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#EndSARS: Nigerian Army dispels #Lekkishootings as ‘Fake news’ but its evidences continue to shift

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Claim: Overwhelming evidence aside, the Nigerian Army denies any role in the Lekki toll gate shootings on Tuesday, tagging all the reports as fake news and video/photo images as ‘photoshop.’ 

Available evidence appears to prove the Nigerian Army wrong.

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The #EndSARS protest in Nigeria marked its twelfth day on Tuesday, October 20, amidst reports of chaos and attacks by hoodlums that were affiliated to the protesters by the security. 

These eventualities led the Lagos State Government to declare a 24-hour curfew; however, this did not deter protesters from converging to protest in the evening hours of the what was to be the first day of the curfew, as the Lekki toll Gate was soon packed with peaceful protesters who defied the curfew to stress their point_#EndSARS. 

On this same evening, however, events turned out tragic for the protesters, when some men, kitted in the Nigerian Army gear, opened fire on them, allegedly killing several of the protesters. 

The incidence soon erupted into conversations and agitations in the Nigerian social media space with the hashtag, #LekkiMassacre. This was followed by release of video footage, pictures, and live Internet broadcast, mostly showcasing the horror and the agony resulting from the unhappy encounters between the protesters and the armed men.

Eventually, the evening was churned up with claims and trends on social media condemning what appeared to be an attack on peaceful protesters by the Nigerian Armed Forces. 

Even more,  a foremost Nigerian disk joker, popularly referred to as DJ Switch, who has been part of the protest from its onset, shared an Instagram Live broadcast showcasing injured persons, unconscious ones, and the general chaos of the moment. The live broadcast attributed the shootings to the Nigerian Armed forces. 

However, regardless of the overwhelming eyewitness report, multiple news broadcasts, and video footage shared by multiple users,  the Nigerian Army labeled the incident as fake news, while dismissing the footage and images on social media as ‘PhotoShop’. The Army disputed reports of their participation in the shooting and denied the allegations that soldiers opened fire at peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate

Photo taken on 21st October,  a day after the Lekki toll shootings. Image shows bullet holes on glass panes of the Lekki toll gate.

Still, #EndSARS protesters continued to ridicule the Nigerian Army’s stance on the incident, attracting vast recognition from prominent persons around the world condemning the Lekki shootings and calling for international intervention.  

What are the truths in these claims and counters?

The Conspicuous Contradictions

The Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, not disputing the incident at the Lekki Toll Gate, dispelled the lingering shreds of evidence a day after the Lekki shootings, claiming there were no fatalities. 

Three of the injured protesters have been discharged, while some are in the hospital. There is no record of any fatalities.” Despite his earlier claims on the issue, the Governor later the same day tweeted that “Yesterday’s events were no doubt some of the darkest gradients of our history as a State and as a people. As you are perhaps aware, I have been engaging the #EndSARS protesters since Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 October 2020 respectively.” A statement that appears to contradict the first he made.

He further explained that “There are no excuses for the unfortunate incident that took place last night, and as the Governor, I apologize for every action & inaction. I would like you to know that I am for you, I am with you, & I understand that indeed you’re not happy with the turn of events last night.” 

Switching sides, the Governor later admitted that two persons died due to the incident and confirmed that more than 20 persons were also injured as a result of the Lekki shooting.

Concerning the Nigerian Army’s involvement, the Governor clarified that he has no direct control over them but only the President does. Mr. Sanwo-Olu pledged to set up a committee to conduct an investigation in line with the Nigerian Army’s Rule of Engagement over the Lekki toll gate shootings.  

For clarity, it is imperative to explain that no governor controls the rules of engagement of the army. I have nevertheless instructed an investigation into the ordered and the adopted rules of engagement employed by the men of the Nigerian Army deployed to the Lekki Toll Gate.,” the Governor later tweeted, in what appears to be fingers pointing at the Nigerian Army.

