Police Brutality Protests in Nigeria: The Lekki Massacre

By: Alexis Eka

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

LAGOS, Nigeria – Following the breakout of protests in Nigeria on October 8, 2020, violent protests occurred at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020. The protests in support of the #EndSars Movement resulted in several injuries and at least 56 deaths of Nigerian citizens.

Lekki Toll Gate Part-Destroyed On Night of Protest. Photo Courtesy of BBC.

Protestors have been peacefully demonstrating in the streets of Lagos, demanding an end to the police brutality, extrajudicial executions, and extortion by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), the unit of the Nigerian police force that oversees violent crimes.

On October 20, 2020, several peaceful demonstrators were shot when the Nigerian army opened fire on Nigerian citizens at the Lekki Toll Gate. An investigation led by Amnesty International confirmed that the Nigerian army and police have also been found responsible for the deaths of these Nigerian citizens.

The timeline suggests that on the evening of Tuesday, October 20, 2020, army tanks left the Bonny Camp military base and drove on the Lekki-Epe Expressway for approximately seven minutes. They continued toward the Lekki Toll Gate at 18:29 local time. At around 18:45, the Nigerian military opened fire on the protestors. Moments before the Lekki massacre, video footage captured peaceful protestors gathered together at the Lekki Toll Gate. The protestors were seen dancing, singing, and styling their hair. Many of the hair stylists inscribed the words #EndSars on their heads, while speeches were made from a platform at the front of the Lekki Toll Gate.

After the continuous stream of violence that occurred that night, there were several bullet casings found in the streets of Lagos, and the Lekki Toll Gate was destroyed. Members of the Lagos State Judicial panel investigated the allegations of excessive force and visited the Lekki Gate Toll bridge to gain insight into the events that transpired on that evening. The panel was led on a tour by the head of Lekki Concessions Centre, the group that supervises and runs the gate.

Through the investigation, a series of photos were taken and the Judicial panel investigated the room that housed the CCTV Footage from the evening. There were several holes in the windows leading the panel members to assume the holes were caused by bullets. Members of the panel found the bullet casings about one week after Amnesty International announced the shootings. However, the Nigerian police and the army have dismissed Amnesty International’s contentions claiming them to be fictitious and unfounded.

Leaders worldwide have spoken directly to President Muhammadu Buhari to end the violence in the streets of Lagos. Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign affairs, Dominic Raab, called for an end to the violence in Nigeria and demanded a series of wide-ranging reforms. Rabb stated, “The Nigerian government must urgently investigate reports of brutality at the hands of the security forces and hold those responsible to account.”

Representatives from the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (the Commission) have voiced sincere concern for the lethal force that has been used against protestors. News outlets including Amnesty International Nigeria, ActionAid Nigeria, and the Human Rights Watch have created a list of demands including an “urgent review and implementation of the various reports on police and security reform” and “the respect and protection for the rights to peaceful protest and assembly.” Like many, the Commission has called upon the Nigerian government to take proactive measures in the process of dismantling the SARS officers including withdrawing military forces and implementing measures for comprehensive reform of the Nigerian law enforcement.

For further information, please see:

African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Press statement on unlawful killings by security forces in Nigeria 22 Oct. 2020

Amnesty International Nigeria: The Lekki Toll Gate massacre – new investigative timeline 28 Oct. 2020

BBC NEWS Bullet Casings found at site of  #EndSars Protest 30 Oct. 2020

Human Rights Watch Nigeria: End Excessive Force Against Protesters 22 Oct. 2020

PRNewswire EndSARS Protest: Majority Condemns Killings and Offers Free Calls to Nigeria 22 Oct. 2020

Reuters Britain calls for an end to violence in Nigeria 21 Oct. 2020

Author: Nadia Abed