By Oyeniyi ‘Skrtel’ Oguntola
There is a small town in Bayelsa State, predominantly occupied by the Ijaw people; the town is called Odi in Kolokuma/Opokuma LG of the state.
On the 20th of November, 1999, the Nigerian military attacked Odi and leveled the entire community.
Why the attack?
There was an ongoing conflict in Niger Delta over indigenous rights to oil resources and environmental protection. The military was to wade in to quell the conflict, especially as 12 Police officers had been murdered two weeks before the military’s intervention. En route to Odi, the army was ambushed, attacked and some of the officers were killed.
As a result, tension rose, and the military, out of provocation, retaliated the attack in a more brutal and inhumane manner. ALL the buildings in the town, except banks, churches, and health centre, were burnt to the ground. Civilians living in the town were mercilessly killed. President Olusegun Obasanjo was alleged to have been the one behind the dastard attack.
No one knows the actual numbers of people killed, but a rough estimate of 2,500 was arrived at. The government initially put the death toll at 43; 35 civilians and 8 soldiers (certainly impossible).
The community took the FG to court and won the case in 2013, and the Federal High Court ordered the FG to pay N37.6 billion compensation to the people of Odi within 3 weeks. In the end, the government settled for an out-of-court settlement, met with the community, and agreed to compensation of N15 billion. The FG, under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, eventually paid N15 billion to the community in May 2014.
The people of the Odi community proved their case and won. They did this even though there was no social media, drones, mobile phones, internet, and camera.
7,640 days after the Odi Massacre. A supposed Massacre at the Lekki Tollgate, which allegedly took the lives of many people, ranging from 78, 38, 15, 7, 1(depending on which version you choose to believe) was said to have taken place. And up till this moment, one year after, no one has been able to prove or show empirical evidence(s) that anybody died at the Lekki Tollgate on this day last year.
Yes, some questions were asked and have been answered:
Who ordered the presence of the military? Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Did the military fire bullet? Yes, but not live bullets. They fired blank bullet
Did people sustain injury? Yes
Did people sustain gunshots injuries? Yes, but from locally made gun.
Do the military use locally-made gun? No
But was there a massacre? Did anyone die at the incident?
These are questions and claims that no one has been able to prove.
On that night, I actually believed there was a massacre because I saw a video of soldiers firing; even though many things in the video did not add up, I even wrote a cryptic message on Facebook, condemning President Muhammadu Buhari. In the following morning, Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu addressed the state, or to put it more succinct, the nation. In his address, he said that having visited all Government and private hospitals around Lekki, he can confirm that 2 people died (not from the incident scene)… In my mind, I was like, “Just 2 people? What’s this man smoking? How about the many dead people whose images I’ve seen online?”
12-hour later, my thoughts appeared wrong because everyone who was ‘killed’ had suddenly resurrected. It turned out that images we saw, which were credited to Lekki Tollgate attacks, were either images from a movie shoot, old images of non-EndSars related protests across Nigeria, or non-Nigeria-related horror images.
The Government set up a panel of inquiry thereafter to look into different cases of Police brutality and the alleged Lekki Massacre. The Lagos Panel of Inquiry, which is an open sitting, allows journalists and observers to cover the proceedings sat for 11-month, treating different cases based on merit, and awarded 91m to 16 victims of police brutality. They investigated the massacre, invited the Army, Lekki Concession Company (LCC), doctors of government and private hospitals around Lekki, forensic pathologists, among others, yet, it could still not be proven that there was a massacre from the Lekki.
Why are the “wrong generation” youths afraid to face the panel to present their case, facts, and pieces of evidence?
If the people of Odi can prove their case in 1999. Why is it difficult to establish a massacre in 2020 with the availability of tech, phone, camera, drones, internet, 4G, social media, etc.?. Why are those claiming and confident that there was a massacre not presenting their evidences before the panel? Or go to a court of competent jurisdiction if the panel is not trusted?
This is just about commonsense and not emotion. Unfortunately, when you ask questions concerning the purported massacre, people result into curses, abuses, and emotional blackmail.
Up till this moment, not a single person has been proven to have died at Lekki Tollgate on the 20th of October, 2020. Not a single family has come out to say they lost a loved one to that incident. Not a single person has been reported missing whose last seen was the scene of the incident.
So, where is the massacre?
Mr Oguntola writes from State of Osun. He can be reached via: email@example.com, 08130244052