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Timeline: How Nigerian Govt Killed Peaceful Protesters At Lekki Toll Gate

In the hours between 7 p.m. and Wednesday morning, protesters at the Lekki Toll-Gate Plaza in Lagos calling for reforms in Nigeria’s police were shot at by soldiers, leading to the death of at least seven people and causing numerous others to sustain injuries.

The incident has triggered outrage on social media, with many people referring to the day as “Black Tuesday”. 

Though United States-based public figures including Hillary Clinton, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, and Robyn Rihanna Fenty have released statements expressing solidarity with the Nigerian people, the federal government has yet to make a press release or speak on the issue.

The Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has instead denied knowledge of any fatalities during the protest, acknowledging only that people were injured.

HumAngle takes a look at the events leading up to the extrajudicial killings as well as major events that have since taken place on an hour to hour basis.

11:49 a.m.: Lagos government imposes curfew

Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, declares a 24-hour curfew “on all parts of the state as from 4 p.m. today, 20th October 2020”, citing the violent activities of criminals and miscreants.

1:08 p.m.: Protesters insist on maintaining their positions

Channels TV broadcasts interviews with demonstrators at the Lekki toll-gate area who maintain that they will remain at the protest location in demanding for police reforms. 

“We are staying here. We are not leaving this spot. Curfew means wherever you are is where you are going to stay. So we are going to be here,” one of them says. “We are not armed.

4:44 p.m.: CCTV cameras removed from toll-gate

Officials of the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), which runs the toll-gate, are seen removing closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras from the structure.

5:14 p.m.: State governor again urges people to go home

Babajide Sanwo-Olu releases second press statement, where he urges peaceful protesters and residents of the state to “obey the curfew and stay in their homes to allow our security forces take immediate action to de-escalate all the issues of violence”.

5:16 p.m.: Protesters stay put at Lekki toll-gate, wave flags

Hundreds of demonstrators sit quietly at the Lekki toll-gate area and wave different sizes of the Nigerian flag as the country’s anthem booms softly from a set of loudspeakers. The person speaking into the microphone asks that everyone remains sitting. In a different video shot much later but before the shooting started, the protesters had started to become uneasy as they were repeatedly urged to sit down and “not run”.

7:10 p.m.: Video surfaces of protesters being shot at

A 25-second video is shared on Twitter showing hundreds of protesters scampering as quick-paced gunshots were fired. One demonstrator is seen wielding the national flag and walking calmly. “Fuck you!” the recorder cried. 

“Let them shoot, let them shoot. Everyone stay down. Stay down.” At this time, the digital billboard at the toll-gate had been turned off and the dark area was only lit through natural light sources.

8:28 p.m.: DJ Switch and others start sharing updates on Instagram

One of the protesters at Lekki on Tuesday night, Obianuju Catherine Udeh, popularly known as DJ Switch, starts broadcasting events at the protest location live on Instagram. Protesters can be heard wailing and panicking. 

In another recorded clip from the live session, DJ Switch appeals for ambulances to be sent as “somebody is bleeding”. “Lagos is on fire. They have blocked everywhere and they want us to pass so that they can shoot us there in that fire,” she says, pointing at a fire burning in the distance. She also shows the bullet wound on one of the protesters.

9:10 p.m.: Protesters sing national anthem despite continued gunshots

A 45-second video is shared on Twitter and across various social media platforms showing protesters singing Nigeria’s anthem as gunshots rent the night air. The toll gate area was still cast in darkness. “The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain,” the recorder chanted, as his voice gradually became shaky. 

“To serve with heart and might,” he continued, now sobbing. “One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.”

9:12 p.m.: Ambulances arrive to pick injured protesters

Feyikemi Abudu, one of the leading coordinators of the protests, reports at minutes past 9 p.m. that two people have been taken to the hospital for medical attention. 

“First four ambulances took people. Others sent more that took a few. Our last two ambulances just went and there aren’t any critically injured people left there that they can see. I think they’ve all gone to hospitals,” she writes close to an hour later.

