‘Lekki Massacre’ One Year On: Where are the victims? … By Lawrence Bilal Audu



‘Lekki Massacre’ One Year On: Where are the victims?By Lawrence Bilal AuduIt is one year already since havoc was wrecked on Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos following the #EndSARS protests of 20th October, 2021 that degenerated into arson, killing and maiming. The disaster escalated perhaps because Nigerians were fed up with the excesses of corrupt elements in the nation’s security apparatus particularly the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). This is why at the initial stage of the protest, a lot of citizens keyed into it to see that indeed the dreaded but now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police is not only disbanded, but scrapped.The protest saw Nigerian musical celebrities and comedians in the fore even though the organisers claimed there was no central leadership of the movement, but support kept pouring in from concerned individuals in cash and logistics. It was indeed a fanfare until the entire Lekki Toll Plaza was blocked while in other parts of the country, street rallies were organised causing untold hardship to other commuters even those with emergencies. Soon afterwards the peaceful protest degenerated into chaos.The Lagos State government in a bid to prevent what would later become a breakdown of law and order imposed a dusk to dawn curfew and the Army were called in to calm the situation which was clearly out of the hands of the Nigerian Police. Soon the entire city would be engulfed in flames as the protest took a different twist after series of tweets that troops of the Nigerian Army deployed to enforce the curfew had opened fire on the protesters at close range, killing according to one DJ Switch, “78” persons while also claiming she was lifting dead bodies of the victims and dropping at the feet of the shooting soldiers. Really?Initially everyone was made to understand that a massacre had occurred at the Lekki Toll Plaza because, some Nigerians the likes of Aisha Yesufu, Oby Ezekwesili and others on Social media had falsely claimed that the Nigerian Army had opened fire on unarmed protesters who had gathered at the Lekki toll gate, killings several protesters. Figures were given ranging from 78 and later 34 then 10 by Amnesty International, an organisation whose propaganda further inflamed the crisis.What followed the next day was a resurgence of protests in other parts of the country where correctional facilities were invaded leading to prisoner escapes and attacks on police formations with scores of police officers killed and assorted weapons looted. In Lagos State alone (which remained the epicentre of the crisis) government facilities and public infrastructures were vandalised in addition to private businesses looted in the wake of the protest.The US government, in its 45th annual human rights report, said “accurate information on the fatalities” from the shooting remained fuzzy, noting that apart from “Amnesty International which reported 10 persons died during the event, no other organization was able to verify the claim.”“One body from the toll gate showed signs of blunt force trauma. A second body from another location in Lagos State had bullet wounds. The government acknowledged that soldiers armed with live ammunition were present at the Lekki Toll Gate. At year’s end the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution continued to hear testimony and investigate the shooting at Lekki Toll Gate,” the report noted.The United States government has equally exonerated the Nigerian Army of any killings during the #ENDSARS protests at the Lekki Tollgate. It noted that the US government did not believe that Nigerian soldiers killed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate incident.The US report also rubbished the claims by several international media and organizations like Amnesty International and Cable News Network (CNN) that many had died during the Lekki tollgate incident.The US government also acknowledged the formation of the Judicial Panels to investigate cases and complaints of SARS and police brutality.Following the #EndSars protests, the National Economic Council chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had recommended the establishment of state-based judicial panels of inquiry to also ensure justice for victims and families affected.In the section titled, “Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings”, the report gave a background to the Lekki incident, but stated categorically that “no other organization was able to verify the claim” that some persons had died during the incident.For those familiar with what a scene would look like after a military operation especially if it has to do with confronting unarmed civilians, they can attest that such scenes could not be hurriedly cleaned up without forensic traces for months.AK47 bullets piercing through bodies at close range would lead to river of blood at Lekki toll gate if 15 people died o that night.Such sea of blood should have clotted on the road and visible for people to see no matter what. We know people were scampering for safety in such situation. How come a couple of people were able to carry 7 or 15 corpses to where the military men were shooting? Are you saying none of those that carried the corpses had any picture, video or other had no phone to snap afar off?Massacre is defined as “the unnecessary, indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings or animals, as in barbarous warfare or persecution or for revenge or plunder. general slaughter, as of persons or animals:the massacre of millions during the war.“What every rational thinking mind knows for sure is that the entire carnage was fuelled by lies emanating from the actors who for their own reasons wanted to see a nation descend into chaos while some of them either enjoy their share of the spoils or seek asylum in the west just like DJ Switch has. As we saw with some of them taking vacations in choice islands shortly after the show.Already, various kinds of hash tags are beginning to resurface on the internet to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the so-called ‘Lekki Massacre’ at a time the nation is seeing a rising trend of insecurity in some parts of the country while those who lost properties to looters are still trying to recover. The focus still remains those allegedly killed by troops at the toll plaza. While no one seems perturbed about the hundreds of security agents gruesomely killed in the wake of the protests, it is incumbent on us to reflect deeper putting sentiments aside and ask some pertinent questions like:Who are the real victims of the Lekki Shootings?Where are the families of the 78, 34, 10 or whatever the figures are?Why has a section of the media in Nigeria become so complicit that in the last one year, no one has been able to follow-up on these allegations?These questions for those who supported this carnage are bitter pills they would rather not swallow.In a reaction to some publications in a section of the media alleging plans to bring back SARS, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali has made it clear in a recent statement that the dreaded squad will not resurface again under any guise or form.Speaking through the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba, the IGP noted that there are no plans to resurrect the defunct SARS. ‘SARS is no longer a threat and will not resurface under any form.’ According to the IGP, the Force has subsequently restructured its operational organization to fill the void left by SARS’ demise.”Currently, the Force’s leadership is concentrating its efforts on furthering police reforms and leaving Nigerians with a police force that is more effective, efficient, technology-driven, compassionate, and Rule of Law-compliant.”Much as we agree that activism must be accepted as a means of strengthening governance, it must also be established that the actors play by the rules and their motives clearly stated for a better society. Protests and demonstrations remain an inalienable right of all citizens as guaranteed under the constitution but must be conducted in a way that does not infringe on the rights of other law abiding citizens.For those who are still bent on having an anniversary or memorial in honour of the victims of the ‘Lekki Shootings’ do not forget the innocent law enforcement officers killed in the cross fire and those whose lives have been shattered following the carnage.Again let us ask ourselves -Who are the real victims of the Lekki Massacre and why the deafening silence from their families? This is NIGERIA!

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