THE United States has cast doubt on the reports of killings at Lekki Toll Gate during the #ENDSARS protest in October, 2020.
This is contained in its 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by the Department of States on Wednesday.
The report stated that there was no accurate information on the fatalities of the shooting despite detailed, evidence-based and credible reports by media houses like the CNN and Amnesty International, stressing that there were inconsistencies on the parts of the army and the Nigerian government.
“The national police, army, and other security services sometimes used force to disperse protesters and apprehend criminals and suspects. Police forces engaging in crowd-control operations generally attempted to disperse crowds using nonlethal tactics, such as firing tear gas, before escalating their use of force,” the report read,”.
“On October 20, members of the security forces enforced curfew by firing shots into the air to disperse protesters, who had gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos to protest abusive practices by the Nigerian Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),” it noted.
“Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end. Amnesty International reported 10 persons died during the event, but the government disputed Amnesty’s report, and no other organization was able to verify the claim.
“The government reported two deaths connected to the event. 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.”
Inconsistencies, lies, cover-up
Not only will the report do damage to the ongoing process and efforts by the Lagos panel investigating human rights abuses and police brutality, but it will further give credence to claims of no massacre or massacre without bodies by the Nigerian government.
When the media reported the shooting at Lekki Toll Gate which happened on October 20, the Nigerian military feigned ignorance and denied the allegation, saying its men were not involved.
In subsequent press releases, acting deputy director at 81 Division and army public relations officer Osoba Olaniyi admitted that soldiers were deployed to Lekki but were only there to carry a request of the state government to enforce an earlier curfew it imposed.
He, however, denied that the soldiers shot civilians and that there was glaring and convincing evidence to attest to the fact. He maintained that the allegations of shootings were the “handiwork of mischief-makers who will stop at nothing to tarnish the image of the Nigerian Army.”
In a bid to further discredit the media reports on the Lekki incident, coordinator of Defence Media Operations John Enenche, citing some military analysts, told newsmen in Abuja that videos of the incident circulating around the social media were fake or photoshops.
However, on Saturday, during his appearance before the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry, commander of the 81 Military Intelligence Brigade Ahmed Taiwo said soldiers deployed to the scene did not shoot the protesters with live bullets but fired blank bullets into the air.
While explaining that the blank bullets used could not have caused any damage to the flesh, Taiwo said if real bullets were indeed fired, one bullet had the potency to kill three persons.
Contrary to claims by the governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu that the incident happened without his knowledge, the army said it was invited by the state government to help restore normalcy.