9:45 p.m.: Lagos government “orders investigation” into incident

The state government acknowledges “reports of shooting at the Lekki Toll Plaza”. This, it says, was “following the 24-hour curfew imposed on Lagos State to stop criminals who hid under the #EndSARS protests to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens”. The government further says it has ordered an investigation into the incident and advised the security operatives not to arrest anyone violating the curfew.

11:39 p.m.: Army denies killing protesters, seizing corpses

Starting with a tweet shared at 11:39 p.m., the Nigerian Army labels local and international reports about the massacre as fake news. The first was a report by Sahara Reporters, which said the soldiers were seizing corpses of peaceful protesters shot by them, as narrated by witnesses on the ground. 

At 11:46 p.m., the verified account tags as fake news that same report and another one, which said the military opened fire on peaceful protesters. At 1 a.m., the account gives a similar treatment to reports from Reuters, The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, France 24, This Day, and The Sun, among others, with a caption that says: “be aware”.

11:44 p.m.: Channels TV reports from protest ground, confirms shooting

Channels Television, reporting live from Lekki Toll Plaza, confirms the unusual switching off of streetlights and the peacefulness of the protesters. “When it came into darkness, some folks approached in uniform and opened fire,” the correspondent said. One of the protesters identified the shooters as soldiers and said shots fired were not meant to disperse but to kill.

12:10 a.m.: Shooting continues

An Instagram live video aired by @marvelvill shows that, minutes past midnight, gunshots were still being fired frequently. “Everybody, sit on the ground!” the recorder cried repeatedly. “Go down… They are shooting at us, they are shooting.” “Great Nigerian youth!” another protester could be heard chanting in the background as others cried “great!” in unison. They then sang the country’s anthem for the umpteenth time. The area is pitch black.

2:04 a.m.: Streetlights put back on

The streetlights at the Lekki toll plaza are switched on, as shown in an uploaded video, “after the deed is done”. Some of the protesters lie on the floor as gunshots can still be heard.

2:24 a.m.: Injured protesters are taken to hospitals

DJ Switch shares video of injured protesters receiving treatment at a private hospital. 

3:43 a.m.: Sanwo-Olu breaks silence

Babajide Sanwo-Olu blames the loss of lives on “forces beyond our direct control” and shares pictures of his visits to injured protesters at various hospitals. According to him, 23 protesters had “mild to moderate levels of injuries” while two were receiving intensive care.

7:35 a.m.: Soldiers still shooting at protesters

DJ Switch reports that soldiers are still “shooting straight at us”. “They are positioned by the side of Lekki-Epe expressway and we are taking some guy to the hospital right now,” she says and she pleads for more protesters to join and support. Gunshots can be heard towards the end of the video.

9:21 a.m.: Snipers spotted in Lekki

A video, which appears to show snipers on the rooftop of Oriental Hotel in Lekki, is circulated online.

10:22 a.m.: State governor denies fatalities

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a live broadcast, blames the slow pace of reforms on the lack of leadership among the protesters and dwells, for many minutes, on the activities of hoodlums and arsonists across the state. “It is imperative to explain that no sitting governor controls the rules of engagement of the military,” he said. “Fellow Lagosians, whilst we pray for the swift recovery of the injured, we are comforted that we have not recorded any fatality as against the widespread speculation on social media.”

11:39 a.m.: Medical supply company prevented from delivering blood 

A medical supply company, LifeBank, is prevented from taking blood to injured protesters admitted at hospitals. “Our riders are currently stranded at Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba and unable to deliver blood to hospitals,” the company cries out on Twitter. 

This is confirmed by @Moechievous who writes, “We sent an ambulance to try to pick up the blood but they were turned back by policemen in Adekunle. So we are stranded and can’t get blood to people who need it.” 

She later adds that hoodlums are preventing LifeBank from delivering the supplies and policemen are equally preventing ambulances from picking up the blood.

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'Kunle Adebajo

Head of Investigations at HumAngle. ‘Kunle covers conflict alongside its many intricacies and fallouts. He also writes about disinformation, the environment, and human rights. He's won a couple of journalism awards, including the 2021 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism, the 2022 African Fact-checking Award, and the 2023 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling.

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