Nigeria protests: How a bloody night of bullets at the Lekki toll gate quashed a young protest movement

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Someday after midnight on October 21, Elisha Sunday Ibanga answered a telephone name from his older brother’s quantity.

The particular person on the opposite finish of the road — a stranger — broke the information that Ibanga’s brother, Victor, had been shot useless on the Lekki toll gate, in Lagos, Nigeria, the place he had been peacefully protesting towards police brutality earlier that night time.

“The particular person instructed me that the police took his physique away,” Ibanga, 24, instructed CNN.

An eyewitness to Victor Sunday Ibanga’s demise instructed CNN the 27-year-old entrepreneur was shot within the head through the protest.

CNN has obtained and geolocated {a photograph} of Victor’s physique mendacity in a pool of blood and wrapped within the white and inexperienced of the Nigerian customary — one of many similar flags gripped by fellow protesters earlier within the night as they sang the nation’s nationwide anthem. Ibanga confirmed the {photograph} is of his brother.

The body of Victor Sunday Ibanga is pictured in a pool of blood.

The Ibangas are considered one of a number of households but to find the our bodies of their lacking family members — protestors on the toll gate — who dozens of eyewitnesses say have been shot at, first by members of the Nigerian military after which hours later by police. Eyewitnesses instructed CNN they noticed the military take away plenty of our bodies from the scene.

What occurred on October 20, and into the early hours of October 21, on the eight-lane Lekki toll gate — a key piece of Lagos’ highway community — has surprised the nation.

The protesters who have been current have instructed CNN it was a “bloodbath” with a number of individuals killed and dozens wounded. However native authorities have downplayed that account.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, admitted to CNN that footage confirmed uniformed troopers firing on peaceable protesters however claimed solely two demonstrators have been killed. However, he then mentioned there was “not a scratch of blood” on the toll gate when he visited. The governor mentioned no households had approached authorities saying they have been lacking relations.

Within the fast aftermath of the taking pictures, the military denied any involvement, describing studies of the incident as “pretend information,” earlier than backtracking and saying that troopers have been current however fired their weapons within the air and used blanks, not stay rounds.

CNN’s calls to the Nigerian military haven’t been returned. However on November 14, throughout a judicial inquiry into the taking pictures, military consultant Brigadier Ahmed Taiwo mentioned, “There isn’t any method officers and males will kill their brothers and sisters. I repeat no method. We’ve those that always search to drive a wedge between us and between the residents of Nigeria…”

The military additionally mentioned on the listening to that it was the governor who referred to as troopers to the scene as a result of the police have been overrun. The governor has denied this, saying he doesn’t have the authority to name within the military. The military has continued to restate that they didn’t hearth stay rounds.

However an investigation by CNN into the disputed occasions has solid doubt on authorities’ shifting and altering statements.

Proof of bullet casings from the scene match these utilized by the Nigerian military when taking pictures stay rounds, in response to present and former Nigerian army officers. Verified video footage — utilizing timestamps and information from the video recordsdata — exhibits troopers who seem like taking pictures within the course of protesters. And accounts from eyewitnesses set up that after the military withdrew, a second spherical of taking pictures occurred later within the night.

Victor Sunday Ibanga

Since Elisha Sunday Ibanga realized of his brother’s demise, he has been visiting hospitals in a determined seek for his stays.

“My mom, my sisters, all my household are in prayer, simply to see if we are able to discover out and know the place my brother’s useless physique is,” he mentioned.

The our bodies of different protesters are nowhere to be discovered.

Peace Okon, 24, hasn’t seen her youthful brother Knowledge, 18, since he went to the protest the night time of the taking pictures.

Wisdom Okon

“He simply got here again from work on that Tuesday, ate his meals and went there,” Okon instructed CNN.

She began worrying when he did not arrive house that night time. By the subsequent morning, Okon was out trying to find him. “I’ve gone to hospitals, I’ve gone to police stations, I’ve gone to in all places. I am unable to discover him,” she mentioned.

Her brother had solely moved to Lagos just a few weeks earlier than the protest — Okon had helped him discover a job as a cleaner at a financial institution. She says he did not know anybody on the protest and had by no means been to at least one earlier than.

Okon mentioned she needs the Nigerian authorities to inform her if her brother is alive and detained or useless.

The shootings at Lekki toll gate adopted weeks of “#EndSARS” protests towards police brutality that had burst onto the streets of cities throughout Nigeria.

For nearly a fortnight, hundreds of younger Nigerians largely underneath 30 — a demographic that makes up 40% of the nation’s inhabitants — protested, with requires an finish to the Particular Anti-Theft Squad, a police unit broadly and repeatedly accused of kidnapping, harassment and extortion.

Police had agreed to disband the controversial unit however protests continued. It might be the fourth time it was being disbanded.

There have been peaceable marches, candlelight vigils, multi-faith prayer classes and DJ performances that attracted backing and solidarity from celebrities, the Nigerian diaspora and supporters all over the world. The motion rapidly widened past police brutality to different grievances — capturing the frustrations of a younger inhabitants demanding an finish to unhealthy governance within the oil-rich nation.

