Nigeria continues to convulse in indignant protests over allegations that not less than 12 folks have been killed by safety forces at a toll gate in Lagos on October 20. They have been participating within the EndSARS protests in opposition to Nigeria’s notoriously violent Particular Anti-Theft Squad.
Numerous movies of the Lekki bloodbath have been uploaded on-line. Greater than 100,000 folks witnessed the sluggish, agonising loss of life of a younger Nigerian in real-time on Instagram. Subsequent footage of younger Nigerians affected by gunshot wounds inflicted by the armed forces have bolstered the message of the EndSARS protesters – that Nigeria is a rustic the place persons are killed for peacefully protesting the killing of protesters. A tragic irony.
The day after the shootings, Nigeria’s Socio-Financial Rights and Accountability Undertaking requested the Worldwide Prison Courtroom (ICC) to conduct a immediate investigation into reviews of the Nigerian authorities’s intimidation and killings of EndSARS protesters. The ICC’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, mentioned she was “holding a detailed eye on developments”.
In gentle of the overwhelming international response to the Lekki bloodbath, and due to the wealth of digital proof, the Nigerian authorities is at critical danger of being investigated internationally for what occurred.
#EndSARS: How Nigeria can faucet into its youthful inhabitants
Historical past of violence
It’s comparatively widespread for armed forces to open fireplace on peaceable protesters in Nigeria. Solely two years in the past, the Guards Brigade opened fireplace on protesters belonging to the Islamic Motion in Nigeria (IMN) in Abuja. The US State Division reported that 39 folks have been killed, and not less than 100 have been injured because of the taking pictures.
There are various similarities between the shootings of October 2018 and people of October 2020. Peaceable protesters have been barricaded, armed forces fired stay rounds into crowds of civilians indiscriminately, persevering with to take action whilst civilians retreated.
However reactions to each massacres have been markedly totally different. The IMN was portrayed by the federal government as violent, with its objectives equated to these of the militant Boko Haram sect. The federal government justified the hard-handed response of Nigeria’s armed forces throughout the overarching narrative of a conflict in opposition to a distant, horrible and uncompromising enemy of the state.
The federal government managed the circulate of knowledge concerning the 2018 incident, and in consequence, the favored narrative. It opened an inside investigation into the incident however didn’t publish its findings, and no army or police have been held accountable.
In distinction, the Lekki bloodbath was carried out in probably the most prosperous, densely populated neighbourhoods within the nation. This time, the victims couldn’t be labelled as “terrorists”. They have been younger city-dwellers. Lagos is a industrial hub populated with tech-savvy, enterprising people. So it comes as no shock that the user-generated protection of the bloodbath was unprecedented in Nigeria’s historical past.
The character of the alleged actions of the Nigerian safety forces fall underneath the jurisdiction of the ICC. There are substantive causes to research whether or not crimes in opposition to humanity have been dedicated underneath the court docket’s Rome Statute, together with crimes of homicide, outrages upon private dignity and intentional assaults in opposition to civilians.
The ICC has beforehand famous that Nigerian authorities have hindered the prosecution of crimes when their very own safety forces are concerned. Beneath the phrases of the ICC, as a result of the Nigerian authorities is alleged to be complicit in what occurred at Lekki and would arguably be unable or unwilling to prosecute these accountable, the worldwide court docket would have grounds to research.
Digital proof might be damning
Till now, the Nigerian authorities has relied on a three-part technique of oppression: stifling data flows about its repressive acts in opposition to residents, a crippled judicial system and a monopoly of using armed violence to keep up management. This might clarify the previous confidence of Nigerian armed forces to threaten, kill and even fail to get rid of the bodily proof of their actions.
However that’s the place the federal government made a vital error of judgement on the Lekki toll gate. Violently partaking a peaceable motion which relied on a real-time uninterrupted circulate of details about its objectives and actions was at odds with the three-part technique. It ought to have been obvious to the federal government that it might not be attainable to stifle what befell.
It’s more and more widespread for worldwide legal investigations to depend on open-source intelligence to establish, doc and confirm human rights atrocities by utilizing publicly accessible social media content material. Any investigation would additionally must search for bodily proof and first-hand testimonies to corroborate digital proof.
Taken collectively, these elements not solely neutralise Nigeria’s three-part technique of oppression, however minimise its leeway to evade ICC jurisdiction.
The Lekki bloodbath was performed in view of a world ecosystem of credible digital forensic specialists, and at a time when the ICC has already demonstrated its willingness to depend on open-source data. The admissibility of digital proof rising from the scenes of the Lekki bloodbath on the ICC is extra possible than ever earlier than. If these movies fulfill the three checks of relevance, probative worth and absence of prejudicial impact, they might be used to prosecute a case in opposition to authorities officers.
The federal government is slowly coming to phrases with this realisation. The Nigerian military has been frantically attempting to regain management of the narrative. The day earlier than the violence in Lagos, it had launched operation Crocodile Smile, an annual train to, “Establish, observe and counter detrimental propaganda within the social media and throughout the our on-line world”.
Within the wake of the violence, the military then issued a collection of statements branding information reviews from respected shops (together with the New York Occasions and Reuters) as faux information.
Though the Lagos State authorities has promised to research the Lekki shootings, the accusatory denial by the military exhibits a realisation it may not get away with a bloodbath within the age of desktop sleuths.
Olamide Samuel doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.