The morning after Nigerian soldiers allegedly open fire on unarmed youths protesting police brutality in Lagos, hoodlums have taken over many of the major cities burning both private and public property as soldiers and police continue the spree of deaths
The soldiers came in the night, with murder in their hearts, marching as if on the way to war. But this was no war at least in the conventional way. The soldiers were marching on the streets of Lagos, in one of the more prosperous neighbourhoods in a time of peace.
Across the road from where they stood, hundreds of young people stood, holding the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthem. It was almost two weeks since the youths have gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in highbrow Lagos, protesting the brutality, extrajudicial murders, kidnapping, rape and extortion by rogue policemen who were part of the notorious Tactic Unit of the Nigeria Police Force, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The soldiers moved towards the flanks of the youths who earlier had been deceived that no allegiance to the Nigerian state was greater than holding the country’s flag, that no soldier would dare shoot anyone holding such flag.
It was still in this illusion that the youths stood, waving the flag and singing the national anthem, as a sign of their patriotism to fatherland. Surely these soldiers would know they are no foes, but citizens and patriots.
“Arise O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey, to serve our fatherland.”
“The soldiers began to barricade all the available exit points while getting their guns for the ready.
“The labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain”
Then the soldiers moved in a file and a shot rang out into the cold still night. The first shot was followed in rapid succession by a staccato of shots that created bright lights in the darkness as the youths began to fall over themselves in the chaos that followed.
Desperate calls for help streamed online from the scene of the massacre while the sound of bullets rebounded in the dark. Stampede, confusion, fear, pandemonium. Many of the youths fell, never to rise up again. Many sustained serious injuries in the ensuing melee.
The immediate events that led to the carnage at Lekki Toll Gate began earlier in the evening when unknown officials removed the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) around the premises. Also shortly before the deployment of soldiers, the streets lights were allegedly turned off, plunging the area into darkness.
Prelude to Death
But the youths who gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate were not alone. All over the southern part of Nigeria, young people gathered in their thousands in peaceful protests with their demands called 5 of 5.
The youths had been incredible in their plans, with no visible leader, they had organised themselves, provided logistics for their various rallies including food and drinks from money contributed online. They have also provided emergency services, security, health, power and transportation.
The protesting youths had called for a complete reforms of the police force and in doing so had shown extreme kindness to members of the security agencies by providing for them food, drinks and in instances showering them with monetary donations.
Then trouble began.
Police responded with brute force, dispatched water cannons, tear gas and live bullets against the youths. Isaq Jimoh, a secondary school student in Osogbo Osun state was the first casualty. All over the states, police responding killed at least seven of the protesting youths. Then, it stopped. The protest continued peacefully and the youths showed their creativity again solving all the problems as it arose.
They opened an emergency number and even floated an online radio station. The demands increased to seven to include an end to the bogus salaries of political office holders especially members of the National Assembly.
Thugs, allegedly sponsored appeared at the rallies, first in Abuja where they beat and destroyed many vehicles belonging to the protesters. When the youths returned in kind, some of the invading youths were caught, beaten up and taken to the protesters health facility to be treated.
Anyone thinking showing kindness was enough to deter the opposing youths was mistaken, the attacks increased and soon dead bodies began to mount. In Abuja, thugs unleased mayhem, burning cars, looting shops. In Lagos, the situation was the same, hoodlums took advantage of the situation to begin a career in arson. Police stations were burnt down, maximum security prison were allegedly breached and prisoners decking designer’s clothes and jewelries came out and granted press interviews.
Events got to a head when Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu declared a 24-hour curfew to begin at 4pm of the same day. In declaring the curfew, the governor said: “I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #ENDSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society.
“Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state. As a government that is alive to its responsibility and has shown commitment to the movement #ENDSARS, we will not watch and allow anarchy in our dear state.
“I, therefore, hereby impose a 24-hour curfew on all parts of the State as from 4pm today, 20th October 2020. “
The Police Force also issued a statement announcing the deployment of anti-riots squad to enforce the curfew. But the youths would not have none of that, promising to break the curfew and continue their peaceful sit out at various protest grounds in Lagos.
Lagos on Fire
The violence that erupted in the morning after the killings when the blood was still fresh on the ground was predictable but its scale was not imagined. Young people, mourning their colleagues began a series of civil disobedience by reforming their protest. Security operatives, mainly soldiers came out and reportedly shot some of the youths.