Lekki, a comparatively prosperous suburb of Lagos, and the toll gate grew to become a focus of the motion.

Nevertheless, about 10 days into the protests, the demonstrations have been hijacked by “thugs and sponsored hoodlums” who attacked protesters, inflicting deaths and accidents, in response to Amnesty Worldwide Nigeria.

In response, on October 20, hours earlier than the taking pictures, Governor Sanwo-Olu imposed a strict curfew beginning at 4 p.m. following looting and vandalism in different elements of the state.

It was later moved to 9 p.m. to permit commuters to get house. The timeline for when the curfew was imposed has grow to be some extent of rivalry between the Governor and the army. The military mentioned their troopers have been unaware of the change to the later time, in response to the military spokesperson’s testimony to the eight-person judicial panel on November 14.

For twenty-four hours, solely important service suppliers have been to be allowed on the streets of the 20-million robust metropolis.

Demonstrators protest police brutality at the Lekki toll gate on October 20.

Testimony from dozens of eyewitnesses and relations interviewed by CNN and a forensic examination of hours of video and dozens of images captured earlier than, throughout and after the 2 taking pictures incidents present how a fledgling protest motion was all however extinguished by the very factor Nigerians have been demonstrating towards.

Lower than three hours after the unique curfew time got here into impact, military vehicles left the Bonny Camp barracks on Victoria Island and headed in direction of the toll gate plaza and the protesters, in response to movies reviewed by CNN.

Two eyewitnesses instructed CNN they noticed troopers arriving in a Toyota Hilux pickup truck with “OP Awatse” written on it — the identify of a joint army process drive that operates in Lagos State.

Movies examined by CNN present the military vehicles approaching the protesters from either side of the toll gate — barricading them in.

DJ Change, a neighborhood musician whose actual identify is Obianuju Catherine Udeh, was streaming stay on Instagram when all of it occurred and the taking pictures started.

The taking pictures began nearly instantly, with no warning given. Panic ensued as protesters tried to flee.

“Please clarify to me how, wherein a part of the world, do you go to a protest with stay bullets.”

DJ Change

“There was a man that was working, and he simply… he fell, and we checked out him. He was shot within the again,” DJ Change, 29, instructed CNN, as she tried to speak throughout an interview whereas crying.

“Please clarify to me how, wherein a part of the world, do you go to a protest with stay bullets,” she mentioned.

From a number of movies, CNN has pieced collectively a timeline that exhibits that taking pictures by the military lasted from 6:43 p.m. till not less than 8:24 p.m., in response to video proof.

The movies capturing a few of these 101 minutes inform a narrative of terror and chaos. They present graphic accidents and other people bleeding on the bottom.

One eyewitness, Sarah, whose final identify we’re not publishing for her security, instructed CNN that the troopers shot within the air but additionally immediately at protesters.

“They pointed their weapons at us and so they began taking pictures,” she mentioned. “They have been taking pictures within the air, they have been taking pictures at us, they have been taking pictures in all places.”

Some chanted: “We’re peaceable protesters” and “Finish Sars, we no go gree [pidgin for we will not agree, or give in].”

“They’re taking pictures, they’re taking pictures,” one other particular person screams in one of many movies. Cries of “Na lie, na lie [exclamations of disbelief in pidgin]” can be heard.

In a number of of the movies, reviewed and verified by CNN, a number of the protesters will be seen carrying our bodies, the flashlights on their telephones the one factor illuminating the darkness because the sound of ambulance sirens wail within the background. It’s not identified whether or not these have been useless or injured protesters.

In one other, there are a number of injured individuals, some on the bottom bleeding whereas defiant protesters continued to wave Nigerian flags.

Injured individuals whom CNN has confirmed have been current on the toll gate began arriving in native hospitals — carried by civilians — from 7:19 p.m. whereas the taking pictures was nonetheless ongoing, in response to movies analyzed by CNN.

One of the protesters, Mathew, pictured, says he was injured when the army opened fire at Lekki toll gate. Using metadata, CNN geolocated the image to the protest location at 6:50 pm.

CNN has additionally seen and verified footage from one man who used his automotive as a makeshift ambulance and transported individuals to hospital.

Individually, Dr. Ayo Aranmolate, govt medical director at Grandville medical middle, instructed CNN he and his colleagues acquired round 15 injured those that night time with varied gunshot wounds and cuts. Not one of the individuals they handled died, he added.

“We referred some for remedy to different hospitals,” Dr. Aranmolate mentioned. “One of many victims needed to have his leg amputated.”

The military has denied that anybody was taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, and that they solely shot into the air.

Talking in entrance of the judicial panel, the military spokesman Brigadier Ahmed Taiwo continued to disclaim that anybody was shot.

A number of eyewitnesses instructed CNN that ambulances have been prevented from reaching the scene by the authorities.

