By Dooyum Ingye

“Lies have a long list of battles it may have won, but truth is the ultimate winner of wars”
-Late William Ukor

The notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria was famous for its use of torture and several other ill measures to execute, punish and extract information from suspects. As years eroded, victims of SARS officers increasingly made the news, igniting public disapproval and condemnation.

In their usual attitude, and despite promises by the Nigerian authorities to disband the oppressive security outfit, no concrete action was taken, and members of SARS intensified their culture of extortion, torture, rape, and widespread killings which targeted mostly young people.

During the -ember months of 2020, a viral video showed SARS officers executing two young men outside a hotel. This sparked protests in the coming days in various states of Nigeria; in Benue state, I amongst other youths joined the protest, demanding for an end to police brutality.

On the 11th day of October 2020, the Inspector General of Police disbanded the criminal security outfit for the 5th time, but this was not enough to satisfy protesters, as demands exceeded mere disbandment to genuine commitment to addressing general police brutality and provision of qualitative governance.

Lagos took the lead in these protests. Their collective coordination of resources for sustenance, organization (to avoid destructiveness), and unity of purpose drove their message to every part of the world, sending shivers down the spines of the ruling class.

On 20 October 2020, the Nigerian army drove to Lekki Toll gate where they fired live and empty blanks at unarmed protesters who were holding up the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthem. The Nigeria police watched in envy as young Nigerians were gunned down by another security outfit.

This ugly moments had been recorded by DJ Switch, who is now in self-exile for fear of her life. The Nigerian Police arrested hundreds of protesters and locked them up. Nationwide, the protests came to an end.

The Nigerian government had addressed the protest in their typical fashion– use of force and violence; and the protests ended on the streets, however, young Nigerians took to social media to condemn the government, who apparently ordered the “massacre”, and sanctioned the soldiers that shot at the protesters.

But that was not the end. The Muhammad Buhari regime gave banks permission to freeze accounts of Endsars protesters. Fines were levied on news agencies who broadcasted videos of the shooting. Leaders of the protest in places such as Abuja and Lagos were whisked off at night by the department of state security.

Subsequently, the famous ground for public discussion and criticism for Nigerians, Twitter, was banned indefinitely. Governor Sanwo Olu, who was definitely privy to the shootings at the Lekki Toll gate, explicitly denied that no Nigerian had been killed. And all these done in denial of the Lekki killings, and as attempts at suppressing the truth from the eyes and ears of the world.

Throughout this period, Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister for information, consistently disputed reports that protesters were killed at the tollgate. He also attacked international organizations that reported these killings by the Nigerian Army. One may even be right to argue that Lai holds a strong hatred against DJ Switch (Obianuju Catherine Udeh) who filmed the killings, because after the shooting, Lai Muhammed launched a verbal attack on DJ Switch.

Lai, in the typical Nigerian political fashion, described her as a “purveyor of fake news”, and queried her motive for saying protesters had been killed by the army. He described her accounts as being “suspicious” and vowed that she would be “exposed for who she is”. In the words of the minister:

“One of the purveyors of fake news was one DJ Switch which real name is Obianuju Catherine Udeh, even though she claimed authentic evidence of mass killings. Surprisingly, instead of presenting whatever evidence she may have, she chose to escape from the country on the claim that her life was in danger.”

Yes, DJ Switch had to run for fear of her life, and this is no lie or joke.

In Lai Mohammed’s letter to the CNN on the Lekki massacre, he wrote that “this is clearly a ploy by the CNN reporter/presenter to manipulate viewers of its ‘investigative’ report and force them to draw the reporter’s desired conclusion”. The minister even claimed that armed thugs might have invaded the tollgate to hurt the protesters, and similarly wrote to Amnesty International, whom he accused of losing credibility, asking them to produce evidence that 12 persons were killed at the tollgate.

Last month, as Nigerians remembered those who were gunned down at the tollgate, the minister described it as a “phantom massacre”, saying it is the “first massacre in the world without blood or bodies”.

And while the whole nation was up at it, the Nigerian president dismissed protesters as a group of people who wanted to stage a coup against his government. This was what President Buhari could make out of the protests, lives lost, etc.

Meanwhile, in response to the demands of youth during the #EndSARS protests, which is investigating cases of police brutality and providing restitution to the victims, the Lagos State governor, Sanwo-Olu, set up a nine-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry, led by retired judge Doris Okuwobi, to investigate cases of brutality and violations perpetrated by members of the Nigerian Police Force and the former Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.

We must note that the Nigerian Army and Police denied killing protesters at the tollgate and also refused to honour several summons despite petitions against specific Army officers. The ex-Army Chief, Buratai Tukur, whose tenure is majorly associated with this style of killings and human rights violations, failed to cooperate with the panel to respond to the petitions.

At some point, it was reported that the Army only fired blanks away from the protesters, but this was all a lie as the report (which was leaked) presented to Governor Sanwo Olu says the “Nigerian Army 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”.

In addition, the Army personnel present prevented ambulances from accessing those who were injured. More disheartening, the panel also found that after the army retreated, police officers continued the violence and tried to clean up the scene, taking bodies away in trucks, and removing bullets. This matches the accounts of survivors, independent journalists, etc.

For some of us, this is a moment of victory, consolation, and vindication for the likes of DJ Switch. For such a long time, we were constantly villified by some of our fellow country men and women for identifying with those whose lives were cut short by bullets fired from the guns of army operatives. Even at this point, some shameless persons still demand for bodies, names, dates of birth, etc of the victims.

This simply indicates the gradual erosion of our humanity. They have refused to accept the truth. They call it the #Lekkilies. I am certain that if the report presented to Governor Sanwo Olu wasn’t leaked, the APC government would have found a way of distorting it to suit their denial.

Generally, the Lekki Toll Gate massacre totally exposes the evil which rules the minds of people whom, hitherto, we considered sane and humane. What self-serving purpose their denial holds, I do not know however, the extent to which they are willing to go, in the face of overwhelming accounts and reports, and this renders me cold and alarmed.

Since the report was submitted (and leaked), the FG has been mute, especially Minister Lai Muhammad. This reports makes his position untenable, and himself, a complete fool. This truth hits them hard. Still, I am certain that the likes of Lai Muhammad are preparing a comeback aimed to discredit the report.

They tried really hard, using every extreme measure to suppress the truth but it eventually came out. Like Michael Adeosun says, “truth shall always prevail, no matter how much it may be suppressed”.

Now, it is time to move on to the next issue; identification and prosecution of those who ordered the killings!!!

(c) Dooyum Ingye, 2021