By Olayinka Oyegbile
The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them – Elena Gorokhova
(Lies and the Hail of Bullets #ENDSARS The Story of Lekki Shootings by Survivors, CAPPA, 2021)
Tuesday, October 20, 2020, is a day Nigerians, especially the youths, would never forget. It was a day the efforts of the youths to challenge the world of police brutalities against them was violently suppressed by the government. A week or so earlier, the youths around the country had massed themselves up to protest against police profiling of them as criminals and fraudsters.
The arm of the police known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) had over the years been turned into an extortion group of the force which goes out to target young Nigerians who are deemed as successful or dressing in a manner the members of the squad consider unconventional. This was done at the whims and caprices of the officer concerned. Many youths have been unjustly arrested and detained because they wear dreadlocks or driving cars that the officers consider too flamboyant for their age! Many others are simply arrested on trumped up charges or based on idle suspicion. The SARS officials got so notorious that even their counterparts in the force were known to be wary of them or sometimes lobby to the posted there because they know they use extra judicial means to extort money from innocent youths.
It was part of these grivances and trying to find a way to curb these excesses that made the youths to file out against them in October 2020. The SARS was set up in the 80s by the federal governmnt to combat the then growing urban robbery that was making life difficult for the citizenry. However, over the years they abandoned their core duty of fighting arm robbery and decided to unjustly profile the youths and turn themselves to little terror for the general populace.
Their protest which has become a metaphor for standing up to injustice was unfortunately met with strong arms tactics on October 20, 2020 when armed military men were deployed to Lekki Tollgate to disperse the protesters who had massed there for days. What happened at the tollgate has since become an albatross, sort of, on the neck of the government. The Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who had imposed a panicky curfew on the day had initially denied ever ordering military men to go to the site of the protest to dislodge the protesting youths. But later came out to say the “the order came from above.” He is yet to disclose where the “above” is.
A year after this event, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), has come out to document the event and perhaps put a lie to the official government denials that no one died or was shot on that fateful October 20, 2020!
In a publication titled: Lies and the Hail of Bullets: #ENDSARS The Story of Lekki Shootings by Survivors, CAPPA has been able to put faces and names to the victims of the kilings which government had all along tried to cover-up and describe as figments of the imagination of propagandists. In the little but powerful 53 page book, CAPPA has gone behind the scenes and beyond the cacophony of government which mounted both national and international campaign to deny that it ever happened. It should be remembered that it was the fallout of the effective use of Twitter during the protests and other social media platforms that prompted the government to quickly and in a panic move ban the use of Twitter in the country.
CAPPA in compiling the voices and pictures of the victims has documented for posterity the faces of those who suffered in the hands of the military for their legitimate protest and calling attention to the arm twisting tactics of a supposed law enforcement agency.
Victims such as Ajumobi Olajide in his testimony said the military “came to kill not to scare protesters away.” According to him “I heard in the news that government denied shooting at anyone and that it was rubber bullets that were shot. Is it rubber bullet that broke my bone?…But one thing that is certain on that fateful day was that, they (the military) came to kill all of us. No, they didn’t come there that night to scare us away because, what about people that had dropped dead before I was hit by the bullet?” (p22).
Mother of another victim Mrs Ayedungbe Olufunmi, who is calling for justice for her dead son in her heart wrenching testimony said her son was shot in the head! On her part, Dabira Oluwa who was at the epicentre of the protest with DJ Switch who beamed the military assault to the world live on social media said, “At about 6:45pm or thereabout, someone came to the stage and told us that the army are on their way because we started hearing gunshot from afar and I turned down on the stage. I was the lady in shorts with DJ Switch by my side. We started hearing gunshots from Sandfill junction and it was loud and alarming. Looking from the stage I could see from afar because it was tall. And I could see people pushing the barricade to prevent them from coming towards our direction but because of the level of shootings: they were shooting up and shooting at the people at the same time. People started running back and falling at that point and at that juncture we knew it was beyond child’s play.” P25). With such gut wrenching testimonies of the atrocities that took place on that fateful day now documented in a book format and video recordings, the lie has been put on government’s attempt to cover this up.
Speaking at the presentation of the book to the public a year after, Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director of CAPPA, called for justice for the families of the victims and survivors saying it would be unfair to deny them justice for standing up to fight for their rights under a supposedly democratic dispensation!
But who will listen to the people’s cry for justice or ensure a redress?