Lessons from the Lekki Massacre

Lekki Massacre was not the first, and if the trigger-happy officers like those at Lekki toll gate are not kept behind bars only a matter of time before the past replays in future.

By Abdullah Tijani

It has become official that the indiscriminate killings of unarmed protesters on October 20, 2020 at Lekki Toll Gate is a massacre. The information coming from a government constituted inquiry panel gives the report credulous credibility. Of course, not evidence of the sincerity of the government — if they ever have one — but to show that despite all efforts to bury the truth, the corpse’s leg would always expose what was kept beneath the soil.

The panel among others, in its report, confirmed the presence of the officers of the Nigerian Army who “shot,  injured  and  killed  unarmed  helpless  and  defenseless  protesters, without  provocation  or  justification,  while  they  were  waving  the  Nigerian  Flag  and singing  the  National  Anthem  and  the  manner  of  assault  and  killing  could  in  context be  described  as  a  massacre.”

In its cruelest form, the army was also accused of refusing medical assistance for the harmed protesters. 

However, it all brought us down to the conclusion that our government operates an authoritarian regime, a military-like-dictatorial system whose security operatives abuse human rights with the support from the government. 

One thing that has made the killing of innocent citizens common in the hands of those meant to secure their lives is because the trigger-happy policemen and army officers are sure nobody would make them responsible for the lives they cut short. The criminal justice system has not done much justice in this aspect. 

Even sometimes they serve the bid of their masters who would love to treat their countrymen in the ‘language they understand’. 

Organised killings do not end at the Lekki toll gate. In fact, it was one of the series of extrajudicial murders carried out by the security operatives. 

In an investigation by Amnesty International, a murder of at least 115 people was recorded in the nation’s southeast between March and June. “The evidence gathered… paints a damning picture of ruthless excessive force by Nigerian security forces in Imo, Anambra and Abia states,” Osai Ojigho, Country Director at Amnesty International, said.

Unfortunately, no Judicial Panel was inquiring into the killings. And no security officer is taking responsibility. 

No wonder, the security operatives brazenly demand bribes and threaten any citizens who might want to display the knowledge of what the criminal law says about not giving bribes.

In a report on the corruption and human rights abuse by the Nigerian Police, the Human Rights Watch revealed that Nigerian citizens, mostly taxi drivers, market traders, and shopkeepers, who struggle to make ends meet, regularly encounter armed police officers who demand bribes by means of extorting them. And “those who fail to pay are frequently threatened with arrest and physical harm.”

Human rights abuse by the Nigerian Army has become more common than ever. Within three years, there were 350 cases of alleged human rights violations against the officers of the Nigerian Army. This is of course a meager number compared to the plethora of cases that go unreported daily.

Lekki Massacre has dug up more questions like, how many more cases of human rights abuses should Nigerians be subjected to in the hands of the Nigerian Police? How many more times will the army point its gun and shoot its rocket in the direction of innocent protesters? 

Nobody would ever know. Not until the cruel officers like those at Lekki Toll Gate are forced to stay behind bars. 

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