But they were not alone, idle and hungry youths also seized the occasion to vent their anger on the ruling class who they claimed had deprived them of all the opportunities. Top on the list of this mob is former governor of Lagos and the ruling party strongman, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Following his term as Lagos governor, Tinubu had personally installed three governors after him, he has also installed governors in all of the Southwest states and has been instrumental in the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
If Tinubu holds Lagos by the jugular politically, he is also said to have bled the state by controlling a large percentage of its budget through phony companies etc. The immediate cause of the people’s angst against Tinubu began as a rumour. That he ordered the lights at the Toll Gate switched off because he was anxious to get the youths off his property as he was incurring heavy loses daily ( He was rumoured to have owned a large percentage of the share in Lagos Concession Company, owners of the Toll Gate).
The mob made for companies associated with Tinubu, first was the Oriental Hotel and attempted to burn it down. Television Continental (TVC) a world class television station was partially burnt down while mobs were repelled from The Nation newspapers.
Commuter buses belonging to the Lagos state government were burnt down, the Nigerian Ports Authority Building was razed, the Federal Road Safety Corps building with over 30 vehicles were burnt. Also, Lagos state governor mother’s house was also reportedly burnt down.
A nation on her knees
Lagos state governor knew no sleep in the morning of the massacre. He went round various hospitals housing the injured and promised to pay the bills for their treatment. Later that morning he made a passionate appeal in a state-wide broadcast.
He said: “I address you today with a heavy heart as your Governor, I do so as a father and a brother. I do so as one who is touched by the infirmities and feelings of his people. I do so as part of the collective humanity that we all shared.”
He attempted to justify the curfew insisting that criminal elements have taken over the protest in many parts of the state causing mayhem and killing the innocent citizens. He also alluded to the fact that soldiers deployed by the Nigerian Army were responsible for the shootings.
“For clarity, it is imperative to explain that no governor controls the rules of engagement of the army. I have nevertheless instructed an investigation into the ordered and the adopted rules of engagement employed by the men of the Nigerian Army deployed to the Lekki Toll Gate.
“This is with a view to taking this up with the high command of the Nigerian Army and seek the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari in his capacity as the Commander-in Chief to unravel the sequence of events that happened yesterday.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives and chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Conference (APC) Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said the events in his home state of Lagos has left his “heart heavy and spirit disturbed.”
In a statement which seemed to contradict that of his state governor of no casualty at Lekki Toll Gate, Gbajabiamila said there were “a number of causalities.”
“After sixty years, our democracy should have grown beyond the point where conflicting visions of nationhood result in violence on the streets and blood on the ground. It is unavoidably and painfully clear that there were a number of casualties as a result of gunfire at Lekki Toll Gate.
“Therefore, there needs to be a quick and thorough investigation to determine the facts of what happened last night in Lagos. Our nation urgently needs and the Nigerian people deserves an accounting of the acts that led to the events of last night,” Gbajabiamila said.
The Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi-Ojaja 11 viewed as the foremost traditional ruler in the southwest also weighed in, while condemning the killings asked the government to allow traditional institution lead the negotiations.
“Our children are on the street with the spirit of patriotism because they believe in the future of Nigeria and that our system is flexible enough to adapt to changes for better performance. It is time to calm down and allow traditional rulers, as fathers of the nation to lead the way to peace and restoration of trust.”
The former governor of Ekiti state and a member of the opposition Ayo Fayose said he saw it all coming: “The sad reality we must face now is that the current situation in our nation is a result of allowing a clearly incompetent man to ascend to the highest office in the land. I saw all these coming and I warned Nigerians.”
Former Vice-President and Presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar also condemned the killings. He said: “I woke up this morning and did the unusual, I called o speak to all my adults’ children to be assured they are safe and to be assured that the events of yesterday was a nightmare. But it was real.
“This is our new normal, as I speak many homes are in mourning, their children mowed down in their prime by needless show of force by security forces that were supposed to be protecting them. For over a week, our young people have been trying to draw our attention to their grievances by way of the ENDSARS movement, sadly it reached a violent crescendo yesterday with the unprovoked killings of peaceful protesters even while they demonstrated their patriotism by singing the national anthem. I am heartbroken.”
He called on the military to show restraint and insist no more lives must be lost. He also called on the president to speak to the nation while he works out a speedy implementation of the demands of the youths.