The Cable News Network (CNN), during the Lekki tollgate massacre, released a detailed and accurately researched report that contained a rather disturbing video footage.
The report formally accused the Nigerian authorities of carelessly shooting and killing unarmed young peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 — the tollgate had been the meeting point for protesters throughout the protest.
A part of the footage showed an army truck driving towards the Lekki Toll Gate from a location that appeared to be the military’s Bonny Camp. The remainder of the CCTV footage, which was later played by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry, showed that about seven Nigerian military trucks were deployed to Lekki Toll Gate on that same day.
In the CNN report of the incidence were the display of lifeless bodies lying in the pool of blood; people scampering for their safety after soldiers opened fire on protesters; Nigerian flags soaked in human blood amid yelling protesters with people running for their lives.
The reason for the shooting:
The Incumbent Governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu had imposed a week-long curfew due to the unrest caused by the #EndSARS protest. The protests had been organized to speak against the unfair treatment citizens were getting from the police force, and as tension grew, the Lagos State government place a curfew to curb the tension. However, what was supposed to be a peaceful protest quickly turned sour when soldiers opened fire, leaving protesters scampering for their lives.
As news about the incident spread across social media, Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu came under fire for the actions of the Military. He found himself at the center of the controversy, with everyone from youths to parents, the local and international media pointing fingers at him. The world had questions for the incidence of that fateful day, and they demanded answers from Babajide Sanwo Olu, the custodian of the state.
Stepping into the weight of his responsibility as the governor of the state, Babajide Sanwo Olu addressed the state, expressing deep regrets over the attack. He also apologized.
In his words:
“This is the toughest night of our lives as forces beyond our direct control have moved to make dark notes in our history, but we will face it and come out stronger. I’ve just concluded visits to hospitals with victims of this unfortunate shooting incident at Lekki.”
However, his apologies fell on deaf ears. Nigerians wanted more than an apology or an explanation. The concern of most citizens was clear. How did Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial city, become a shooting spot against a defenseless group of young people chanting the national anthem with flags clutched to their fists?
How was it within his (Babajide Sanwo-Olu) power to announce a curfew within hours, but too difficult to control what happened in the state within the period of the curfew? What was he thinking when he declared a 4 pm curfew after midday in a city populated with nearly 20 million people, where even at the best of times commuting is a nightmare? This was the same Governor who had earned some goodwill when he commissioned a 140-bed Maternal and Child Care (MCC) in Ajah, improved traffic management and environmental sanitation, and worked on completing the Lagos-Badagry expressway to open up the area for business and tourism. People expected him to know better.
LCC, the company responsible for collecting tolls, switched off the lights that powered the tollgate just hours before the shooting began. Even if it was have been unintentional, people interpreted that move as a way to help the soldiers perpetrate their actions under the cover of darkness. And true to some suspicions, just hours later, the shooting began.
Questioned as to the events of that day, Governor Sanwo-Olu insisted that the Presidency was responsible for deploying the military. He also promised Lagosian an investigation into the matter. However, people refuted his claims, challenging him on the grounds that a state is usually informed when the Federal Government deploys the army on its territory.
How many people were killed?
Reports from the United Nations and other sources claimed that at least twelve (12) people were killed. Cable News Network (CNN), in its investigative report, aired a video allegedly showing Nigerian soldiers shooting at unarmed protesters at the tollgate. The videos served as evidence and were extracted from mobile phones and witnesses. However, neither the state nor Federal Government affirmed that many causalities. In an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, Governor Sanwo-Olu said only two people were killed by the military.
The Federal Government, however, responded by refuting all claims of shooting at the protesters. In fact, in a very audacious move — despite the pile of evidences — the Federal Government labeled the killings a massacre without casualties.
In addition, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his displeasure, saying he was not pleased with how foreign media houses like CNN and BBC covered the incident. He argued that their reports on the protest did not correspond with what actually ensued. Therefore, even after Amnesty International debunked this statement, saying at least ten people died in the incident, the Federal Government disputed the report.
Throughout this time, attention remained on the governor of Lagos State who was vindicated when the United States Department of State said there was no verifiable evidence on the reported killings of the protesters at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020. It also reported that the Nigerian security forces fired shots into the air to disperse the #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, and that accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available.
This refutes the allegations made by media reports that some eyewitnesses saw soldiers firing live ammunition at the peaceful protesters. (This disclosure can be found in the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria released by the US Department of State on Tuesday, March 30, 2021)
The report called attention to the fact there wasn’t accurate data on the number of fatalities from the shootings despite Amnesty International’s report that ten people passed on during the occurrence due to gunshot injuries. This thus confirms Governor Sanwo-Olu’s claims that there were few causalities from the incidence.
Now, let’s get to the facts. The cases of injuries reported in hospitals have all been said to be broken bones, bruises, and swollen joints as a result of a stampede. Not a single record of death from gunshot wounds.
We can get emotional about the events of that day; however, it will be difficult to express that there were records of deaths in the shooting at Lekki without the names of the victims in question. As such, even if citizens took the Lagos State government to an international court for hearing, it is certain that there can never be a case without the names of casualties. But here is the ultimate question, if people claimed and came out publicly to say that the Soldiers killed and dumped some of the victim’s bodies in the lagoon, shouldn’t those bodies have family members who might have declared them missing?
Until there are adequate answers to all of these pending questions, which I doubt there are, Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu will remain a vindicated man.