•DJ Switch, others react
By Prisca Sam-Duru
“For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad”, says the Holy Bible in Luke 8 v 17.
This Biblical truth has completely played out in the case against Nigerian government which has been denying for over a year, that protesters were not killed at the Lekki toll gate in the hands of security personnel, during the 2020 #ENDSARS protest.
For that, no one would envy the government’s situation now that issues surrounding the unwarranted shooting of peaceful protesters by the Nigerian Army and Police, have been laid bare to the entire globe by a panel set up by none else, but itself.
Recall that in October 2020 at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, Nigerian youth embarked on peaceful demonstrations that lasted for nearly two weeks, over accusations of kidnapping, harassment and extortion by the disbanded police unit- Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
In totality, the description of the mortal violence committed by the Nigeria security personnel on the night of October 20, 2020 as something that “could be considered a massacre”, according to the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry On Restitution For Victims Of SARS Related Abuses And Other Matters, contradicts previous official accounts of the regrettable incident.
“From the 8th of October 2020, the protest under hashtag #ENDSARS started in Lagos and grew into large movement at various locations in Lagos and across the country principally targeted towards drawing attention to the ubiquitous incidents of Police brutality (Culture of Impunity) and poor working conditions of Police officers”, the Panel reports.
In the Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel report titled; ‘Report of Lekki Incident Investigation Of 20th October 2020’, the Panel states that at least 48 protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullet wounds or assaulted by soldiers. The number of casualties could be more as the Panel in another section implied that there were more victims than unravelled owing to fact that people were afraid to go public.
“The Panel finds that most EndSARS protesters and victims of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of October 20, 2020 were largely unwilling to be identified in public for fear of persecution or harassment by the security agencies and the government generally. Immediately after the protest, there was palpable fear that the Army and Police were visiting hospitals to ‘finish up’ the protesters to the extent that some of them could not return home immediately. Some of the protesters received threats and some were being trailed by unknown persons”. Corroborating the Panel report on the number of casualties, one of the #ENDSARS protesters’ lawyers, Adesina Ogunlana in a national newspaper report, said “more than nine protesters were killed at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020, adding that the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS-related Abuses and Other Matters named only nine deceased because of the evidence available before them”.
Ogunlana, in the report lamented that many families and witnesses were scared to testify publicly before the panel, adding that eyewitnesses thought they could be killed if they testified.”It was hectic to get people to testify. Some thought they will be killed. Some people are regretting they didn’t come out. About five people withdrew when it was time to testify before the panel. They thought they will be hurt later”.
Surprisingly, there are still few pro-government who have refused to accept the fact that there was shooting by security officers during the #ENDSARS protest and that people died as declared by the Judicial Panel. The inclusion of names of hospitals in the panel report as well as requesting for them to be honoured should be enough to shame unrepentant doubters. “Panel commends Reddington Hospital, Vedic Life Healthcare, Grandville Trauma Centre, Doreen Hospital, National Orthopedic Hospital, Victoria Island Consultancy and Medical Services and all the medical doctors and personnel that attended to the victims of gunshot wounds from the Lekki Toll Gate and treated all of them free of charge. Panel finds that some of the victims required urgent surgeries and complicated medical procedures to save their lives and all were done free of any charges. Panel recommends them for special awards by the Lagos State and Federal Governments”.
Again, that the Panel found out that “Three (3) trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki Toll Gate in the morning of October 21st October, 2020 to clean up the scene of bloodstains and other evidence”, is another pointer to the ‘massacre’. Maintaining its position, the Panel added that “There was abundant evidence before the Panel that the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) indicated in its Twitter handle that it had effectively cleaned up the Lekki Toll Gate scene immediately after the incident of October 20, 2020”.
Going forward, the Panel’s bombshell report which accuses Nigerian Army officers of having “shot, injured and killed unarmed helpless and defenceless protesters, without provocation or justification, while they were waving the Nigerian Flag and singing the national anthem and the manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre”, shows that the Nigerian Army was not alone in the ‘massacre’. The Nigerian Police officers had their share and covered up ‘excellently’. “The Panel found that the Nigerian Police Force deployed its officers to the Lekki Toll Gate on the night of the 20th October, 2020 and between that night and the morning of the 21st of October, 2020, its officer shot at, assaulted and battered unarmed protesters, which led to injuries and deaths. The police officers also tried to cover up their actions by picking up bullets”, the report states.
