the report asserted that there were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary, unlawful, or extra-judicial killings.

On insurgency, the department noted that Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa continued attacks on “civilians, military, and police; recruited and forcefully conscripted child soldiers; and carried out scores of person-borne improvised explosive device attacks–many by coerced young women and girls–and other attacks on population centers in the Northeast and in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Abductions by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa continued.

“According to credible international organisations, prior to their dissolution, SARS units sometimes used torture to extract confessions later used to try suspects. President Buhari disbanded SARS units in October, 2020 following nationwide #EndSARS protests against police brutality.

“Of the states, 28 and the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) established judicial panels of inquiry to investigate allegations of human rights violations carried out by the Nigerian Police Force and the disbanded SARS units.”

The report also asserted that local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international human rights groups accused the security services of illegal detention, inhuman treatment, and torture of criminal suspects, militants, detainees and prisoners.

The report also condemned “unlawful and arbitrary killings by both government and non-state actors; forced disappearances by the government, terrorists, and criminal groups; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government and terrorist groups; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions.

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Zamfara killings: Buhari says it’s time to crush bandits

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President Muhammadu Buhari was aghast by the latest orgy of violence visited on innocent people in Zamfara State by bandits and issued a fresh order to security agents to crush the gunmen.

More than 25 people were killed in attacks on Gobirawa, Rini, Gora, and Madoti Dankule in Bakura and Maradun LGAs in Zamfara — the death toll has since risen.

The gunmen were said to have invaded the communities on motorcycles and shot sporadically, on Wednesday.

Reacting, Buhari said the “insane and persistent violence against innocent people must stop”, adding that “such wanton disregard for life will be brought to an end sooner than later”.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Thursday quoted Buhari to have said this, adding,“These criminals should stop pushing their luck too far by believing that the government lacks the capacity to crush them.

“The violence against poor villagers who are struggling with poverty and other severe economic challenges is not going to be tolerated by this administration.”

He directed security agencies to close all existing gaps in their operations while expressing hope that the special operation launched by security agencies will prove decisive in ridding the state of the “frequent and horrifying” bandit activities.

“Let’s not give these criminals any opportunity to succeed by taking the war to their own camps and stop them in their tracks before they even have the time to respond under our massive fire power,” the president added.

Buhari reassured residents of the state of his administration’s determination to defeat the enemies, despite the latest setback.

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MASSOB rejects UK asylum offer, says it’s plot against Biafra

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The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has turned down the United Kingdom’s offer of asylum for its members.

It said the offer was an arrangement probably taken with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government to divert the attention of the people of Biafra.

A statement by MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, made available to journalists in Enugu, said the asylum offer was part of plans by the Buhari regime hatched with the British government against the emergence of Biafra.

The statement read in part, “The government of Britain is the sole architecture of the political, economic and religious problems of the people of Biafra in Nigeria even till today.

“It has not shown any remorse or apologise to the people of Biafra.

“Britain killed, maimed mesmerised and wounded our fathers, mothers and brethren through the Hausa Fulanis. MASSOB rejects their asylum gift.

“How can the chief persecutor of the people of Biafra suddenly turn to be our pacesetter? Britain and Nigeria can no longer deceive the world again concerning the plights of the people of Biafra.

“Our unified resilience, resolutions and unshakable spirit of no surrender will continue to hunt down this geographical expression called Nigeria.

“MASSOB demands referendum on Biafra not asylum.”

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Security: Avoid 14 Nigerian states, US warns citizens

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The United States has asked its citizens to stay away from 14 Nigerian states considered as hotspots of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.

It stated this in its latest travel advisories even as it urged its citizens to “Reconsider travel to Nigeria”.

The US State Department in the updated advisory added at least 116 countries this week to its ‘Level Four: Do Not Travel’ list.

The UK, Canada, France, Israel, Mexico, Germany and others are on the list, citing a “very high level of COVID-19.”

Before Tuesday, the State Department listed 34 out of about 200 countries as “Do Not Travel.” The State Department now lists 150 countries at Level Four.

Nigeria is categorised as Level 3.

Unlike countries categorised as Level 4, based on the advice of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nigeria has a good rating on COVID-19 prevalence.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice for Nigeria due to COVID-19, indicating a low level of COVID-19 in the country”, the State Department said.

It listed areas American visitors should avoid, while in Nigeria as Borno, Yobe, and northern Adamawa states due to terrorism and kidnapping, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, and Zamfara states due to kidnapping.

It also banned American citizens from going to Coastal areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers states (with the exception of Port Harcourt) due to crime, kidnapping, and maritime crime.

In a country summary on Nigeria, the U.S. State Department wrote:

“Violent crime – such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, hostage taking, banditry, and rape – is common throughout the country.

“Kidnappings for ransom occur frequently, often targeting dual national citizens who have returned to Nigeria for a visit, as well as U.S. citizens with perceived wealth. Kidnapping gangs have also stopped victims on interstate roads.

“Terrorists continue plotting and carrying out attacks in Nigeria, especially in the Northeast.

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting shopping centers, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, transportation hubs, and other places where crowds gather. Terrorists are known to work with local gangs to expand their reach.

“There is civil unrest and low-level armed militancy in parts of Southern Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region. Armed criminality, including kidnapping and maritime crime, is also pervasive in this region.”

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