One year after the #EndSARS protest during which some activists, media houses and international groups claimed that there was a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, there is still no evidence of large scale killing at the scene to qualify the raid as massacre, Daily Trust reports.
Security operatives had stormed the place and dispersed the protesters, but many videos had trended for days alleging that “dozens of people have been massacred” during the raid.
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The military had denied using live ammunition.
To date, the names of the people purportedly massacred at Lekki have not been released by those championing the #EndSARS course or families of the victims even as various hospitals in Lagos said they only treated injured people from Lekki and did not receive any dead body.
At the peak of the claims and counterclaims on what happened, Daily Trust had dedicated a portal on its website (www.dailytrust.com) asking families and friends of those killed to provide details so that the matter would be amplified.
Weeks after the announcement, nobody came forward even anonymously.
The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines massacre as “The killing of a large number of people especially in a cruel way; the bloody massacre of innocent civilians. Nobody survived the massacre.
Wikipedia defines massacre as “The killing of multiple individuals and is usually considered to be morally unacceptable, especially when perpetrated by a group of political actors against defenceless victims.”
The federal government had repeatedly claimed that nobody was killed or shot at Lekki Toll Gate during the October 2020 #EndSARS protest.
Some people opposed to the claim of the massacre also said there was an element of propaganda being orchestrated by some people for ulterior motives.
They, however, said the federal government was also economical with the truth on the episode at Lekki Gate for claiming nobody was shot considering that many injured people were taken to hospitals from the scene.
‘CNN, Amnesty should tender apology’
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, yesterday on behalf of the federal government, demanded apologies from Amnesty International (AI) and the Cable News Network (CNN) for their ‘misleading’ reports that security agencies shot and killed some people during last year’s #EndSARS protest at Lekki Toll Gate.
He said the two organisations spurned invitations extended to them by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to defend the “phantom massacre” of protesters claimed by them.
The minister, who addressed journalists on Wednesday in Abuja to mark the first anniversary of the protest, said there was no evidence that anyone was killed or shot by security agencies.
He took a swipe at CNN and AI for ignoring the fate of the six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the protests and instead trumpeting a “phantom massacre.”
The minister said the testimony of ballistic experts before the panel indicated that injuries sustained by the victims were not from gunshots fired by the military but locally-fabricated weapons.
“One year later, and despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, there has been none: No bodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing.
“Sadly, the champions of a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, including Amnesty International and CNN, have continued to shamelessly hold on to their unproven stand,” he said.
No justice for victims of police – Amnesty
In a statement on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the Lekki incident, Amnesty International said “12 people were killed” at Lekki Toll Gate during the protest and that there was no justice for the victims.
The statement signed by Amnesty’s Country Director in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said, “One year after peaceful #EndSARS protests ended in a brutal crackdown by Nigerian security forces in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of the country, no one has been brought to justice for the torture, violence and killings of peaceful protesters, while reports of human rights violations by the police continue.”
According to her, “An investigation by the organisation found that Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 people on 20 October 2020 at Lekki Toll Gate and Alausa in Lagos.
“Amnesty International was able to establish that pro-government supporters instigated violence at many of the demonstrations, providing cover for the police to use lethal force against peaceful protesters.
“The organisation also found that detained protesters were tortured and refused or denied immediate access to lawyers.”
Ojigbo said President Muhammadu Buhari should fulfil his promise of reforming the police to end the reign of impunity Nigerians had been protesting against for many years.
Daily Trust had replied the Amnesty International via email asking for the names, family details and possibly photos of the 12 people it claimed were killed in Lekki especially in the light of the federal government’s statement earlier on Wednesday, which denied that no one was killed on October 20, 2020, at Lekki.
There was no response from Amnesty International as of the time of going to the press.
Also, CNN had last year claimed that 38 people were killed at Lekki. However, in its latest report, the cable network said it spoke to one Adesola whose son was shot at the scene.
Adesola told CNN that she was thankful because she was able to find her son’s body.
Similarly, in the eight minutes video shown by BBC Africa titled, ‘Lekki Toll Gate: Massacre without blood or bodies’, the remains of one Abouta who was purportedly shot by security operatives were seen on the ground.
It was preceded by the picture of one Olalekun Abideen (Biggie) who was displayed as another person allegedly killed during the #EndSARS protest.
