More facts have emerged as to who ordered the deployment of soldiers on Tuesday, October 20 to the Lekki Tollgate where live bullets were used against #ENDSARS protesters demanding an end to police brutality in the country.
The Nigerian Army on Saturday maintained that soldiers who were seen at the Lekki Tollgate on that Tuesday night were there at the instance of Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria after the police were overrun by protesters.
Ahmed Taiwo, the representative of the Nigerian Army at the Lagos Judicial Panel set up to investigate police brutality and Lekki shooting testified before the panel, explaining the extent of the involvement of the Army in the #ENDSARS protest and the Lekki toll gate shooting.
Sanwo-Olu had on the morning of Wednesday, October 21 in a live broadcast exonerated himself from the involvement of the military in the now ‘infamous’ Lekki shooting, insisting that the control of military forces was not within the purview of a sitting governor.
“For clarity, it is imperative to explain that no sitting governor controls the rules of engagement of the military. I have, nonetheless, ordered an investigation into the rules of engagement adopted by men of the Nigerian Army that were deployed to the Lekki toll gate last night,” he had said.
But in his submission, before the panel on Saturday, Taiwo, a Brigadier General said the military authorities were not happy about the denial by the governor on his call to the Army to intervene.
He said he has spoken personally with the Governor on the displeasure of his comment and added that the Nigerian Army was not happy about two things.
“First, his denial that he asked us to intervene when in actual fact it was the proper thing to do, he called the Chief of Army Staff and GOC 81 division and asked for intervention because the police had been overrun then,” the Army General told the panel.
“The Army is unhappy because he said he did not ask the Army to intervene but I am sure after watching the video he has more than reasonable grounds to ask the Army to intervene.”
While justifying the involvement of the military, General Taiwo told the panel that “ World over it is the task of the Armed Forces to intervene when a situation overcomes the police and other paramilitary services.”
He narrated that the protest escalated when the police could no longer handle the situation and the Governor of Lagos State asked for the military involvement.
“It was the state of affairs which occurred by 12 pm on the 20th that made the Governor Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu asked the Army to intervene and in my opinion that is the correct thing to do since the police have been overrun and have been fighting for their dear lives,” Taiwo informed the panel.
“Due to the urgency of the situation, it is no wonder the governor declared a 24 hours curfew which was to start by 4 pm. Analysing that further, it shows the situation was so dire they wanted everyone off the street,” he stated further.
He, however, said the state government did not communicate to the Army the change in the time the curfew was meant to be effective.
“They wanted everyone off the street after some observation this timing was shifted to 2100 hours that is 9 pm. However, this timing was not communicated to the Nigerian Army, be that as it may, the Nigerian Army deplored immediately,” Taiwo explained.
When asked by Abayomi Omomuwasan, the counsel to the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), at the panel how long were the soldiers at the toll gate on the night of October 20, the Army representative said they were there for just 20 minutes.
Taiwo also clarified that the soldiers fired only blank bullets containing gunpowder into the air and not directly at the #EndSARS protesters.
The General referenced the alleged killings of protesters by soldiers at the Lekki Tollgate and mentioned the tweets by Ik Osakioduwa, a radio personality. He also maintained that there was no fatality.
“The owner of this handle Ik Osakioduwa is a well-known celebrity. Those at the Lekki Toll claimed that various numbers of people were reportedly killed by soldiers at the Lekki Toll shooting incident on Tuesday night, in other accounts the numbers ranging from 15 – 25 individuals reportedly shot dead.”
He went ahead to say due to this tweet an investigation was carried out to confirm if this number of people died.
“We fact check it, after a considerable detailed check of hospitals and mortuaries in the state, Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu confirmed that one life was lost in connection to the Lekki incident,” he stated.
According to Radisson hospital Lekki, the death of the unnamed individual was caused by blood clot trauma. Another body with a gunshot wound was deposited in a mortuary in Yaba and an investigation is still ongoing to see if this occurred at the Lekki Toll incident.”
The panel was adjourned to Tuesday 17th November.
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