LEKKI Shootings: How Soldiers Moved To Lekki For Massacre – Amnesty International

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Global rights watchdog, Amnesty International yesterday asked the Federal Government not to cover up the shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate during the #EndSARS protests but bring to justice those involved.

The group said its call became necessary because government had a knack for sweeping under the carpet incidents of such magnitude, citing the killings of hundreds of Shi’ites who were killed in Zaria, Kaduna State, in 2016, insisting that soldiers shot at the protesters.

In fact, Amnesty International alleged yesterday that the Federal Government was doing everything possible to cover up on the shooting of the #EndSARS protesters at Lekki.

However, both the Nigerian Army and Defence Headquarters refused to react yesterday, as several calls made to the mobile phones of their spokesmen received no reply. Text messages also sent to their phones were not replied.

At best, Army Headquarters in Abuja, reported later that 81 Div of the Army had already reacted on its behalf. The Division had said in a statement on Tuesday night that though they were invited by Lagos State government in the aftermath of the shooting at Lekki, its men were not involved in the shooting.

Similarly, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, kept mum when contacted. Officials of Lagos State government also kept mum, as efforts to get them to react at press time proved abortive.

Several phone calls and SMS sent to the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, were not responded to as his line was busy. However, in its latest report published yesterday, the rights group released details of the timeline of events from when the protests started on October 20, 2020.

Denials, cover-ups

The group in a statement signed by Country Director, Osai Ojigho, said:

“What happened at Lekki Toll Gate has all the traits of the Nigerian authorities’ pattern of a cover-up whenever their defence and security forces commit unlawful killings.

“The initial denials of the involvement of soldiers in the shooting was followed by the shameful denial of the loss of lives as a result of the military’s attack against the protests,” she said.

“Many people are still missing since the day of the incident, and credible evidence shows that the military prevented ambulances from reaching the severely injured in the aftermath.”

“One week on, the Nigerian authorities still have many questions to answer: who ordered the use of lethal force on peaceful protesters? Why were CCTV cameras on the scene dismantled in advance? And who ordered electricity being turned off minutes before the military opened fire on protesters?

“The initial denials of the involvement of soldiers in the shooting was followed by the shameful denial of the loss of lives as a result of the military’s attack against the protests.

“Many people are still missing since the day of the incident, and credible evidence shows that the military prevented ambulances from reaching the severely injured in the aftermath.”

Tracking the military’s movements

The group  also said it tracked the military’s movements before the incident, saying, “Amnesty International’s Crisis Response experts investigated and verified social media videos and photographs that confirm the Nigerian security forces were present at the Lekki Toll Gate when the shootings occurred.

“At 6:29pm local time in Lagos, two military vehicles were filmed leaving Bonny Camp on videos shared on social media.

“Later footage showed four vehicles with flashing lights in a convoy, and they appeared to be vehicles used by the Nigerian military and police.

“The same vehicles headed east along Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue – which changed its name to Lekki-Epe Expressway – in the direction of the Lekki Toll Gate.

“On this route, the vehicles passed several international embassies and consulates, including the Japanese Embassy and the Australian High Commission.

“Further photographs and footage captured the vehicles arriving at the toll gate, before the peaceful protest was disrupted by men in military uniform and gunfire was heard.

“At night time, the soldiers descended on protesters, as protesters continued to film and share videos of the shootings. Later in the evening, videos of the victims were also shared on social media.”

Protests against police brutality

Nigerians had taken to the streets, peacefully demanding an end to police brutality, extrajudicial executions and extortion by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, a unit of the Nigeria Police Force tasked with fighting violent crimes.

According to Amnesty International, at least 56 people have died in the nation since the protests began. In multiple cases, it added that security forces used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests, noting that based on its investigations, the protests had been peaceful until force was used.

Intersociety, other CSOs laud Amnesty

Reacting to Amnesty’s report yesterday, human rights group, Intersociety in a statement signed by its chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi said: “We at Intersociety are proud of Amnesty International because of its towering integrity and uncompromising stance on truth and consistency.

“Its latest statement on Lekki Tollgate massacre has said it all. Despite being caught in the act and in spite of overwhelming pieces of evidence linking it to the shooting at Lekki, the government is not only denying but also placing monetary penalties on electronic media that covered and aired the butchery.

“They are also threatening those that spoke out and reeled out video and pictorial evidence. Neither the government nor the country’s security forces have accepted responsibility and brought the perpetrators to book and adequately taken of the victims for similar killings in the country.”

Other Civil Society Organizations, CSOS, have also commended Amnesty International for compiling and  releasing a timeline on what many have termed “Black Tuesday.”

The CSOs, who were part of the #EndSARS movement, made the commendation in separate telephone interviews in Abuja last night. They said the report was good to the extent that it allowed room for an answer to the begging question of who ordered the shooting of peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate penultimate Tuesday.

“Amnesty International is not given to sensationalism. The report is pretty nice and detailed. It goes to support the testimonies of eyewitnesses on the ground when the shootings occurred,” said Ariyo Atoye, convener of the Coalition in Defense of Nigeria   Democracy and Constitution.

Similarly, Inibehe Effiong, the legal counsel to #RevolutionNow Movement,   also commended Amnesty International for the report, saying it has provided a strong basis for people to hold the government and the military authorities to account for the many lives that were lost during the #EndSARS protests.

He, therefore, encouraged the people of Lagos state to continue to demand for justice over the Lekki shootings. He expressed optimism that in due course, the will and aspirations of a greater percentage of the people that  those who participated in the shooting would be brought to book.

“The Nigerian military has a penchant for covering up evidence of similar killings as in the case of the Shi’ites and IPOB. But the report by AI, has provided a strong basis for all those involved in these kinds of senseless killings to be identified and sanctioned.

“We hope that the outcome of the panel of inquiry set up to investigate the shooting reflects the will and aspirations of a greater percentage of the people,’ he said. Also, Convener of Centre for Liberty, Raphael Adebayo, said the timeline report has also cleared the confusion regarding the position of army authorities on the shootings.

“Now, with the AI report, the resilient youths who stuck their necks out in demand for an end to police brutality can find some closure knowing that the injustice against them would not be swept under the carpet.  That is why the civil society coalition is demanding for an independent panel of inquiry into the Lekki shooting

“We can see the army authorities have changed their positions on more than one occasion since the ‘Black Tuesday’ shooting,” he said. It will be recalled that   the Army, in a statement, has denied shooting at the protesters, noting that the state government invited the Army to help restore order after chaos ensued.

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Mohammed Abdulganiyu Haruna

He is a prolific writer and a BSc. and MSc. holder at the prestigious Universities, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria and University of Benin, Benin, Nigeria. He is also a freelance writer and a publisher of many articles and a book. He is a social worker by profession and a passionate and patriotic enthusiast. He has won many writing contests and given presentations on salient issues at different radio stations and news outlets. He has lectured at so many schools, recently, at University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria. He is an accommodating and lovely person.

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