Lekki shooting: CNN report debunks Army’s, Sanwo-Olu’s ‘no death’ claims

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By Precious Igbonwelundu and Okodili Ndidi, Abuja

An investigation by Cable News Network (CNN) into the October 20, 2020 shooting at Lekki Tollgate has revealed that the claims by Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Nigerian Army that no one died on the scene and that live ammunition were not fired at protesters were not true.

It showed imagery of a lifeless man, identified as Victor Sunday Ibanga, said to have been hit by bullet on the head and died on the scene.

This contradicts claims by the governor that no one died at the toll plaza.

The report also showed that some of the bullet shells recovered from the scene by protesters were indeed from live ammunition of firearms purchased by the Nigerian government from Serbia between 2005 and 2016, which are being used by the Army.

The CNN investigation, which has set social media abuzz since its release on Wednesday morning, saw the deployment of forensic and geo-data techniques to give clearer explanation on the shooting that has remained controversial for weeks.

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While parts of the findings in the report, which contained graphic images of the injured and the dead, corroborated earlier accounts published by The Nation, others provided fresh insights from victims who narrated how soldiers pointed their guns at them and started shooting.

Explaining that it hid the full names of some interviewees and identifies of others for their safety, CNN said shooting by the Army lasted from 6:43 p.m to 8:24 p.m, adding that the videos analysed on the incident told a story of terror, chaos, and showed graphic injuries and people bleeding on the ground.

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CNN said: “Sometime after midnight on October 21, Elisha Sunday Ibanga answered a phone call from his older brother’s number.

“The person on the other end of the line – a stranger – broke the news that Ibanga’s brother, Victor, had been shot dead at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, Nigeria, where he had been peacefully protesting against police brutality earlier that night.

“’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.

“CNN obtained and geolocated a photograph of Victor’s body lying in a pool of blood and wrapped in the white and green of the Nigerian standard – one of the same flags gripped by fellow protesters earlier in the evening as they sang the country’s national anthem. Ibanga confirmed the photograph is of his brother.

“The body of Victor Sunday Ibanga is pictured in a pool of blood.

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“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 Army and then hours later by police. Eyewitnesses told CNN they saw the Army remove a number of bodies from the scene.

“What happened on October 20, and into the early hours of October 21, at the eight-lane Lekki tollgate – a key piece of Lagos’ road network – has stunned the country.

“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.

“Governor Sanwo-Olu admitted to CNN that footage showed uniformed soldiers firing on peaceful protesters, but claimed only two demonstrators were killed.

“He said there was ‘not a scratch of blood’ at the tollgate 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 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 enquiry into the shooting, Army representative, Brig.-Gen. 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…’”

Also, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) declined to comment on the CNN report on the shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos State.

Efforts to get the military spokesmen to react to the report were unsuccessful last night.

But a senior military officer, who spoke in confidence, told The Nation that the military could not have two opinions in one matter.

“There is a panel in Lagos State sitting on the matter and the military is represented and has presented a report. That report is the position of the military. We can’t have two opinions in one matter,” the military officer said.