• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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A week after Lekki shooting, wounded victims fight for life


Exactly a week after the Nigerian Army’s incursion into peaceful #EndSARS protest at Lekki Tollgate, Nicholas Okupwe lay exhausted in the emergency ward 1 of the Grandville Trauma Centre, Ajah, Lagos.

With a white plaster covering his chest and a tube draining bad fluid, he mustered some strength to ask for help.

A bullet was nesting peacefully around his back and he twitched from time to time as pains grew.

Without charge, the ‘Good Samaritan hospital’ has ensured he survived the encounter with death, stabilising him first before conducting an X-ray and CT-scan to assess the severity of the damage.

The next step is to displace the foreigner in his system and that requires a cardiothoracic surgery, which the trauma centre lacks the specialty to perform.

Okupwe, a Lagos commercial bus driver, was among hundreds of protesters unfazed at the sight of soldiers at about 6:45pm on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.

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Patrick Ukala, another victim with a bullet still stuck in his right arm, told BusinessDay during a visit to the hospital that the protesters had surged forward with Nigeria’s national flag, believing it could save them from terror.

Okupwe was the first to collapse, Ukala recalled. But Ukala continued to wave the flag, now in fury and bitterness.
In the twinkling of an eye, that same hand raising the flag was pelted by bullets rained in the dark.

“I was there for 12 days before the shooting. It was the 13th day of the protest, around 6:45pm, that the soldiers started shooting from Sandfill Bus Stop. Suddenly, Nicholas lost his foothold, and many others collapsed,” Ukala reminisced.

“When the bullet hit me, I felt my arm has scattered. I still can’t feel my hand. It is as if it is not part of me,” he said.

The young man now nurses the thought of living with the bullet since he can’t raise the fund for a surgery in the short or medium term.

Ukala, a trader in electronics and phone accessories within Ajah, is a 25-year-old father of a four-month-old daughter. To him, joining the protests was his way of lending his to deliver a Nigerian society free of police brutality in the least.

Surprisingly, he remains undaunted after being shot at.

“I still believe in Nigeria and I know that Nigeria will be greater now than before. The struggle has just begun. So many people will die, but we must make sure the country will be okay. I don’t mind losing my life. That is why we are fighting for it,” he told BusinessDay.

He is among those rescued by Ideh Chukwuma initially and moved to Reddington Hospital, and later to Grandville.
Of about 13 victims taken to Grandville, Nicholas Okupwe, Patrick Ukala, John Harrison, Samuel Ashola were yet to recover.

Anonymous help

Nigerians who feel connected to the spirit of the protest have been visiting the hospital to offer help to the victims. While some brought food, drinks and cash, others promised to foot their health bills.

In a visit that coincided with BusinessDay’s, a group of four including Chioma Lina, Dabiraoluwa David, Omotayo, who were part of the agitation from inception, offered to help the victims further their recovery.

They secured Grandville’s referral of the victims to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). These are two hospitals with the specialty to complete their recovery.

But they were disappointed at LUTH where they first went. Since arriving at the hospital at about 4pm, on Tuesday, October 27, the hospital had failed to admit them on account of lack of bed space. They resorted to trying First Cardiology, a private hospital in Ikoyi.

For Okupwe, the rejection by a government hospital was a further reinforcement of his fight for a better country.
Also, the heightened distrust for government terrified him such that he felt being admitted in a government hospital at a time when the government had been switching between denials of what transpired at the Lekki Tollgate incidence was dangerous.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos State, had initially denied the state’s involvement in the shooting, claiming it was the ‘forces beyond his direct control.’

The Nigerian Army also denied being involved in the shooting of protesters until Wednesday when it disclosed that it was invited by the Lagos State government to intervene in the protest.

The army has only admitted presence but has not backed down on the denial of shooting at protesters despite a flurry of evidence from victims.

Even after the governor admitted the death of two protesters and promised that the state would take responsibility for victims’ recovery, these victims are yet to receive any government aid.

With the inconsistency of facts playing out at the federal and state levels, Okupwe was especially afraid for his life in LUTH.

After gathering some strength by evening, he insisted on being discharged to get treatment through traditional medicine.

“Na government hospital be this o. If nobody deh here with us, they fit just inject us and we will die. This place no secure for me,” he lamented in pidgin English.

“I’m a hard-working driver. I don’t want anybody to tear me up for a surgery. I don’t have helper. I have told them that I don’t need doctors to remove the bullet. They can call it through a traditional method. They will command it to come out even if it is 10 bullets. Hospital wey security no dey. Make dem go drop me for Zanga make I die.”


For Dabiraoluwa David, a human rights activist, striving for better governance has not been quashed. It has only been paused to grieve about the dead and lift up injured protesters. She insists that the government must be held accountable.

“We are still out there protesting. So, they should expect us. We know what our government has been doing is to kill our confidence and we the youths of today are saying our confidence is as stable as never before. We know what we are standing for, talking about and we are not keeping quiet,” David said.

“But we can’t ignore the fact that some of us are injured and down and we need to help them stabilise so that we can move forward on the cause.”