Amid overwhelming reports and claims by various bodies and media organisations, including Amnesty International and the U.S.-based Cable News Network, the United States government says it does not believe soldiers shot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate.
The U.S. view is contained in its newly-released ‘2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria.’
It said, “On October 20, members of the security forces enforced curfew by firing shots into the air to disperse protesters, who had gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos to protest abusive practices by the Nigerian Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end. Amnesty International reported 10 persons died during the event, but the government disputed Amnesty’s report, and no other organisation was able to verify the claim.
“The government reported two deaths connected to the event. One body from the toll gate showed signs of blunt force trauma. A second body from another location in Lagos State had bullet wounds. The government acknowledged that soldiers armed with live ammunition were present at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“At year’s end the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution continued to hear testimony and investigate the shooting at Lekki Toll Gate.”
Washington’s position, under President Joe Biden’s administration, did not reflect the view of then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Voice of America reported on October 22 that the U.S. condemned police brutality at Lekki, two days after at least 12 protesters were shot dead by Nigerian security forces.
Mr Pompeo had said, “We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law.”
Following that, the U.S. sent a delegation to Nigeria with Counselor Ulrich Brechbühl meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“The counsellor expressed the U.S. condemnation of the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos. He expressed condolences to the victims of these shootings and urged the government of Nigeria to abide by its commitment to hold those responsible accountable under the law,” a statement by the State Department had said.