The Lekki Massacre, also known as the Lekki Toll Gate Killings, was a horrific event which took place on the night of 20 October 2020, at about 6:50 pm, when members of the Nigerian Army opened fire on peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State, Nigeria.
According to human rights organization Amnesty International, at least 12 protesters were killed during the shooting, though it is said the number is definitely higher. A day after the incident, on Wednesday 21 October, the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, initially denied reports of any loss of lives, but later admitted in an interview with a CNN journalist, Becky Anderson that “only two persons were killed”.
The Nigerian Army initially denied that the shooting ever happened, and that none of its personnel were present at the toll gate. They reaffirmed their position that the video footages of its personnel shooting into the crowd were ‘photoshopped’. A week later, however, the Nigerian Army admitted to an investigative panel in the presence of press, that it had deployed soldiers to the toll gate on the orders of the governor of Lagos State.
The day after the Nigerian Army’s admission, the governor of Lagos state, took to his Twitter to state that “It is imperative to explain that no governor controls the rules of engagement of the army.” This tweet implied that he had in fact, not ordered the Nigerian Army to go shoot at the Lekki toll gate protesters.
AFTERMATH AND INVESTIGATIOS INTO THE LEKKI MASSACRE
On Saturday, 21 November,2020, a month after the Lekki toll gate shootings, the Nigerian Army admitted to the Lagos Judiciary panel of inquiry into the shooting, in response to a CNN documentary on the shooting, that it had deployed its personnel to the toll gate with both live and blank bullets.
The Nigerian Army maintained that it had done so for the ‘protection of the force’ in case of any attack by hoodlums who had infiltrated the protests. This would the first time the Nigerian Army admitted to having live rounds at the Lekki Toll Gate. Despite its admission of being involved, it nonetheless continues to deny that its members shot and killed protesters.
Nigerian disc jockey DJ Switch had made a livestream video of the shooting on her Instagram account. Though many other eyewitness videos and footages surfaced in the aftermath of the shooting, the livestream would prove to be decisive evidence of the shooting.
In a video made on October 23, DJ Switch clarified that she witnessed the shooting of seven people at the time she was live-streaming on Instagram. She said that armed soldiers and police officers (including members of the disbanded SARS unit) shot at her and other peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki toll gate on the night of 20 October.
She further stated that the number of those who were killed, increased to fifteen, but that she did not get a chance to record further, as her phone battery had died. She also said that she and other survivors took the victims’ bodies to the soldiers who took them away. She has since left the country for Canada following threats to her life.
About a month after the Lekki toll gate shootings, on November 18, 2020, CNN aired a six-minute documentary on the shooting, the independent investigation showed geolocated photographs of victims and eyewitness accounts, as well as the families of victims, alongside verified trended videos of the shooting using timestamps and data from video files.
CNN said that Nigerian authorities refused to comment when they were contacted for clarifications. The documentary also revealed that in collaboration with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, CNN was able to establish that several of the bullet casings from the Lekki Toll Gate, originated from Serbia from where Nigeria had imported bullets every year between 2005 and 2016.
On November 24, 2020, as part of its investigations into the shooting, CNN obtained and released CCTV footages from government surveillance cameras overlooking the toll gate which were presented to the Lagos Judiciary panel of inquiry investigating police brutality, the abuses of the disbanded SARS, and the toll gate shooting.
The CCTV footage and other footages from the scene at the time showed soldiers shooting at protesters from both ends of the Toll Gate. Corroborating a previous testimony given by the Lekki Concession Company to the panel, the footage stopped at about 8 pm because the CCTV had been tampered with ostensibly to provide cover for the shooting.
Till this day, the Nigerian authorities involved, continue to deny their involvement in the Lekki toll gate shootings, otherwise known as the Lekki Massacre.
By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi
Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.