”The panel also found the conduct of the Nigerian Army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances render medical assistance to victims who required such assistance. The Army was also found not to have adhered to its own Rules of Engagement.” That is the most heart-aching and unforgivable of it all. Why let them die after the shooting when there were people ready to save their lives? Were they criminals? Even criminals remain innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, so why let them die? In the first place, why invite the military to disperse peaceful protesters? The Panel’s submission in the over 300-page report condemned the invitation of the Nigerian Army to disperse the peaceful ENDSARS protesters.
“The End SARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate were defenceless members of the civil populace, youth and young adults: Both the Lagos State Government and indeed the Federal were well aware of their status, objectives and the nature of their protest; the presence of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate did not threaten the territorial integrity of Nigeria and could not be considered as a civil insurrection to warrant the intervention of the Nigerian Army”.
Following the report, there’s been massive emotional outpouring from international communities and organisations calling for prosecution of those responsible for the shooting; with many young people showing through both traditional and social media platforms, how vindicated they feel.
Reacting to Punch Newspapers’ report on the matter on Facebook, Bello Gbenga wrote; “Lai Mohammed must be forced to tender his resignation for misleading the public for his incessant denial. He is the Nigeria Information Minister paid with tax payers’ money but he now sees himself as Information Minister of Buhari administration only, they are careless about the people”.
Oge Nsimah wrote; “One thing is for the ENDSARS Panel to submit report of their investigation and verdicts another thing is for the government to enforce the law on those that committed the massacre. And until the judgement is enforced, no victory yet. We are still where we are, let’s not be carried away, this government sees everything as business as usual. Nothing matters to them except the next election. Justice needs to be served”.
Victoria Agara Okemiri wrote; “Now our Hero can come back #DJ Switch”. And speaking of Nigerian disc jockey, Obianuju Catherine Udeh popularly known as DJ Switch who was forced to flee Nigeria for fear of her life, she is truly our hero. Her ability to stream live the mayhem law enforcement agents unleashed on innocent protesters who were also fighting for a better life for them, must be highly commended.
Too bad, up till last month during the commemoration of the #ENDSARS protest, Nigeria’s Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed did not believe Switch. He actually requested that DJ Switch, CNN and Amnesty International apologised to Buhari regime for allegedly misleading the world that there was a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.
According to a report by Peoples Gazette on October 20, 2021, “The Minister reiterated that contrary to the claims by CNN, Amnesty International and the disc jockey, the military did not shoot at protesters”. Now, the table has turned! The people are demanding that an unreserved apology should be tendered to this queen of truth for disseminating facts during the demonstration, and letting the whole world know how innocent protesters where shot, killed and injured by officers paid to protect them.
Reacting also to the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry, DJ Switch tweeted, “Shattered so many lives, tried to destroy mine. Only for what you desperately tried to hide to be made public…by you! The truth needs no defence! #ENDSARS”. She also told CNN that “Tears filled my eyes. The truth needs no defence,”
On Facebook, Olumide Olowoyeye wrote; “No more toll at Lekki. Names of victims and pictures should be pasted permanently there in their memory. All those that are guilty of this act must be punished.”
Noah Popoola also wrote; “Expect nothing, it will be swept under the carpet as usual”. That’s how much Nigerians distrust their government. Must government lie?
Ben wrote; “Now the long list of the 20-10-2020 Lekki toll gate shootings/killings is out. What next for the evil spin doctors and those who enjoy playing the Devil’s advocate?”
Also reacting to the Panel Report, Cable News Network, CNN said “the panel’s report underscores and repeatedly references previous reporting by CNN, which used time stamps, video data, and geolocation last year to analyze hours of video filmed by protesters.
“CNN’s investigation found the Nigerian army fired live rounds into crowds at Lekki toll gate, killing and wounding several people. Multiple witnesses also told CNN last year that ambulances were prevented from entering the site to help wounded protesters.
“Despite an abundance of video evidence, the Nigerian government has long denied that protesters were shot. Last month, on the one-year anniversary of the shooting, Nigeria’s Minister of Information Alhaji Lai Mohammed described the incident as a “phantom massacre” and continued to dismiss CNN’s investigation as fake news”.
Akin Olaoye, who was at the frontline of the protest that night told CNN that, “The findings of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in its report defining the atrocities at the toll gate as a massacre, is a big win and leads us on a pathway to obtaining justice for many of the innocent victims, survivors and lost souls still lying in unmarked graves”.
“Serah Ibrahim, who took part in the #EndSARS protests and also gave evidence at the panel inquiry, told CNN that justice and accountability now need to follow. “I hope all the recommendations are carried out. On one part is admitting it happened, on another part is accountability,” she said.”Justice is totally incomplete without accountability,” Ibrahim added.
Vanguard News Nigeria