WARNING!!! Graphic Images in article!
It’s been almost one month since the #LekkiTollGateMassacre and no one has been held responsible for the deaths of the peaceful protesters who died while trying to fight for their right and their country. Its been almost a month since properties, lives, families and businesses have been disrupted and destroyed. It’s been almost a month since the state and federal government have denied and undermined these fallen heroes with false stories and over dramatized public displays. Both digital and print media have slowly eased tales of how these heroes lost their live and their dreams to a systemically brutal government. However, families are still looking for the remains of their loved ones to no avail.
“The person told me that the police took his body away,” Ibanga, 24, told CNN.
An eyewitness to Victor Sunday Ibanga’s death told CNN the 27-year-old entrepreneur was shot in the head during the protest. The Ibangas are one of several families yet to locate the bodies of their missing loved ones — protestors at the toll gate — who dozens of eyewitnesses say were shot at, first by members of the Nigerian army and then hours later by police. Eyewitnesses reported that they saw the army remove a number of bodies from the scene.
Here are 12 things we learned from the reports from CNN which have recently come to light after a few investigations.
- The protesters who were present have told CNN it was a “massacre” with multiple people killed and dozens wounded. But local authorities have downplayed that account.
- Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, admitted to CNN that footage showed uniformed soldiers firing on peaceful protesters but claimed only two demonstrators were killed. But, he then said there was “not a scratch of blood” at the toll gate when he visited. The governor said no families had approached authorities saying they were missing relatives.
- In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the army denied any involvement, describing reports of the incident as “fake news,” before backtracking and saying that soldiers were present but fired their weapons in the air and used blanks, not live rounds. CNN’s calls to the Nigerian army have not been returned. But on November 14, during a judicial inquiry into the shooting, army representative Brigadier Ahmed Taiwo said, “There’s no way officers and men will kill their brothers and sisters. I repeat no way. We have those who constantly seek to drive a wedge between us and between the citizens of Nigeria…”
- Evidence of bullet casings from the scene match those used by the Nigerian army when shooting live rounds, according to current and former Nigerian military officials. Verified video footage — using timestamps and data from the video files — shows soldiers who appear to be shooting in the direction of protesters. And accounts from eyewitnesses establish that after the army withdrew, a second round of shooting happened later in the evening.
- Peace Okon, 24, hasn’t seen her younger brother Wisdom, 18, since he went to the protest the night of the shooting. “He just came back from work on that Tuesday, ate his food and went there,” Okon told CNN. She started worrying when he didn’t arrive home that night. By the next morning, Okon was out searching for him. “I’ve gone to hospitals, I’ve gone to police stations, I’ve gone to everywhere. I can’t find him,” she said.
- About 10 days into the protests, the demonstrations were hijacked by “thugs and sponsored hoodlums” who attacked protesters, causing deaths and injuries, according to Amnesty International Nigeria. In response, on October 20, hours before the shooting, Governor Sanwo-Olu imposed a strict curfew starting at 4 p.m. following looting and vandalism in other parts of the state. It was later moved to 9 p.m. to allow commuters to get home. The timeline for when the curfew was imposed has become a point of contention between the Governor and the military. The army said their soldiers were unaware of the change to the later time, according to the army spokesperson’s testimony to the eight-person judicial panel on November 14.
- Several eyewitnesses have fled the country, while others are living in safe houses. Some told CNN they were offered money to recant their initial testimonies. CNN has seen some of the messages received, though it is unclear who is sending them. “We’re hiding because our lives are in danger,” an eyewitness named Sarah told CNN. “We can’t go out, our jobs are on hold right now, and it’s really sad because we did nothing wrong.”
- DJ Switch, a local musician whose real name is Obianuju Catherine Udeh, was streaming live on Instagram when it all happened and the shooting began. The shooting started almost immediately, with no warning given. Panic ensued as protesters attempted to flee. “There was a guy that was running, and he just… he fell, and we looked at him. He was shot in the back,” DJ Switch, 29, told CNN, as she tried to talk during an interview while crying.
- In several of the videos, reviewed and verified by CNN, some of the protesters can be seen carrying bodies, the flashlights on their phones the only thing illuminating the darkness as the sound of ambulance sirens wail in the background. It is not known whether these were dead or injured protesters. A video filmed at 8:49 p.m., according to metadata, shows ambulance workers in a van at the scene saying they are unable to get through.
- CNN has examined bullet casings found at the scene and confirmed with current and former Nigerian military sources that the bullet casings match those used by the army. Two ballistics experts have also confirmed with CNN that the shape of the bullet casings indicate they used live rounds, which contradicts the army’s claim they fired blanks. The bullets were manufactured in Serbia in 2005, and is currently in use by the Nigerian army.
- Legend, who survived, told CNN his father was a police officer and that he recognized the SARS uniform. About 200 protesters remained at the toll gate when witnesses say police and SARS arrived, he added. “I couldn’t count how many dead because I was running for my life,” Legend said. “If I stood my ground five more seconds, I would be dead.” – While CNN has not been able to independently verify that SARS members were present, multiple eyewitnesses said they saw police officers, accompanied by officers from the unit, at the scene after the army left.
- The country’s central bank has obtained a 90-day court order freezing the accounts of those who took part in the demonstrations, according to media reports, while a journalist who covered the protests was arrested and detained for five days before being freed on bail. Many feel they are being scapegoated for taking part in peaceful protests -wrongly blamed for the looting — and fear has descended on the movement since the shooting.
Testimony from dozens of eyewitnesses and family members interviewed by CNN and a forensic examination of hours of video and dozens of photographs captured before, during and after the two shooting incidents show how a fledgling protest movement was all but extinguished by the very thing Nigerians were demonstrating against.
“All we did was ask for change.”
Read the full report by CNN Here