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Lekki Shootings: Amnesty International says it has credible evidence soldiers killed protesters

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AMNESTY International, human rights advocacy group says it has received ‘credible but disturbing evidence’ that security forces of the government killed peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate area of Lagos on October 20. 

“The Nigerian authorities’ must end their attempts to cover up the Lekki Toll Gate massacre, Amnesty International said, as it released a new timeline investigating the atrocity one week later,” Amnesty International said in a new investigative timeline released on Wednesday.

“The timeline – available here – collates photographs and video footage to confirm that Nigerian Army vehicles left Bonny Camp, a military base approximately a seven-minute drive from the toll gate, at 6.29 pm local time on 20 October.”

Footage then tracks the vehicles to the toll gate. At approximately 6.45pm, the Nigerian military opened fire on the #EndSars protesters who were peacefully calling for an end to police brutality.

Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International said, “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?

Ojigho said 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.

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According to her, many people are still missing since the day of the incident, adding that credible evidence shows that the military prevented ambulances from reaching the severely injured in the aftermath.

Amnesty International, she said 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.

The organization is still investigating the shooting, and the reported removal of bodies of those killed by the military in an attempt to remove evidence, Ojigho said.

Tracking the military’s movements

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 6.29pm 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 head 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.

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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.

Amnesty International said it has been monitoring developments across Nigeria since the #EndSars protest began on 8 October 2020.

Nigerians have been taking to the streets, peacefully demanding an end to police brutality, extrajudicial executions and extortion by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police tasked with fighting violent crimes.

At least 56 people have died across the country since protests began. In multiple cases, the security forces have used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.

On its Twitter handle on Wednesday, the “Amnesty International said has received credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos.

“While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury,” the group shared on its Twitter page.

Seun Durojaiye is a journalist with International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

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