The #EndSARS protesters in Lagos were waving the Nigerian flag and singing the nation’s anthem when soldiers opened fire on them, at least two witnesses have confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES.
“This is absolutely correct,” One of the witnesses, May Ubeku, told PREMIUM TIMES, Wednesday afternoon.
“They were singing (the nation’s anthem) when the army shot at them.”
The incident happened Tuesday night, in the dark, at the Lekki toll gate, a regular spot for the #EndSARS protests in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
The number of deaths could not be ascertained, for now.
Ms Ubeku, an epidemiologist, has been participating in the protests in Lagos.
“I have been protesting at that venue since the protest started and on Monday we agreed that we would sit on the floor waving flags as a sign of peace and submission to (the) army if they arrive on Tuesday.
“On Tuesday, I was there briefly and left because I had a Zoom meeting by 6 p.m.
“Few hours after I left and after my meeting, I heard people at the venue were under attack. Had to call my friends on ground who have been assisting me in distribution of meals and water to protesters to find out if they were okay. Luckily they are, but many were killed,” she said.
“And as you can see, the videos are all over the place. Protesters were seated peacefully singing.”
“We were sitting on the ground and singing the Nigerian national anthem and most of us had flags in our hands and we raised it up,” the BBC quoted an unnamed witness as saying.
“Then they opened fire directly straight at us and they kept on advancing and advancing. One or two people got hit. Everybody got up and it became total chaos,” he said.
In one of the videos posted on Twitter, sounds of gunshots could be heard in the dark, alongside the voices of protesters singing, “One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.” – the last line of the first stanza of the national anthem.
“Imagine crying sorrowfully while singing your country’s national anthem!” one Twitter user, @iamteffie, said.
Days before the Lekki incident, as fears heightened about the possible deployment of troops, some Nigerians advised protesters on social media to get a Nigerian flag, apparently because of the belief that no Nigerian soldier would dare to shoot at a citizen holding the nation’s flag.
That probably explains why social media photos and videos had the corpses of some of the slain protesters draped in the green and white colours of the national flag.
“The flag of Nigeria was first designed in 1959,” one Twitter user, Adetutu Balogun (@Tutsy22), said of the Lekki killing.
“On 20th October 2020, the flag was redesigned with three vertical bands of green, RED, green. The two green stripes represent Nigeria’s natural wealth, while the RED stripe represents the death of Nigeria Youth,” she added.
Despite mounting evidence, the army has denied their involvement in the shootings which has attracted global outrage against the Nigerian government.
“I’m calling on @mbuhari and the @hqnigerianarmy to stop killing young #EndSARS protesters,” a former U.S. presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, said on Twitter, Wednesday.
The #EndSARS protests, which began nearly two weeks ago, seek an end to police brutality in the country, among other reforms.