The Lagos Lekki toll gate. The #EndSARS protesters were concentrated in front of the toll gate. Photo by S. Aderogba, December 15, 2018, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).
At around 7 p.m. WAT, October 20, on what is now referred to as Black Tuesday, Nigerian security forces released live ammunition on unarmed youth protesters in Lekki toll gate, Lagos.
Barely 48 hours after, official government sources are now either trying to deny the incident or the fatality recorded.
Nigerian youth have staged peaceful nationwide protests since October 9, against police brutality inflicted by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad known as SARS.
Official muddling of the Lekki massacre
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on the morning of October 21, repudiated any record of fatality at the Lekki shooting during a live broadcast: “Three of the injured protesters have been discharged, while some are in the hospital. There is no record of any fatalities.”
The governor, later that day, recanted the no-fatality stance by admitting that “a life was lost at Reddington Hospital due to blunt force trauma to the head,” which he described as “an isolated case.”
But this runs contrary to investigations by Amnesty International which states that “the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters,” in both Lekki and Alausa, Lagos sites of the EndSARS mass action.
Sanwo-Olu also disowned ownership over the deployment of soldiers to Lekki, stating that “no governor controls the rules of engagement of the army.”
But the governor is not alone in this official muddling of the narrative about the Lekki killings.
The Nigerian Army, which through their verified Twitter handle has branded screenshots of news reports from foreign media as “fake news” coming from Reuters, New York Times, Globe & Mail, France24, and numerous local media like ThisDay, Vanguard, Nairametrics.
The Lagos State government (LSG) and the Nigerian Army (NA) have been on a denial spree without giving any account of what actually transpired on the night of October 20.
The truth about the Lekki mass shooting
Protesters at the #EndSARS protest in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Kaizenify, October 13, 2020. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The tons of multimedia evidence from protesters totally negate the spin by the LSG and the NA.
This first-hand report [gory video, viewers discretion advised] shows how one of the Lekki #EndSARS protesters had to feign death to fend off a soldier’s physical attacks on October 20. This heart-wrenching video captures a protester breaking with emotion as he sings the Nigerian national anthem, while gunfire pops in the background.
But protesters were not the only ones with testimonies of what transpired in Lekki on that Black Tuesday.
Journalist Fanny Facsar, DW News’ Africa correspondent and head of West Africa Bureau, was one of those who “made it out from Lekki tollgate alive” after the shootings.
Reporting about one of the most brutal nights since the #endSARS protests have begun two weeks ago. We got out safe – many others did not. Nigerians are calling it #blackTuesdayNigeria and #LekkiGenocide. Follow our coverage @dwnews pic.twitter.com/oGp9QMgiM2
— Fanny Facsar (@FannyFacsar) October 21, 2020
Facsar confirms in the above video that the Lekki toll gate was invaded by “people dressed in camouflage, gunmen, unclear whether they were the military or what kind of Nigerian security forces,” and released live ammunition on protesters. Facsar and her team “found a way to hunker down” and from their position, “lying down for at least an hour,” they were able to “witness what was going on around [them.] …There was chaos, there was panic, it was a huge mess,” Facsar said.
Additionally, journalists and human rights group have conducted independent verification of protesters’ claims. Their findings equally debunk the claims by both LSG and NA.
Investigations by Amnesty International from evidence collected “from eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports” asserts that “between 6:45 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. [WAT] on Tuesday, 20 October, the Nigerian military opened fire” on peaceful and unarmed protesters.
Investigations by the BBC, confirmed eyewitness account, that men dressed in military camouflage opened fire on protesters in Lagos, Nigeria at around 6:45 p.m. WAT Tuesday evening of October 20:
They started firing at we [us], the peaceful protesters, it was chaos. Somebody got hit straight beside me, and he died on the spot. They kept on shooting and shooting at us and it lasted for an hour and half. The Nigerian Army actually put barricades at both sides. Medical services couldn’t get to people. And the soldiers were actually picking up the dead bodies…
CNN spoke to eyewitnesses “from the scene of the shootings” who confirmed that “the protesters were barricaded on both sides of the toll gate and fired on.”
Video verified by Reuters on October 21, showed armed police in the Yaba area of Lagos, kicking a man as he lay on the ground. One officer fired into his back and dragged his limp body down the street.
Nigerians are not fooled by government-backed falsehoods
Protesters at the #EndSARS protest in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Kaizenify October 13, 2020, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Nigerian netizens have been speaking up in face of the false spin and the effort to change the narrative about the killings.
Samuel Otigba, a Twitter user said that the whole ploy is to make the incident look “like a tall tale” with “zero soldiers, zero deaths”:
This 3 days curfew is strategic; project Clean Up. They are using the best PR company to do damage control rn. By the end of the curfew, our parents/older Nigerians would think we exaggerated this whole Lekki Massacre & it would sound like a tall tale. Zero soldiers, zero deaths.
— Samuel Otigba (@SamuelOtigba) October 21, 2020
This will be achieved by a government-sponsored social media “troll army” churning out propaganda to discredit the movement, asserts Ayobami:
The Government has a troll army, social media handles they can use for propaganda anytime. The troll army is now sharing fake images so that their influencers can then call them out as Fake news and attempt to discredit the entire movement.
— Ayobami Ayobami (@dondekojo) October 22, 2020
This has been the norm for Nigerian governments, to deny every incident by “querying eyewitness accounts, muddying the waters of the narrative”, Dr. Ike Anya opines:
To those of us old enough to remember June 12 ’93 & aftermath, the tactics being deployed in Nigeria now are familiar. Querying eye witness accounts, muddying the waters of the narrative, briefing of global media, subtle & not so subtle ethnicity nudges, good cop,bad cop routine
— Ike Anya (@ikeanya) October 22, 2020
Young Nigerians, Moverick states, are now experiencing the same “horrors that their parents dealt with” while pushing back military dictatorship:
Finally, this generation have an idea of the horrors that their parents dealt with. Even with cameraphones and Internet, see the brutality, denials, and erasure that is happening. That’s why you think your parents were cowards. May your children be kinder. #EndSARS #EndSarsNow
— Moverick (@moverick) October 22, 2020
Film producer Editi Effiòng tweeted that the Nigerian government had no intentions to grant any of the protesters’ demands, despite their initial promises to do so:
The amount of disinformation being attempted this morning can only tell us one thing – the government never planned to meet any demands and the young people were correct to not trust them.
— Editi Effiòng (@EditiEffiong) October 22, 2020
“We leave you to your conscience and law of humanity,” says Dupe Killa:
To the people pushing the sick narrative that the #LekkiMassacre did not happen, we leave you to your conscience and law of humanity.
However, the Govt has no hiding place. They HAVE TO give an official position on what happened to #EndSARS protesters on #blacktuesday
— DK (@dupekilla) October 22, 2020
As Alexander Onukwue asserts in TechCabal, while the establishment consistently alleges that “everybody is lying,” they are not “interested in volunteering the truth.” In order to cover their tracks, these state institutions seem to have “kicked off an operation against misinformation on social media across Nigeria,” says Onukwue.