A video filmed at 8:49 p.m., in response to metadata, exhibits ambulance employees in a van on the scene saying they’re unable to get via.

When contacted by CNN to share the findings of this investigation, a Lagos State authorities spokesman declined to remark. “Speaking about that topic now might be sub-judicial because the matter is already earlier than a panel of inquiry. Till the panel concludes its investigation, the topic is not going to be open to any dialogue or remark by any State official,” the spokesperson mentioned.

Members of the judicial panel visit the Lekki toll gate on October 30.

DJ Change mentioned she wished individuals to see what was occurring which is why she began broadcasting.

“I did not need anyone to come back on and twist the story. I wished individuals to see. So, I simply went stay.”

At one level through the broadcast, there have been makes an attempt to resuscitate a person in pink clothes who had handed out.

Later, DJ Change will be seen serving to to extract a bullet lodged in one other man’s thigh as he screams in agony. Somebody within the crowd says, “you’ll stay, you’ll not die.”

Because the stay broadcast ends, persons are nonetheless attempting to use CPR on the person in pink, whereas DJ Change will be heard saying, “this man is dying.”

DJ Change instructed CNN that protesters lifted our bodies with bullet wounds and put them on the troopers’ ft.

“I mentioned, why are you killing us? Why are you doing this,” she mentioned. “He expressly instructed me: ‘I’m appearing on orders from above.'”

CNN has examined bullet casings discovered on the scene and confirmed with present and former Nigerian army sources that the bullet casings match these utilized by the military. Two ballistics specialists have additionally confirmed with CNN that the form of the bullet casings point out they used stay rounds, which contradicts the military’s declare they fired blanks.

CNN has verified that bullets fired at Lekki toll gate are from live ammunition. This one was manufactured in Serbia in 2005, and is currently in use by the Nigerian army.

And dealing with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Community, CNN has established that a number of of the bullets from the Lekki toll gate originated from Serbia. Export paperwork CNN has seen present that Nigeria bought weaponry from Serbia nearly yearly between 2005 and 2016.

After the military withdrew from the scene, members of the police, together with the SARS police unit — disbanded by authorities on 11 October — moved in, in response to a number of eyewitnesses CNN spoke with.

In a video obtained by CNN and geolocated to Lekki toll gate at 2:36 a.m., one eyewitness, Legend, whose second identify we’re not publishing for his security, will be seen with the Nigerian flag round his head saying, “…my hand is damaged, my leg is damaged, and police are nonetheless taking pictures at us.”

“I could not depend what number of useless as a result of I used to be working for my life.”

Legend

“They’re taking pictures something that strikes outdoors…Keep protected via the night time. And if I do not make it via the night time let or not it’s identified that I died preventing for our freedom, for what we consider in.”

Legend, who survived, instructed CNN his father was a police officer and that he acknowledged the SARS uniform. About 200 protesters remained on the toll gate when witnesses say police and SARS arrived, he added.

“I could not depend what number of useless as a result of I used to be working for my life,” Legend mentioned. “If I stood my floor 5 extra seconds, I might be useless.”

Whereas CNN has not been in a position to independently confirm that SARS members have been current, a number of eyewitnesses mentioned they noticed cops, accompanied by officers from the unit, on the scene after the military left.

A Lagos State police spokesman declined to remark due to the continued panel investigation. However police have denied any use of drive towards protesters on Twitter, saying, “….our cops by no means resorted to make use of of illegal drive or taking pictures on the protesters.”

The widespread looting and harm that occurred throughout Lagos within the aftermath of the Lekki toll gate taking pictures has led to the authorities clamping down on individuals who took half within the protests.

Workers clean up the Lekki toll gate on October 24.

Many really feel they’re being scapegoated for collaborating in peaceable protests — wrongly blamed for the looting — and worry has descended on the motion because the taking pictures.

Moe Odele, a distinguished lawyer who was giving authorized recommendation to demonstrators arrested through the protests, says she was not too long ago prevented from leaving the nation after her passport was seized. Odele instructed CNN that her passport has since been returned.

The nation’s central financial institution has obtained a 90-day court docket order freezing the accounts of those that took half within the demonstrations, according to media reports, whereas a journalist who coated the protests was arrested and detained for 5 days earlier than being freed on bail.

A number of eyewitnesses have fled the nation, whereas others reside in protected homes. Some instructed CNN they have been provided cash to recant their preliminary testimonies.

CNN has seen a number of the messages acquired, although it’s unclear who’s sending them.

“We’re hiding as a result of our lives are in peril,” an eyewitness named Sarah instructed CNN. “We will not exit, our jobs are on maintain proper now, and it is actually unhappy as a result of we did nothing improper.”

“All we did was ask for change.”

Edited by Blathnaid Healy. Video supervised by Rosie Tomkins and Dan Wright. Video animations by Agne Jurkenaite and Ignacio Osorio. Map by Natalie Croker and Henrik Pettersson. Photograph enhancing by Sarah Tilotta.

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