Lekki Massacre 2020 (Word For The Week)
The Lekki Massacre of October 20, 2020, was the federal government of Nigeria and Lagos State government’s response to the #EndSARS protest and Sọrọ sókè movement that had been ongoing in the state for about two weeks prior.
The youths being fed up with the oppression, being taken advantage of, kidnapping, robbery, and murder by the Special Anti Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force had come out to protest.
After a couple of days, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu had announced the dissolving of SARS and in the next sentence, he announced the creation of a Special Weapons And Tactics Unit.
Truly he had a right, dare I say, even duty to create a SWAT unit, but with the prevalent sentiment and palpable tension in the country, that was the most inopportune moment to make that announcement.
Protests were ongoing in most states in Southern Nigeria and a couple of state in the North. The same unit being protested against were going around arresting, robing and killing people. And just like that, you want people to get on with the fact that you have disbanded them? Just as you and the president have done four times in the last three years?
The youths continued protesting and soon enough, a list of five demands by protesters was released. This include:
1. Immediate release of all arrested protesters.
2. Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families.
3. Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of Police misconduct (within 10days).
4. In line with police act, psychological evaluation and retaining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded SARS officers before they can be redeployed.
5. Increase Police salary so that they are adequately compensated for protecting the lives and property of citizens.
The government claimed to have agreed with these and announced several panels to begin implementation.
When names of some of the prominent protesters start coming up on the said list, some of them turned down the invitation, citing being unqualified, inexperienced and in some cases, dissatisfaction with the constitution of the panel, and lack of trust in the government.
There were lots of protest going on in Lagos, but the biggest ones were at Alausa and at the Lekki Toll Gate.
When at night on Monday, October 19 2020, the former governor of Lagos State, APC chieftain and godfather of southwestern Nigeria politics, Bola Ahmed Tinubu sent a couple of tweets encouraging the government to feel free to use force in dispelling the protesters, that was the harbinger of destruction that was to come.
All through the night, condemnation for his tweets were pouring out on Twitter, and by morning, Lagos State Governor, Sanwo Olu had announced that schools be closed across the state.
Around noon that day, he also announced a curfew to begin at 4 PM in the afternoon. Immediately, the state was thrown in disarray as people began trying to get back home before the curfew begins.
The loudest of the protesters, especially those of the Feminist Coalition made repeated announcements to the protesters to disperse and reassemble when the curfew ends.
The protesters meanwhile decided to stand their ground. They were after all unarmed and would rather sit-in on the protest ground than give up their advantage and allow members of the security forces take over both protest grounds.
What is the punishment for breaking a curfew? Arrest, detainment, arraignment in court, fine for a first time offender and jail time for repeat offenders. No one in their right mind thinks death should be the punishment for breaking a curfew.
By afternoon on Tuesday, October 20 2020, some men showed up at the Lekki Toll Gate and began uninstalling the CCTV cameras. When accosted, they said they had received instructions from their “higher-ups” to do so.
Shortly after that, the street lights went off and the electronic advertising screen which also provides illumination was put off.
Immediately, the people on the protest ground began sharing their plight on Social Media. Once again, the worst people expect to happen was for the police to show up and forcibly arrest everyone.
Video clips and pictures of units of the Nigerian Army began showing up online. They were moving men and machinery across Lagos State. In previous curfews, the Nigerian Army are usually called on for enforcement, so this was nothing unusual.
When said soldiers showed up at the protest ground, the protesters began singing the Nigerian national anthem. They also waved their flags. Yet, the army opened fire on them.
Just like that the Lekki Massacre of 2020 had begun.
The army in the past would by morning deny involvement in this, but some people at the protest were live-streaming the Lekki Massacre on different social media platforms.
The most-watched of all these was the Livestream by DJ Switch, a member of the defunct music band Da Pulse, winners of Star Quest, and first winner of Nigerian X-Factor.
Over an hour before the Lekki Massacre began, Governor Sanwo Olu announced the delay of the curfew until 9 PM.
The shootings at the Lekki Massacre continued for over two hours, with the soldiers then advancing on the protesters who then had to disperse.
Different churches offered their premises as a sanctuary for the fleeing protesters to prevent them from being wantonly executed in the streets.
For over three hours that the Lekki Massacre lasted, the soldiers prevented ambulances from getting to the protesters. Claims were made that it took the intervention of a Brigadier General Francis O. Omata to get the rampaging soldiers off the streets.
I don’t know how true this is, but if this is true, then I believe that should be the first port of call for the investigative panel. He should be able to name those he took off the streets.
If not everyone, at least, their leaders.
By morning, Governor Sanwo Olu was seen visiting some of the hospitalized victims. He then claimed that the shooting was done by people beyond his control, before announcing that no one was killed at the Lekki Massacre.
If he wasn’t responsible for the shooting but saw the wounded, can he authoritatively assure us that the soldiers shot in such a way to ensure people will only be wounded and not killed?
Especially with the lights out and visibility minimal.
The response to the Lekki Massacre was mob action by angry youths around the state. Public and private property were set ablaze. Meanwhile, in Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde came out to the streets to engage with protesters. Quelling their anger and ensuring the state doesn’t descend into chaos.
And in Osun state, members of the army and air force went on the street and rather than open fire on protesters engaged them in civil discussions.
The Lekki Massacre brings to memory the Odi massacre of 1999 and Zaki Biam killings of the same year.
With all I hold dear, I pray to God that this will be the last of these incidences.
I hope Nigerians hold this hurt and anger in mind and let it influence their vote and the defence of their vote in the 2023 elections.
Before you ask, yes. This is historical, and it is also personal, and just like everything else, it is also political.