Popular views opposed the Army’s standpoint

Irrespective of the Nigerian Army’s standpoint, prominent personalities such as the U.S former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the current one, Mike Pompeo, have both condemned the use of force by Nigeria’s military forces against unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate.

Also, multiple videos shared on social media by users correlate with the location and suggest the presence of the Nigerian Army and how they shot at the peaceful protesters. In one of the early footages,  soldiers were seen approaching protesters and shooting.

Media narratives that have suggested soldiers even shot at the scene claimed the guns were pointed up and not directly at protesters, hinting that the shots were to scare off protesters.

In the sequence of events, more videos emerged depicting injured protesters, some unconscious, others gasping for help while being carted away by fellow protesters at the Lekki toll gate.

In the sequence of events, more videos emerged depicting injured protesters, some unconscious, others gasping for help while being carted away by fellow protesters at the Lekki toll gate. 

In subsequent videos, the Lekki tollgate was visibly ablaze.   Several prominent media outlets like Ajazeera, CNN, BCC, AriseTv, etc, reported on the Lekki shooting, all referencing the conduct of the Nigerian Army. Even though President Muhammadu Buhari eventually said nothing about the Lekki shootings in his speech and remains mute concerning the issue, Amnesty International confirmed it was in possession of  crucial evidence pertaining to the Lekki shootings; affirming that they’ve confirmed at least 12 killings of protesters with 10 directly related to the Lekki toll gate shootings. 

The Lekki toll gate shootings

Since the onset of the protest, the Lekki toll gate has served as a convergence point for the #EndSARS protesters. Located in the middle-class area of Lagos metropolis, the toll gate has an open space where cars usually assemble. Several events like candlelight remembrance for the victims of police brutality, music concerts, and even performances by popular celebrities were held by the protesters at the venue. Protesters erected tents, made shelters, provided food, cleaned the environment, and organized testimonial sessions at the Lekki toll gate.

It was in this atmosphere of usual serenity and stability, that the protesters, caught between the singing of the national anthem, were alleged to have been shot at by the Nigerian Army. Several claims on social media affirmed the killing to have been premeditated by the Government.  Hours before the incident, a Twitter user @Da_Rapstaman shared what appeared to be an early warning. The tweet notified that “Guys please I don’t know how to verify these men, dem just come the lekki toll gate and cut off the security cameras. Saying they are from the government, hmm.” The men in the photo, who were alleged to be government staff, are confirmed to be a staff of the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), saddled with the supervision of the toll gate on the city’s behalf.

These images were confirmed to have been taken the same day the incident occurred. Social media users circulated the photo, referring to the disposal of the cameras as part of the Nigerian Government’s plan to carry out evil against the Lekki protesters. 

Verification

According to Amnesty International, the shootings were carried out by the Nigerian Army at around 6:45 Local time. DUBAWA traced multiple videos on social media that depicted the Lekki shootings and the Nigerian Army’s involvement at exactly the same time.

Google Satellite view of the Lekki Tollgate

One of the videos earlier shared showed the military approaching the tollgate in their vans towards where the protesters assembled.

 

The same structure during the day, located on the same road leading to the Tollgate

The video was wild with sounds of gunshots as the army approached the toll gate. Eyewitnesses say the road has been deserted after protesters took hold of the tollgate. So when the incoming military convoy approached the Lekki toll gate, protesters easily took notice of it. 

Another video verified by Dubawa shows protesters telling each other to sit down as soldiers approached. Just immediately, the protesters were heard saying ‘we are not leaving,’  announcing that ‘soldiers have started shooting.’  Soon after, the footage came to an abrupt end. The video footage was confirmed by DUBAWA to have been covered at Lekki toll gate at exactly the alleged time of the incident; 6:45 PM local time. One scene in the video shows protesters seated down at the Lekki toll gate with shreds of voices in the background alerting protesters that the Army is approaching,  imploring the protesters to sit down.

