On October 20, 2020, Olalekan Falaye decided to join thousands of other youth to walk the talk of their SARS-related grievances with a peaceful protest. But after all was said and done, there was no peace, neither was there, for Falaye, an ability to walk on two feet anymore
Olalekan Falaye, 23, is now handicap. His right leg was amputated as a result of the gunshot injury he sustained at the Lekki Toll Gate on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
He claims soldiers shot at him during the peaceful #ENDSARS protest. Falaye’s revelation is yet another piece of evidence backing the belief that soldiers shot live ammunition at protesters during the Lekki attack, a claim that the army continues to deny.
The video of a young man being hounded and shot at by the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) led to a nationwide protest that started on October 7. The protests started as a trending hashtag on social media platform Twitter, before growing into street protests in various cities across the country.
However, over ten days after the protest started, hoodlums alleged to be sponsored by the government, attacked protesters in different states. At least two people were killed in Abuja following the attack.
In response to the attack, some state governors announced curfews to clear the cities of both peaceful protesters and hoodlums. But sooner than the curfew was announced in Lagos, the Nigerian Army clamped down on protesters in Lekki.
Amnesty International said at least 12 people were killed during the attack. A popular Nigerian Disc jockey, DJ Switch, said she counted 15 people who were killed and their corpses taken away in military vans.
The Nigerian army initially denied its men were present at the toll gate, but after the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, confessed during an interview with the CNN that soldiers were indeed deployed to the scene, the army rescinded its earlier position.
Multiple pieces of evidence have since emerged to show that people were killed or maimed during what has now been dubbed as the #LekkiMassacre. Falaye was one of those maimed during the attack.
“On Tuesday, I decided to join the protests after I closed from work,” Falaye explained. “It was about 7 pm when we were told the soldiers had arrived, that we should not run but sit down on the floor. The soldiers just started shooting up in the air.”
Falaye’s account checked repeated verifications and even part of the military’s narrative. The Commander of 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Ahmed Ibrahim Taiwo, revealed while being cross-examined at the Lagos State Judicial panel that the soldiers deployed to Lekki went with live rounds, contrary to the initial stand that the soldiers only fired blanks.
The Nigerian army continued to insist that its soldiers only shot in the air, but that only accounted for a few minutes after the soldiers arrived at the scene. What followed hours later was heinous human rights violations and extrajudicial killings, according to Falaye’s account and investigations carried out by CNN and Premium Times.
“It got to a point, the soldiers faced us (protesters) and started shooting at us. It was at that point that a bullet met me in my leg. It was a good samaritan who helped me and carried me to Randville, saving my life,” Falaye claimed.
His medical report from Randville Trauma Centre, where he received initial treatment, confirmed that he was indeed shot at Lekki Toll Gate.
“He sustained this injury as a result of his involvement in the Endsars protest that occurred at Lekki Toll gate,” his medical report read. “The flesh on his leg was torn open by the bullet.”
The hospital recommended amputation, claiming, “no pulse was felt” on his leg. He was subsequently referred to the National Orthopedic Hospital in Igbobi, Lagos, where the procedure was carried out five days later.
Since Falaye’s mother, Temitope, got the news about her son, she said she’s faced a great financial challenge to get him the necessary medical care. It took a hit on both her savings and capital for her food business. She sold noodles by the road side and offered cleaning services.
“When I got to Igbobi, they said I should go and bring money for a bed. I opened a (patient´s) card, after which I was given a drug prescription. I spent fifty something thousand the first day alone, and that only accounts for what I could calculate,” the dejected mother said, adding she was only able to afford some of the medical expenses because of help from her church members and friends.
The mother is grateful that Falaye learnt a trade, but she is worried he might not be able to raise capital to start up a shop after coming out of apprenticeship.
“I need them (government) to help us because even what to eat has now become so hard,” she said.