AS many as 70 corpses of persons killed in Lagos during the #EndSARS protests are yet to be claimed by their families according to the interim chairman of the Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (Ascarb) Femi Falana.
For about a month, Nigerian youth took to the streets to call for the dissolution of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) police unit over its human rights abuses. Sars was notorious for all sorts of crimes including extortion, torture and extra-judicial killings and the protests forced the government to announce that it was dissolving the unit.
However, the protesters did not trust the federal government, given its record of reneging on agreements in the past, so the demonstrations continued. Unable to offer the demanded guarantees, the government decided to use brute force to end the protest, sending in soldiers to gun down demonstrators at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State on October 20.
Incensed by the government action, Nigerians took to the streets to vent their anger at the cold-blooded murder of defenceless and innocent youths, leading to a week of violent protests, looting and attacks on public buildings. In response, the security forces responded in kind, opening fire, killing hundreds of people nationwide.
On November 19, Mojisola Dada, the chief coroner of Lagos State called on relatives of people who lost their lives between October 19 and 27 to visit the Lagos State Teaching Hospital to identify and claim bodies of their loved ones. However, according to Mr Falana, so far, only about 20 families had come forward to claim the bodies of their loved ones.
Mr Falana added: “About 98 dead bodies were dumped in various mortuaries out of which three were dumped there on October 20. However, less than 20 relatives have shown up at the mortuaries to identify their loved ones and take them for burial.
“Investigations by Ascarb show that people are quietly mourning their dead and some are afraid, while others haven’t confirmed that they lost anybody. So far, less than 20 relatives have come to identify their loved ones, over a month after the announcement
“Some didn’t know their loved ones were there. Some have accepted their fate as an act of God.”
He explained that this was not the first time that people would fail to show up to claim corpses of relatives. He said this was similar to the case of the killing of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in Zaria, Kaduna State in 2015 by the Nigerian Army, when only 15 relatives out of the 347 buried in mass graves came forward.
Mr Falana said similarly, that most of the relatives of the 938 persons killed in the riots that ensued after the announcement of the 2011 presidential election result also did not show up. He added: “The Ahmed Lemu presidential panel determined that 943 persons were killed in 11 states in the post-election violence but very few relatives showed up, so, these sorts of things are not new.”