Did a Massacre Take Place at Lekki on 20/10/20?

Gbenro Adegbola
3 min readNov 26, 2020


This word has been a subject of much lexical hair splitting in the past four weeks or so, since the Lekki Massacre. Much energy has been dissipated needlessly on wether the event at Lekki was a massacre or not.

The classic dictionary meaning of massacre going by the Oxford Dictionary is the killing of large number of people especially in a cruel way.

Marian Webster’s on the other hand, define it as: the act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity (a shockingly bad or atrocious act). A cruel or wanton(merciless, inhumane, having no just foundation or provocation, malicious, being without check or limitation) murder.

Somewhere in between the classic definition and the extended, more explanatory one of Webster’s is where the sticking, point of contention is. Going by the standard definition, a massacre may have not been able to be proved, even though we know for sure one or two people have been confirmed to have died either as a direct result or effects of the events. Even in the context of American shooting culture reporting, a mass killing is not deemed to have taken place till at least four people have died.

To this extent those who argue vehemently against the use of the word massacre may feel vindicated. On the other hand, those who insist on it, relying on the more liberal use of the word also have an extremely strong point.

The army went in, the protesters were unarmed and helpless. These were not some wild eyed bandits carrying even small guns. They were completely unarmed civilians. Even if one person died there, it becomes a massacre. That one person was massacred.

The army said they fired blank bullets into the air Even if this was all they did, is that the best way to disperse a protesting crowd?. Did we not see more effective, civil, “non kinetic” crowd control, dispersal and deescalation means by the same military in subsequent days, even having to push back on police who insisted on strong arm tactic?

There have been talk of the presence of none governmental guns that night, as a means of proving that the army didn’t commit the killings. Indeed it has become clear that it was not only the military that was there that night. The police came in later. Given the suspiciously convoluted and conflicting accounts by the various authorities, can we totally discount the possible presence of black operations or even fifth columnists?

For now, both sides insist they are right. As a matter of fact, it is possible to say that both sides are right and neither side is wrong.

Case closed? I don’t think so!

Somewhere in between the two definitions and positions lie a moral issue. And that is exactly where the problem lies. That is where I worry about the position of those who argue agaisnt the use of the word. The word massacre, you see, has becomes a morally relative word, taking us into the realm of moral or ethical relativism, liable not only to reveal, but define individuals’ moral positions.

To me it was undoubtedly and unarguably a massacre.

Whatever we choose to call it however, something extremely sinister went on at Lekki on the night of 20/10/20. Whatever it is, it stands completely and totally condemnable in the strongest of terms.

That, to my mind is what we should have expended energy on, and not attempting to rush to exonerate the military and authorities in this totally unproductive and needless argument.



Gbenro Adegbola

Educational Books Publisher & tech enthusiast, (especially its application in Education). Nigerian history, politics and offbeat tid-bits.