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On the 20th of October 2020, #EndSARS protesters and the world were left stunned as officials of the Nigerian Army, following the directive of the current Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai. shot at unarmed Nigerians who had gathered at the Lekki Toll Plaza to demand an end to police brutality. The shooting proved to be fatal as later reports showed that numerous protesters were slain under the hail of bullets fired at them.
The #EndSARS movement was a nationwide protest against police brutality in Nigeria which called for an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a controversial unit of the Nigerian Police Force with a long record of human-rights abuses which included intimidation, extortion, kidnapping, and murder.
The protests commenced in October as a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #ENDSARS to demand for the disbandment and reformation of the police unit by the Nigerian government. Nigerians shared stories and video evidence of how members of SARS engaged in kidnapping, murder, theft, rape, torture, unlawful arrests, humiliation, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killings, and extortion in Nigeria. The protests later spread to other states in Nigeria and soon a total of 22 states in Nigeria were actively involved in the protests which consisted of mainly youths.
The efforts of the relentless EndSARS protesters soon forced President Muhammadu Buhari to announce the scrapping of the police unit (SARS). He also directed that various state Governors should constitute a Judicial Panel of Enquiry to decide on cases of killings and brutality by officers of the defunct SARS so punishment can be meted on rogue officers. The Federal Government also formed a new special unit to replace the SARS which was codenamed SWAT short for Special Weapons and Tactics Team. However, the protesters refused all entreaties to suspend the protests and nominate youth Representatives into the Judicial Panel and called the government’s bluff.
Lekki is a town in the heart of Lagos that interconnects the whole of Lagos. Majority of traffic in Lagos commute through Lekki hence the creation of the popular Toll Gate. The EndSARS Protesters, hoping that the Federal Government of Nigeria would attend to their demands as a democratically elected government, had been camping at the Lekki Toll Gate for two weeks prior to the shootings, and they prevented vehicular traffic on the major thoroughfare during these two weeks of demonstrations thereby systematically cutting off major economic activities in the state.
On that fatal evening of 20th of October 2020 the Lagos State Government announced a 24-hour curfew, CCTV cameras were allegedly removed from the toll gate at about 5:43 pm. In addition, Lagos State authorities cut the electricity off to the toll gate so that it would be dark and filmed evidence of the shooting would not emerge, the advertisement billboards at the toll gate were also turned off. It was also reported that network providers turned off the network antennas in that area as protesters who used MTN and Airtel as their network providers reported that they were unable to make phone calls or use the Internet at that time.
After the lights were switched off at the toll gate, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai ordered his soldiers who were already on standby to the scene and when they arrived, they immediately began shooting directly at the crowd. A witness stated that the shooting continued for fifteen to thirty minutes and that after the shooting he observed multiple bodies on the ground. The soldiers were said to have walked in a formation towards the protesters with trucks flashing light before they opened fire which led to the death of some of the protesters and a huge international outcry as regards the use of lethal force against the protesters. The attack has also been widely condemned around the world, with top voices like the United Nations, former President Bill Clinton and erstwhile Vice President Joe Biden demanding immediate investigations. This event also escalated into a series of violent clashes within and outside Lagos State and the complete breakdown of law and order. Houses belonging to Government officials were torched and looted, the Oba of Lagos’ place was completely ransacked by hoodlums. Warehouses belonging to the Government were plundered and other amenities such as Police Stations, Banks, and Hospitals were either destroyed or completely ransacked by hoodlums, reliably reported to have been sponsored by the Nigerian Government to disrupt the peaceful protest.
In the aftermath of the attack, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai in his usual manner of pedlling falsehood and deceiving Nigerians with long cock-tales of military exploits under his command claimed ignorance to the attacks while expressly claiming that the soldiers were not part of the Nigerian Army.
A few days later when the heat became much, he finally admitted to ordering the attacks while affirming that they were indeed Nigerian army officials which were under his command. He claimed that he was doing as he was ordered and that no lethal force was used on the protesters. He also called the bluff of Amnesty International Human Rights organisation and the International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor Fatou Bensouda last week after Nigerians at home and abroad filed complaints and pettions on his involvement in the massacre to them.
He claimed that the international community had no jurisdiction to prosecute him since he was acting under orders. In his words:
‘Detractors both local and international have mischievously and deliberately misrepresented troops’ efforts to ensure compliance with the curfew imposed by legitimate civil authorities in Lagos and other states.’
‘These agitators are falsely accusing the Nigerian Army of being responsible for the activities of the miscreants despite glaring evidence to the contrary.’
‘Criminal elements are threatening us with travel ban but we are not worried because we must remain in this country to make it better.
‘The first time I travelled outside this country, I was already 50 years and a general, so I don’t mind if I live the rest of my life here.’
Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai is internationally known for his cowardice and brutality against unarmed citizens while he romances and treats the real insurgent threats with kid gloves.
In 2015, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai had ordered the massacre of over 1,000 unarmed Shiites in Zaria. The Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari who was in support of this justified it saying they were wrong to have tapped military generals in the chest at a checkpoint. Since then, Buratai has been under pressure to come clean and release the bodies of the Shiites which he seized for proper burial. He was also the mastermind of the 2017 Python Dance II incident where he ordered his men to torment, kill and bury members of the IPOB organisation in Abia State and its environs.
Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai is a petty liar and a coward who has contributed greatly to the insecurity and ethnic imbalance which is now being experienced in Nigeria. It is this same imbalance that has made the Nigerian armed forces look big for nothing because they are run by unprofessional officers, like Turkur Buratai, who only rose up to his present rank due to his political connections, and nepotism rather than his qualifications.
Suffice to posit, it’s only in the current maladministration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a nepotistic Northerner that another Northerner as Buratai who is an ignoramus when it comes to basic military operations can make it to the top as the Chief of Army Staff.
Surviving witnesses at the Lekki Massacre speak:
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK