Re-Who pays for the #EndSARS Massacre?

#EndSars protest

#EndSARS protest at Lekki Toll Gate

By Samuel Omojoye

Unsurprisingly, Sonala Olumhense has also added his voice to the ‘resurrected’ discourse on the #EndSars ‘Massacre’. In a piece published in the Punch of July 30, 2023, and titled, ‘Who pays for the #EndSars Massacre’, Olumhense laboured vainly to establish that some people were actually killed at the Lekki Toll Gate.

As has been done by some of his co-travellers, the writer hinged his claim on a phoney CNN report as well as a sham claim by one Obianuju Catherine Udeh, aka DJ Switch.

That Olumhense decided to anchor his defective write-up on the deceptive CNN report goes to show the extent prejudiced writers could go to misinform the public.

For one, the said CNN report that he largely based his discourse on merely underlines the falsehood that pervaded the media space in the aftermath of the #EndSars protests.

In the first instance, CNN, which touted its report as an exclusive investigative report, sadly relied on the same videos that were circulating on social media, without verification.

Were CNN reporters and cameramen at the Lekki Toll Gate that fateful evening? If the answer is no, on what basis were they reporting? Relying on second or third-hand information and presenting it as “CNN Investigation”?

Why didn’t CNN balance its story by showing the compelling testimony of Brig.-Gen. Taiwo before the Judicial Panel in Lagos? Is this one-sided reporting what is expected from an international media organization or any serious news platform?

On the other hand, the BBC’s report on the incidence sharply differs from CNN’s. A reporter with the BBC’s Pidgin Service, Damilola Banjo was at the Lekki Toll Gate protest ground that night. She was quoted as saying soldiers were indeed at the Toll Gate, but they shot “sporadically into the air’’ and not at the protesters.

CNN which had no reporter at the scene reported otherwise. How should any objective writer rely on such jaundiced report? In its cynical reporting, CNN was blind to the fact that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed in unprovoked attacks.

Also, it was blind to the wanton destruction of property in Lagos and across the country. It was equally blind to the burning of police stations and vehicles all over the country.

Instead, it went to town with unverified social media footage, in its desperation to prove that people were killed at the Lekki Toll Gate.

Interestingly, the CNN later backtracked from its earlier position that at least 38 persons were killed by the Nigerian military during the EndSARS protests at Lekki Toll Gate. In an apparent volte-face, and to save face from the embarrassment of its flawed reportage, the CNN posted a tweet of what it called a ‘Clarification’ under the previous October 23, 2020 tweet.

The Clarification stated that, “This tweet from October 23 did not attribute the death toll from protests in Nigeria to Amnesty International. The tweet also did not make it clear that the death toll was for protests across the country.”

The glaring inconsistencies in CNN reportage were not lost on Nigerians as many lambasted the News network for its ‘fake news’ on the death toll in Lekki Toll Gate.

It has since been established that there was no massacre as called by CNN and some other foreign and local news media.

In its report on the event, the United States (U.S.) Department of States says there is no verifiable evidence on the reported killings of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020. It stated this in a report entitled: ‘2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria.’

The US, in its report, stated that accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available.

The report read in part: “Although the protests were allowed to proceed unimpeded in most places, civil society observers reported the arrest of some peaceful protesters in Lagos, Osun, and Kano states on charges of “conduct likely to cause a breach of public peace.” All those arrested were released within days of their arrest.

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“In October, #EndSARS protests were staged in states across the country to demand an end to police brutality. Demonstrations were largely peaceful, but some protests turned violent after criminal elements infiltrated the protests and security forces fired at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20”.

The US Department went on with what it considered a detailed analysis of what transpired on October 20 by saying: “Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end.

On the DJ Switch’s tale, it is equally sad that a journalist of Olumhense’s status was easily swayed by the lady’s bogus claim. The said DJ Switch was one of the masterminds of the protest. She was the arrowhead of the protesters’ well-organised social media offensive. She and her team used social media to guide arsonists and looters to certain property, both public and private.

They circulated pictures of persons, including some celebrities, who were supposedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers, only for those persons to refute such claims or for the discerning to disprove such posts. One of such is Nollywood star, Eniola Badmus who took to her Instagram Page to denounce such fake tales.
Another case was that of Arogbonlo Israel, a lady allegedly killed by the Army at the Lekki Tollgate. She said the rumour of her death was a purported attack by unscrupulous elements who hid under the End SARS protest to tarnish her image.

Now, how could a supposed veteran journalist anchor his conviction on such fairytale?

The testimony of Brig.-Gen Ahmed Ibrahim Taiwo of the Nigerian Army before the EndSars Panel set up by the Lagos State Government was compelling. According to the General, soldiers were deployed all over Lagos, including Lekki Toll Gate, after the other security agencies were overwhelmed on Oct. 20th 2020, upon the request of the State government.

Before deployment, he said the soldiers were briefed on the Rules of Engagement, which they strictly adhered to. Soldiers at Lekki Toll Gate fired blank ammunition into the air. It is a known fact that blank ammunition cannot do any damage to the flesh, not to talk of killing anyone.

Firing live ammunition into the crowd, as some have alleged, would have led to mass killing, which never happened.

Sadly, the purveyors of fake news and disinformation succeeded in deceiving the world that indeed there was mass killing in Lekki, even when, to date, not a single body has been produced and not a single family or relative has come out to say their child or ward was killed at Lekki.

It is sad that Olumhense and his co-travellers refused to dwell on the police and other security agents that were maimed and gruesomely killed in the course of the protests.

Six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis. This is in addition to 196 policemen who were injured; 164 police vehicles that were destroyed and 134 police stations that were razed.

They did not see anything wrong in the public and private property that were burnt or looted, neither did they see anything wrong in the fact that some of the businesses that were looted belonged to struggling young men and women.

They also did not see anything wrong in the fact that the #EndSARS protesters defied a government curfew to regroup at the Lekki Toll Gate that fateful night.

All they could see in their biased view of the whole situation was a hoax massacre.

On a final note, the claim that soldiers and policemen massacred innocent Nigerians at Lekki on Oct. 20, 2020, is not supported by the weight of available evidence. Indictment for murder is a very serious issue that cannot be done on the basis of allegations and corroborations, as the panel did. Such allegations must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Using the term ‘massacre’, to describe the incident is nothing but an overkill. A forensic report by United Kingdom-based forensic expert, Dieye Willie-Harry, debunked claims that Nigerian soldiers shot at #EndSARS protesters with live high-velocity projectiles.

Willie-Harry’s forensic study showed that no live high-velocity projectiles were fired at the tollgate protesters on the specified day between the hours of 18.30 and 20.43 when the soldiers were on the ground.

Certainly, Olumhense and his co-travellers will have to dig deeper to come up with empirical proof that will authenticate their deceptive submission.

· Omojoye, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Plamgroove, Lagos

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