More than a week after suspected soldiers fired shots at a crowd of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate plaza in Lagos on October 20, 2020, it is unfortunate truth has remained the victim of buck-passing, deliberate distortions and contradictions. As authorities engage in denials and repudiation ostensibly to stave off censure from global community, the conspiracy of silence on the actual number of fatalities on account of the incident has assumed disturbing dimension.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in an interview with the CNN on Monday, October 26, 2020 affirmed the authenticity of the footage of videos showing soldiers firing shots at protesters who scampered and wailed unconsciously. However, barely 24 hours after Lagos State Governor alluded to the fact that soldiers might have been responsible for the shootings, the Nigerian Army denied involvement in the shooting while however admitting it was invited by Lagos State Government to enforce 24-hour curfew imposed prior to the incident. Notwithstanding, Nigerians and the global community expect that the ghosts of “unknown soldiers” will not be reenacted to becloud the truth regarding the incident at the Lekki Tollgate.
The videos of the shootings which went viral on social media and monitored on local television stations regrettably signpost a huge indictment on the Nigerian authorities.
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It should be worrisome that echoes of the incident at Lekki have evolved as vivid metaphor for the culture of denial that has become a feature of governance in Nigeria.Considering the robust global attention which convergence of thousands of#Endsars protesters at the Lekki Tollgate elicited, one would have expected utmost caution from the authorities.
Deployment of military instead of the police was therefore evidently ill-advised and inexcusable. Whatever the case, there couldn’t be any justifiable reason for deploying soldiers to disperse a group of protesters who have demonstrated commitment to peaceful conduct much to the admiration of Nigerians and global community. More so, declaration of 24-hour curfew was yet to commence at the time of the shooting. There is no doubt that explanations of Government of Lagos State and the military authorities appear unconvincing enough to douse apprehension and suspicion regarding possible cover-up by the military.
Unfortunately, much of the burden of the avoidable incident at Lekki Tollgate is for the Government of Lagos State to discharge. In spite of this, there are no proofs to substantiate claims that protesters were massacred contrary to the huge numbers of deaths as initially conveyed through accounts of individuals who provided what appeared to be first hand information. As it turned out, the initial information regarding numbers of death has not only become subject of controversy but also largely unreliable and if not untenable.
Nevertheless, the onus still lies on the authorities directly or remotely linked with deployment of soldiers to come clean of allegation of cover up. It is precisely on the basis of the circumstances that surrounded the shootings by persons who, from all indications, appear to be men of Nigerian Army that we consider commitment to establishing the truth the only option open to the Federal Government.
We are concerned that the military has in recent years drawn negative attention over poor human rights records. It is unfortunate that the military is getting increasingly rebuked for highhandedness and brutality against civilian population.
It is inconceivable how the idea of getting the military involved in dispersing protesters at Lekki Tollgate became plausible when military had, days before the incident, reiterated that its Operation Crocodile Smile which curiously commenced on the same day was not intended for suppressing #EndSARS protest which was gaining momentum across the country.
We therefore wonder why the military could have been drafted to disperse protesters rather than engaging policemen whose capacities to handle such situation have never been in doubt. Unfortunately however, the consequences of such indiscretion have become too obvious and equally regrettable. More importantly, we are deeply concerned about the use of brutal force against civilian population at the Lekki Tollgate when the compelling reason for #EndSARS was anchored on the quest to end brutality and all forms of undemocratic practices in governance.
Therefore, we reiterate that unearthing the whole truth about the incident in Lekki has become expedient to reassure Nigerians that military authorities are not being unwittingly encouraged to undermine the fundamental rights of Nigerians as recognized by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Credit: Daily Independent