According to the report, Biggie was a regular face at the protest but his family said they were not comfortable showing their faces on camera, therefore, the reporter interviewed one of them who hid and spoke from a dark place.
Our correspondents report that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had a day after the incident described the shooting at Lekki as a “dark note in the history of the state” and blamed the development on forces beyond the “direct control” of his government.
What Daily Trust did on Lekki shooting
Ten days after the incident, Daily Trust in an exclusive report titled ‘Lekki Shootings: Untold story of survivors’ published on October 30, established that some protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza were treated for gunshot wounds at both government and private-owned hospitals in Lagos State.
But there was no verifiable proof that anybody was killed at the scene.
Some of the survivors said they were treated in hospitals such as Reddington Hospital, Lekki; the Vedic Lifecare Hospital, Lagos also in Lekki, St. Nicholas and General Hospital Odan, Lagos Island.
One of the victims who spoke with our correspondents at the time was Agbeze Ifeanyi, a comedian, who was captured on one of the live videos when he was shot at 6:50 pm.
He was rushed to the Lagos Island General Hospital from where he was referred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja for treatment.
Investigative journalist, Fisayo Soyombo in a special report named some of those killed at the plaza to include Olalekan ‘Biggie’ Abideen, whose death was confirmed by his mother and Abouta Solomon from Mubi North Local Government Area of Adamawa State whose death was confirmed by his brother Nathaniel, who had invited him to Lagos to man his car washing business.
Police arrest protesters
During Wednesday’s protest which many described as “peaceful” compared to what happened last year, some people were arrested at the Lekki Toll Gate.
A journalist working with Legit TV, Abisola Alawode, was among those arrested. Others were Okechukwu Peter, Blessing Iko and Patrick Osagie Eholor among others.
The police also fired teargas at protesters noting that the time given was between 8 am and 10 am.
Lagos Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, who visited the venue of the protest, said the protesters told him they were going to end the demonstration by 10 am.
Odumosu said any protest beyond the agreed time constituted a nuisance.
“I discussed with them and they said they will end the protest by 10 o’clock. Any other person doing it now… that is nuisance…. That have guns, the ones with machete, hammer, are they protesters or miscreants?”
Also, policemen in Osun State on Wednesday dispersed #EndSARS protesters believed to be followers of the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore and arrested a journalist with Daily Post, Sikiru Obarayese, and charged him for recording them.
Another reporter with Foundation for Investigative Journalism, Ibrahim Adeyemi, escaped arrest by the whiskers.
However, with the intervention of other journalists, the commissioner of police ordered his men to withdraw the case against Obarayese.
Meanwhile, the youth in the state held a public lecture in Osogbo with the theme, ‘EndSARS: One Year After, Issue, Regret, and Lesson.’
Amputee in Edo cries for justice
In Edo, residents and civil society groups joined others across the country to mark the one year of #EndSARS protests.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Ohimai Stephen, a victim of the #EndSARS protest, whose leg was amputated last year after he was hit by a stray bullet at Auchi during the protest urged the government to fulfil its promise of helping him to get back on his feet.
Protesters block road in Abuja
As early as 8 am, protesters, among them, Sowore converged on Unity Fountain, Abuja before trooping to the streets while heading to the National Assembly.
However, when they got in front of the Ministry of Justice, policemen formed a barricade and prevented them from marching further.
Also, there was a heavy security presence in popular areas across the Ilorin metropolis, the Kwara State capital.
PDP condemns ‘attacks’ on protesters
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned what it called fresh “brutality” Nigerians marking #EndSARS anniversary allegedly experienced in the hands of security operatives.
The PDP National Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, who spoke yesterday, demanded that the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, immediately arrest and begin the trial of all security operatives involved in the “heinous act”.
The party also alleged that most of the issues that led to the #EndSARS protest in 2020, including bad governance and brutality against citizens, remained unresolved and charged the federal government to accelerate efforts into resolving them and bringing justice to the people.
By Muideen Olaniyi, Maureen Onochie, Hamisu K. Matazu, Dalhatu Liman (Abuja), Hameed Oyegbade (Osogbo), Usman A. Bello (Benin), Mumini AbdulKareem (Ilorin), Bola Ojuola (Akure)