A scene from the video, showing an angle of the  Lekki toll gate with protesters 

Google map images, showing the same angle as of the one in the video

Soon afterward, another video showed soldiers shooting at protesters at the Lekki toll gate. The analysis of the footage shows members of the Nigerian Army in their full military gear firing gunshots at the protesters before them. DUBAWA analyzed the video on the InVid video verification tool and results show the video to have appeared over a thousand times on Twitter alone at almost the exact time, while no copy was identified to have appeared later than Tuesday, 10th October 2020 at 6:45 PM. The video was void of any doctoring and taken with a mobile device.

An analysis of some clips from the video shows members of the Nigerian Army actively engaged with the protesters at the Lekki toll gate and later began firing gunshots at the protesters.

Image 1: shows soldiers approach protesters in full Nigerian Army gear; black boots, green beret and army green camouflage kit.

A Nigerian army officer armed with a rifle approaches protesters at the Lekki toll gate

A typical Nigerian army gear; black boots, green beret, and army green camouflage uniform. photo credit: Yabaleftonline.ng

Image 2: the scene shows two Nigerian Army officers facing protesters at close range.

Nigerian army officers in front of protesters as the Lekki toll gate

Image 3: depicting a Nigerian army officer with what appears to be like the Nigerian Army shoulder pad; red black red. 

Nigerian Army shoulder pad, similar to the one on the soldier in image 3

Another video confirmed by DUBAWA shows Soldiers on standby at the Lekki toll gate,  while protesters cart away  what  appears to be bleeding corpses of protesters. The video which was analyzed on InVid was neither doctored nor edited, taken with a mobile device at around 7:15 PM local time, the same day and around the time of the  Lekki toll gate shootings. In the background, protesters could be heard yelling “how many people soldiers want to kill today?”  

Image 4: depicts protesters carry an apparently injured or dead protester to another location with soldiers on sight.

Protesters carry injured/dead protester to another location in sight of the unlooking soldiers at the Lekki Toll gate

Multiple images at the Lekki Tollgate show the army present at the scene

Though the Nigerian Army has denied all allegations of the Lekki toll gate, shreds of open-source evidence suggests the contrary. With regards to the protest, there are other instances where the narrative of the army appears to shift.

On one instance, when one Nigerian soldier behind a mask said on social media about #EndSARS that “the fight civilians are fighting is our fight,” the Nigerian army quickly tagged him as a ‘fake soldier.’

However, just 24 hours later the Nigerian Army came out to say that the hooded soldier whom they tagged ‘fake soldier’ has been ‘identified’ as Lance Corporal Harrison Friday of the Nigeria Army.

The Lekki shootings aftermath

After the Lekki shootings, most hospitals reported having treated or are still treating injured patients from the shootings. Individuals last seen at the protest ground at Lekki toll gate were reported missing. A call-out by a user on Twitter to report missing persons from the shootings saw several reports on missing persons.

 

A user on Twitter recently shared a video of a corpse he found around the Lekki toll gate, two days after the shootings. The author of the tweet claimed that the corpse was around the scene of the Lekki toll gate shootings. As the video pans, the author presents the dead body that seemed to have been lying there for days bleeding from injury.

Photo of the dead body found by the author. Apparently died days ago from bleeding

Clip of the author from the footage, ostensibly standing on the bridge and behind him the ‘Elim  Motor’

Google maps image of the Elim Motors  taken from the bridge

Google satellite view of the area, showing the distance between where the corpse was found and the area where the Lekki toll gate shooting took place

There are several reports of missing persons, and though there are no sufficient facts to prove so, several eyewitnesses have claimed that the military took with them the dead bodies from the Lekki gate shooting. Most of these missing persons are attributed to the Lekki toll gate event where they were last seen. 

Conclusion

Although the army has tagged the Lekki Shootings as ‘fake news’ and has even denied that it has ever occurred, several facts show otherwise. Analyses of several reports, pictures, and video footages show that the Nigerian soldiers were present at the Lekki toll gate and indeed shot at protesters. 

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