The forensic and ballistic company hired by the Lagos State government to investigate the shooting incident at the Lekki tollgate has said that yet-to-be-identified persons fired live bullets at the protesters on the night of 20 October, 2020.
The UK-based company, Oxygene Consulting UK Ltd, represented by Dieye Willie-Harry, its executive director and senior consultant, gave the report of the team on Tuesday via Zoom.
“We have not viewed any footage, which definitively shows a muzzle aimed towards any individual and at the same time being fired with the effect thereof, with what we can freely assess to be firing live ammunition (no flailing or falling injured victims),” Mr Willie-Harry said.
“However, given the injuries sustained from 21:00 hrs and further, we believe, that live, military-grade ammunition, was fired at some point, by persons as yet to be identified.”
According to Mr Willie-Harry, the team was engaged by the government 10 days after the shooting incident to conduct medical, ballistic, and forensic injury analysis of the event.
He said by the time the team of experts arrived Lagos in December last year, “the medical treatment of victims had reached an advanced stage, injuries had healed and victims had been discharged from healthcare centers.
“The ability of the victims to give reliable accounts of how, when and where, their respective injuries were sustained, may have deteriorated, or been contaminated by exterior influences and the passage of time,” he said.
Mr Willie-Harry, a UK-based Nigerian, is a military operation analyst, forensic investigator, kidnap and ransom negotiator, trained paramedic, and surveillance officer.
Giving the forensic and ballistic report of the team, he said his team examined medical reports and x-rays of the victims who were treated at public and private hospitals in Lagos.
Medical data examination
He said the medical data examined included the timeline of arrival at medical facilities and the nature of the injuries sustained by the victims brought to the facilities.
He said their investigation showed there was “no military-grade live ammunition (high-velocity) fired at the protesters, at Lekki tollgate, on 20 October, last year within the timeframe of 6:30 p.m to 8:34 p.m.” He added that the military-grade ammunition was used later, after 9 p.m.
Mr Willie-Harry said four victims of gunshots, who reported at hospitals between 7:05 p.m. and 7:45 p.m on the day of the shooting, were examined by the team.
The expert said the wounds sustained by the victims “can be safely identified as being discharged by either low-velocity calibre and/or artisanal/12 gauge firearms.
“The team is unable to ascertain, how, by whom, where and when exactly these GSW [gunshot wounds] injuries were sustained, due to the apparent breakdown of law and order, prevalent during the day, afternoon and evening of 20/10/2020, in Lagos at the time of the alleged Lekki incident,” he said.
The Nigerian army earlier told the panel that although soldiers were deployed to the Lekki tollgate axis, the soldiers fired only blank ammunition into the air to disperse the protesters.
Amidst several reports of deaths and injuries, allegedly resulting from gunshots supposedly fired by soldiers of the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Army later said it went to Lekki toll gate with both live and blank ammunition.
Mr Willie-Harry said the team reviewed 19 ballistic-related injuries, non-law enforcement grade ammunition-related injuries, and 23 medical injuries classified as non-ballistic, non-fire arm-related injuries.
He said a total of eight injuries were “commensurate with 7.62 x 39mm (law enforcement grade ammunition), and only two were recorded on the night of October 20, last year. The remaining six were recorded between October 21 and 22, last year, according to medical reports.
Mr Willie-Harry said 11 injuries were, however, firearm injuries not commensurate with 7.62 x 39mm, non-law enforcement grade ammunition. He said the injuries are from artisanal weapons, locally-made weapons that are classified as small arms, and light weapons (SALW).
“What is ,however, certain, is that had the military personnel, deliberately fired military-grade live ammunition, directly at the protesters; there would have been significantly more fatalities and catastrophic injuries recorded. This was clearly not the case,” he said.
Mr Willie-Harry said military-grade ammunition, if fired into a mass of human tissue at close range by military personnel who are trained by default to aim for the central body mass, would have undoubtedly resulted in a large number of victims, with fatal, catastrophic thoracic and head injuries.
“Apart from the sworn statement by the military spokesperson at the Lagos State Tribunal, the team observed, on examined video material, that the military was firing blank ammunition. This is due to the repeated arming of their weapons to reload, before firing into the air,” he said.
‘Imagery reveals use of live ammunition’
Mr Willie-Harry, however, said examination conducted by the forensic team into the open-source imagery and news reporting, including the social media, showed that “the military fired live ammunition at some point.”
“Along with the individual injuries and medical reports, we are of the opinion that ‘live’ military-grade ammunition, may have been discharged at some point at the Lekki Toll Gate on 20th October 2020, after 21:00 hrs and possibly aimed, at the road surface in front of protesters.”
The expert said the live ammunition hit the “majority of the victims in the lower limbs at much reduced kinetic energy but with enough energy to fracture the long bones without exiting the victims’ bodies.”
He said injuries of this category were recorded around 9:30 p.m according to the time stamp on medical records.
“The team has identified the firearms carried by the military officers, during the alleged incident, as Kalashnikov AK type variants including Chinese Type 56, some with (foldable bayonet) extended. These weapons discharge the 7.62mmx39 Type 56 / PS.
Following his testimony, the expert was cross-examined by lawyers to the police, #EndSARS protesters, and the Nigerian Bar Association.
Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge heading the panel, said the expert’s testimony would be the last the panel would take before giving its ruling on the shooting incident at the Lekki tollgate on 20 October last year.