NIGERIANS were shocked on October 20, after soldiers opened fire on unarmed #ENDSARS protesters who were protesting peacefully against police brutality at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos State.
The protesters had been at the Lekki toll gate for two weeks prior to the shooting by the Nigerian Army, protesting the extra-judicial killings and unlawful arrests perpetrated by the notorious police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
Several videos circulating on social media including a live stream Instagram video revealed that men dressed in Army fatigues had shot at the unarmed protesters and soldiers were also seen barricading the protest site before the shooting started.
On October 21, the Nigerian Army in responding to media reports on the Lekki shootings via its official Twiter handle @HQNigerianArmy claimed the reports on soldiers shooting the unarmed protesters were false and none of its men was present at the scene.
Fake News!!! pic.twitter.com/4c1LHhRD7s
— Nigerian Army (@HQNigerianArmy) October 20, 2020
Seven days later, Major Osoba Olaniyi, Acting Deputy Director, 81 Division Army Public Relations, reversed the military’s initial position in a press statement, saying soldiers had been deployed to Lekki’s toll gate to enforce curfew announced by the Lagos State Government.
However, he denied that the troops deployed to the scene had shot at the protesters.
“The intervention of the military followed all laid down procedures for Internal Security operations and all the soldiers involved acted within the confines of the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for Internal Security operations.
“At no time did soldiers of the Nigerian army open fire on any civilian,” Olaniyi said in his statement.
The military’s statement came shortly before Amnesty International, AI, revealed that its investigation had tracked army vehicles from their Lagos barracks to Lekki Toll Gate using photographs and verified videos of the soldiers’ movements that had been posted on social media.
On October 24, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State governor said security camera footage obtained from the scene confirmed Nigerian soldiers firing at the peaceful protesters at Lekki plaza, prior to the army’s admission of its presence at the scene.
Despite, the global outrage that followed the shooting of #ENDSARS protesters at the Lekki toll gate the Nigerian Army has consistently denied culpability in the death of at least 10 protesters according to Amnesty International who were shot with live ammunition on October 20.
The ICIR chronicles major issues the Nigerian Army led by General Tukur Buratai have lied about to the Nigerian public from 2015 to date, despite damning evidence confronting their claims.
Was Abubakar Shekau ever dead?
On August 2016, the Nigerian Army announced that the Air force had killed a number of senior Boko Haram militants, including the terrorist group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.
Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, the Army’s spokesperson at the time said in a statement that “their leader, so-called ‘Abubakar Shekau,’ is believed to be fatally wounded on his shoulders.”
BREAKING NEWS: NIGERIAN AIR FORCE RAID KILLS BOKO HARAM TERRORISTS COMMANDERS… “ABUBAKAR SHEKAU” FATALLY WOUNDED!
— Nigerian Army (@HQNigerianArmy) August 23, 2016
Barely, a month later the wanted leader of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram released a video message refuting the claim by the military that he was killed or badly wounded in an airstrike.
“Oh tyrants, I’m in a happy state, in good health and in safety,” Shekau announced in the 40-minute video posted to YouTube.
The Nigerian Army did not respond to the video or make any statement regarding their earlier claim that he was “fatally wounded”.
The statement follows a trail of similar assertions made by the Nigerian military about the Boko Haram leader in the past that were either false, misleading or lacked evidence.
In June 2013, Colonel Sagir Musa spokesperson of the Joint Task Force (JTF) elite fighting troops against insurgents in North East revealed that Shekau had been killed in a gun battle with JTF troops in one of their camps at Sambisa Forest on 30 June 2013.
“It is greatly believed that Shekau might have died between 25 July and 3 August 2013. “Shekau was mortally wounded in the encounter and was sneaked into Amitchide – a border community in Cameroon for treatment which he never recovered,” he said.
He said the top militant died of a gunshot wound received in an encounter with the JTF troops in one of their camps at Sambisa Forest on 30 June 2013.
“Shekau was mortally wounded in the encounter and was sneaked into Amitchide – a border community in Cameroon for treatment which he never recovered,” he said.
Chris Olukolade, Defence spokesperson at the time announced to journalists in September 2014 that the Nigerian army had killed a man posing as Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, at the press briefing he also confirmed the death of Shekau.
To substantiate its claims, the Nigerian military showed an amateur video recording of the fighting in Konduga in which bodies were scattered across the streets.
Shi’ites killings cover-up
Between October 27 and October 29, 2018, the Nigerian Army admitted to killing six members of the Islamic sect, Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, also known as Shi’ites during a protest march by the group at the outskirts of Abuja.
The Nigerian army said the protesting Shiite members were armed with stones and petrol bombs which they used to attack soldiers.
The military said the soldiers had used live ammunition after being provoked by the protesters, who blocked the road, hurled stones at them and tried to steal military equipment in an attack that left ten soldiers injured.
Contradicting the claims of the army, the New York Times investigation revealed that video evidence obtained from the scene of the shootings showed that the soldiers shot at civilians who were fleeing the scene.
“A close review of video from the largest and most deadly of the protests, as well as interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, clearly shows the military opening fire on unarmed demonstrators, sometimes shooting indiscriminately into the crowd at close range as people turned and tried to flee.
“Photos and videos recorded that day show at least 26 bodies. The group said it had collected a total of 49 bodies during the four days of protests,” the report stated.
According to New York Times, some of the corpses had bullet wounds at the back, indicating that they were shot while fleeing.
“After soldiers began to fire, they targeted protesters fleeing the chaos. Many of the injured were shot in the back or legs,” the report said.
IPOB massacre denial
On November 2016, Amnesty International released a report titled “Bullets Were Raining Everywhere”: Deadly Repression of Pro-Biafra Activists, which was based on the analysis of 87 videos, 122 photographs and 146 eye witness testimonies that the Nigerian Army had fired live ammunition to disperse Pro – Biafra protesters.
At least 60 members of the proscribed group, Indigenous People of the Biafra, IPOB were shot dead within two days as they prepared for the Biafra Remembrance Day which is held on May 30.
The report showed that stated that as over 1,000 members of the group gathered for a rally in Onitsha, Anambra State, before the Nigerian Army attacked their homes and a church where they were sleeping.
According to AI, the military took the bodies of people killed and injured in Onitsha and Asaba to the military barracks in Onitsha. Video footage also shows soldiers loading dead and wounded people into their Hilux van.
Sani Usman, a colonel, then acting director of the Nigerian army public relations, in a statement said that IPOB members savoured the use of violence that threatens the security of the country.
“The evidence of MASSOB/IPOB violent secessionist agitations is widely known across the national and international domains. During the protests More than five personnel of the Nigeria Police were killed, while several soldiers were wounded.
“Regardless, these acts of violence and disorder did not justify the level of force used against the whole assembly the military and other security agencies exercised maximum restraints despite the flurry of provocative and unjustifiable violence,” he said.
However, there was no evidence that was provided by the military on the soldiers wounded or policemen killed during the protests organised by IPOB members.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.