Amnesty International urges government to get justice for those affected in Lekki shooting

*The human rights organisation states 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 situation was fast degenerating into anarchy. It was at this point that the LASG (Lagos State Government) requested the military to intervene in order to restore normalcy ─Major Osoba Olaniyi, Acting Deputy Director, 81 Division Army Public Relations

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Sequel to its release of details of the timeline of events from when the anti-Police (#EndSARS) protests which started in the country Tuesday, October 20, 2020, Amnesty International has implored the Federal Government of Nigeria to not cover up the shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate but get justice for those involved.

ConsumerConnect reports the human rights group, in its current report Wednesday, released details of the timeline of events from when the protests started on October 20, 2020.

The rights group said: “Amnesty International is again calling on Nigerian authorities to bring to justice those behind the shooting and to protect those who are exercising their right to freedom of assembly.

#EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, in Lagos State, before the incident   Photo: AfrigistBase

“The organisation is still investigating the shooting and the reported removal of bodies of those killed by the military in an attempt to remove evidence.”

It stated that Amnesty International had been monitoring developments across the country since the #EndSARS protest erupted in the country Thursday, October 8.

The report noted “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.”

“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?” asked the rights group.

Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International, stated: “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.”

According to the report, the group tracked the military’s movements before the incident as narrated below:

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

“Later footage shows four vehicles with flashing lights in a convoy, and they appear to be vehicles used by the Nigerian military and Police.

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

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

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

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

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

Amnesty International also said at least 56 people had died since the protests began across the country.

It noted that that in multiple cases, security forces have used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.

Based on its investigations, the protests had been peaceful until force was used, stated Amnesty International.

In the meantime, the Nigerian Army has insisted that soldiers did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate area of Lagos State.

Though the Army acknowledged that soldiers were deployed to ‘restore normalcy’ in the area, Major Osoba Olaniyi, Acting Deputy Director, 81 Division Army Public Relations, in a statement Tuesday, October 27 had described reports of a massacre by the officers as “untrue, unfounded, and aimed at causing anarchy in the country”.

The Acting Deputy Director, 81 Division, Army Public Relations disclosed that the decision to involve the military was taken by the Lagos State Government after a 24-hour curfew was imposed.

Olaniyi stated: “From the onset of the onset #EndSARS, there was no time personnel of the 81 Division, Nigerian Army Lagos, were involved.

“This was a result of the violence which led to several Police stations being burnt, policemen killed, suspects in police custody released, and weapons carted away.

“The situation was fast degenerating into anarchy. It was at this point that the LASG requested the military to intervene in order to restore normalcy.”

The response came days after the Nigerian Army had been accused of opening fire on the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate Tuesday, October 20.

The incident came hours after the state government declared a 24-hour curfew as part of efforts at stopping the violence which erupted in some parts of the state as criminal elements reportedly hijacked the protests.

Earlier, the Lagos State Government had announced that the state-wide curfew was to commence at 4:00 p.m, but later shifted to commence for 9:00 p.m., many were still seen protesting across the state.

Several peaceful and unarmed protesters were also still seen gathered in large numbers at the Lekki Toll Gate which is said to be one of the major converging points in Lagos.

The situation, nonetheless, turned awry around 7:00 p.m. when the security operatives stormed the area and started shooting sporadically.

Although videos that later surfaced online showed men in military uniform firing the gunshots, the military instantaneously deflated the allegations, describing them as “fake news”.

The state government has said that investigations are currently ongoing as a panel of judicial inquiry and restitution had already commenced sittings in the state.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, who most Nigerians believe is yet to confirm or deny the position of the Army authorities on who really gave the orders to the soldiers, however, said in an interview with CNN, that “from the footage that we could see, because there were cameras at that facility, it seemed to me that they will be men in military uniform which should be the Nigerian Army.”

Viral videos online from the scene of the shooting had shown several persons who sustained gunshot wounds, raising fears of multiple fatalities, report said.

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