Exactly five months after the #EndSARS protests ended with the alleged massacre of innocent protesters by Nigerian troops at Lekki Tollgate, in Lagos, the United States government has said that such claims of killings could not be verified.
Reports by both the local and international media had insinuated that on the night of October 20, 2020 at about 6:50 p.m, members of the Nigerian Army had opened fire on peaceful #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos State.
After the incident, the Amnesty International had stated that at least 12 protesters were killed during the shootings, while other accounts in the media said the number was higher.
However, the US, in a report by the US Department of State, entitled “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria,” released on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, said it could not establish the claims of deaths, contending that “accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at the end of the year.”
It though reproduced in its report the circulated information that, “On October 20, members of the security forces enforced curfew by firing shots into the air to disperse protesters who had gathered at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos to protest abusive practices by the Nigerian Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).”
However, in the said report, the US Department of State said that, “Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end,” while noting that “Amnesty International reported 10 persons died during the event, but the government disputed Amnesty’s report, and no other organisation was able to verify the claim.”
“The government reported two deaths connected to the event. One body from the toll gate showed signs of blunt force trauma. A second body from another location in Lagos State had bullet wounds. The government acknowledged that soldiers armed with live ammunition were present at the Lekki Tollgate.
“At year’s end the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution continued to hear testimony and investigate the shooting at Lekki Tollgate,” the US Department of State said.
The United States-based Cable News Network (CNN), had published a controversial report premised on the Amnesty International report and other sources which the Federal Government faulted as untrue.
In its report, the CNN had reechoed some protesters claims that there were fatalities and killings during the shootings by the military at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20.
The Amnesty International’s claim on the killing of 12 protesters and subsequent reports of the alleged “Lekki massacre” by major media organisation confirming and reporting the said killing of 12 protesters had generated widespread controversies that even the then US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, had condemned the act, but called for an immediate investigation into the alleged killings.
He said, “We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law.”
However, in response to its protest against the CNN report which the Federal Government considered as a breach on its national security protocols, the US government had sent a delegation to Nigeria with Counselor Ulrich Brechbühl meeting with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.