How A Bloody Night of Bullets and Brutality Quashed A Young Protest Movement in Nigeria
Story Code : 898767
The person on the other end of the line -- a stranger -- broke the news that Ibanga's brother, Victor, had been shot dead at the Lekki toll gate, in Lagos, Nigeria, where he had been peacefully protesting against police brutality earlier that night.
"The person told me that the police took his body away," Ibanga, 24, told CNN.
An eyewitness to Victor Sunday Ibanga's death told CNN the 27-year-old entrepreneur was shot in the head during the protest.
The Ibangas are one of several families yet to locate the bodies of their missing loved ones -- protestors at the toll gate -- who dozens of eyewitnesses say were shot at, first by members of the Nigerian army and then hours later by police. Eyewitnesses told CNN they saw the army remove a number of bodies from the scene.
What happened on October 20, and into the early hours of October 21, at the eight-lane Lekki toll gate -- a key piece of Lagos' road network -- has stunned the country.
The protesters who were present have told CNN it was a "massacre" with multiple people killed and dozens wounded. But local authorities have downplayed that account.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, admitted to CNN that footage showed uniformed soldiers firing on peaceful protesters but claimed only two demonstrators were killed. But, he then said there was "not a scratch of blood" at the toll gate when he visited. The governor said no families had approached authorities saying they were missing relatives.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the army denied any involvement, describing reports of the incident as "fake news," before backtracking and saying that soldiers were present but fired their weapons in the air and used blanks, not live rounds.
The army said at the hearing that it was the governor who called soldiers to the scene because the police were overrun. The governor has denied this, saying he does not have the authority to call in the army. The army has continued to restate that they did not fire live rounds.
But an investigation by CNN into the disputed events has cast doubt on authorities' shifting and changing statements.
Evidence of bullet casings from the scene match those used by the Nigerian army when shooting live rounds, according to current and former Nigerian military officials. Verified video footage -- using timestamps and data from the video files -- shows soldiers who appear to be shooting in the direction of protesters. And accounts from eyewitnesses establish that after the army withdrew, a second round of shooting happened later in the evening.
Bodies of other protesters are nowhere to be found.
Peace Okon, 24, hasn't seen her younger brother Wisdom, 18, since he went to the protest the night of the shooting.
The shootings at Lekki toll gate followed weeks of "#EndSARS" protests against police brutality that had burst onto the streets of cities across Nigeria.
For almost a fortnight, thousands of young Nigerians mostly under 30 -- a demographic that makes up 40% of the country's population -- protested, with calls for an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police unit widely and repeatedly accused of kidnapping, harassment and extortion.
There were peaceful marches, candlelight vigils, multi-faith prayer sessions and DJ performances that attracted backing and solidarity from celebrities, the Nigerian diaspora and supporters around the world. The movement quickly widened beyond police brutality to other grievances -- capturing the frustrations of a young population demanding an end to bad governance in the oil-rich country.
Testimony from dozens of eyewitnesses and family members interviewed by CNN and a forensic examination of hours of video and dozens of photographs captured before, during and after the two shooting incidents show how a fledgling protest movement was all but extinguished by the very thing Nigerians were demonstrating against.
Two eyewitnesses told CNN they saw soldiers arriving in a Toyota Hilux pickup truck with "OP Awatse" written on it -- the name of a joint military task force that operates in Lagos State.
Videos examined by CNN show the army trucks approaching the protesters from both sides of the toll gate -- barricading them in.
DJ Switch, a local musician whose real name is Obianuju Catherine Udeh, was streaming live on Instagram when it all happened and the shooting began.
The shooting started almost immediately, with no warning given. Panic ensued as protesters attempted to flee.
From multiple videos, CNN has pieced together a timeline that shows that shooting by the army lasted from 6:43 pm until at least 8:24 pm, according to video evidence.
The videos capturing some of those 101 minutes tell a story of terror and chaos. They show graphic injuries and people bleeding on the ground.
In several of the videos, some of the protesters can be seen carrying bodies, the flashlights on their phones the only thing illuminating the darkness as the sound of ambulance sirens wail in the background. It is not known whether these were dead or injured protesters.
In another, there are several injured people, some on the ground bleeding while defiant protesters continued to wave Nigerian flags.