Lagos, Nigeria – A forensic analysis by the Digital Forensic Research (DRF) Lab, an international forensic agency, has shown that videos of “killing of unarmed protesters” by the Nigerian military at Lekki, a rich suburb in Lagos state, circulated on the social media were genuine, contrary to the classification of the videos as “doctored” by the Nigerian authorities.
In a report published on medium.com, DRFlab noted that open-source evidence contradicted these denials by the military.
Dubbed the #lekkiMassacre, the killings of unarmed protesters by the Nigerian military raised international concerns prompting the US to send a letter demanding the Nigerian government to commence an investigation into the incident.
Protesters were demanding the scrapping of a brutal police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Hence, the protest was tagged #EndSars and the hashtag became a trending topic worldwide prompting similar protests in London, US and Canada.
The report by DFRLab used analytical images to illustrate proofs to show the authenticity of the circulated videos of the killings.
“Several videos corroborate the location and presence of Nigerian soldiers at the Lekki Toll Plaza, a major toll highway toll concession in the south of Lagos,” said Jean Le Roux, the lab’s Research Associate for Southern Africa.
“Video footage posted on Twitter placed Nigerian soldiers at the plaza, where they are seen approaching peaceful demonstrators and opening fire. Subsequent footage shows injured civilians being carried away from the same location.”
Using four videos, the DFRLab geolocated the shooting at the toll-gate “despite denials by the Nigerian military”.
“A different video shows what appears to be soldiers of the Nigerian army approaching protesters where they were stationed behind plastic barriers. Soldiers approached the group and opened fire. No warning is heard in the video. Muzzle flashes indicate that several of the shots seen and heard here were fired into the air,” it stated.
The photos of technicians removing the CCTV cameras, posted on the social media, shortly before the lights were turned off and the shootings began were analyzed and reconstructed with satellite images from Google and they showed a match of the location of the Lekki toll gate where the incident took place in Lagos state.
Despite denials by the Nigerian military, video’s posted on social media clearly show Nigerian soldiers approaching the crowd where they remained behind the barriers. Several shots are fired, many of them in the air based on the muzzle flashes. In one of these videos, law enforcement vehicle approached protestors from the west as they opened fire.
From a geolocation of the video, features near the toll gate and across the channel on Lagos island confirmed it was taken looking into a northern direction on the eastern part of the toll gate, suggesting that protesters were approached from both the east and west by law enforcement, as suggested by some witnesses.
The badges worn by the military men in the videos were also analyzed and the fit the official badges used by the Nigerian army, further adding to the authenticity of the videos.
The DFRLab used four videos to geolocate the shooting to the Lekki toll gate. These videos also confirmed Nigerian soldiers were in the presence of injured protesters in the vicinity of the toll gate.
US Condemns Killing of Protesters
The United States on Thursday condemned what it called excessive use of force by the Nigerian military for firing on unarmed demonstrators.
“We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement condemning the killings.
Former US president and his wife, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the democratic candidate for the 2020 US election have all condemned the killing of peaceful protesters by the Nigerian state.