Soldiers of the Nigerian Army deployed by the military hierarchy to the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020, “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” thereby committing a massacre, a judicial panel of inquiry set up by the state government has found.
The panel also found that officers of the Nigeria Police Force who were deployed to the toll gate on the night of the incident “shot at, assaulted and battered unarmed protesters, which led to injuries and deaths,” thus aiding the army in the commission of a massacre on unarmed civilians.
The findings of the panel, which was released Monday evening, put to rest repeated denials by the army, the Nigerian government and the Lagos State government that a massacre was committed by the soldiers of the 65 Battalion of the 81 Garrison Division, Bonny Camp, led by Sanusi Ovada Bello, a lieutenant colonel.
Following the unaddressed brutality, extortion, kidnapping, and credible cases of extra-judicial killings by a now-defunct police unit named Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), tens of thousands of Nigeria youth in October 2020, protested, calling for a ban of the notorious police unit and far-reaching police reform.
For days, the protests, named #ENDSARS, were largely peaceful until troops were deployed to the Lekki tollgate, the epicentre of the protests, on the request of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to disperse the protesters. On arrival at the venue of the protest, eyewitnesses, and protesters, including a popular entertainer, DJ Switch, said the soldiers opened fire directly at the protesters.
They added that soldiers abducted the bodies of many of their victims, put them in their truck and left the scene of the massacre. They also recounted how police officers, primarily from Maroko Police Station, led by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the station, Ganiyu Raji, arrived on the heels of the soldiers, shooting more protesters some of whom were killed and injured.
The judicial panel of inquiry was set up by the state government to probe complaints of extortion, kidnapping, torture, and extra-judicial killings against SARS personnel.