The Nigerian Army at weekend gave graphic details of its involvement in the Lekki tollgate shooting of #EndSARS protesters, saying that it was the breakdown of communication between the Lagos state government and the military that perhaps led to the alleged shooting of protesters.
Giving testimony of the Nigerian Army’s involvement in the entire crisis, the Commander of 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Brigadier General Ahmed Ibrahim Taiwo, said when the Lagos State government called out the military and imposed a curfew for 4.00pm, the military was informed but when it was extended, they were never informed.
He spoke at the Lagos Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses, explaining that the military was called out when it was believed that the hoodlums had hijacked the protest and that policemen and their stations were overrun by hoodlums.
He lamented that little mention was made of the loss of lives of policemen before the escalation of the incident, explaining that the crime of the policemen was that they reported for duty that fateful day.
General Taiwo lamented that when the Lagos State Government relaxed the curfew, the military was not carried along as what they heard was that the government had relaxed the 24-hour curfew.
He explained how the Army activated “phase four” of its internal security operation, and lamented that the Governor of Lagos State did not have the number of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division in Lagos, which was the division tasked with security of Lagos and Ogun states.
According to him, the day after the curfew was imposed; the Governor had to call the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai. He said that the order to shoot was given by the commander on ground but that the soldiers fired blank ammunition. The Army showed video clips of the shooting and where soldiers were shooting in the air to scare protesters and also presented expended blank ammunition to the panel, which was admitted in evidence. The force also showed the video clip of how the military, particularly soldiers from the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army rescued the Oba of Lagos and his family from the palace in central Lagos where hoodlums had besieged the place and had overwhelmed the Nigeria Police personnel deployed there.
The video showed a frightened Oba of Lagos being taken out of the palace in Hilux vehicle in military colour. General Taiwo also took the opportunity to debunk some social media posts, especially those made by Nnamdi Kanu, DJ Swift and others, saying that Nnamdi Kanu had tweeted that the attacks were done by the Igbo, said that the Army found out that that assertion was false, as many of the shops looted and property destroyed belong to Igbo people. He said that the Nigerian Army was not looking for DJ Swift as she is the least of their problem, adding that it had not received any formal petition over its alleged shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate.
General Ibrahim Taiwo also denied that the force used live ammunition explaining that Nigerian Army did use live ammunition on unarmed #EndSARS protesters, during the alleged Oct. 20 shooting at the Lekki Tollgate .
He said that the military had fired blank ammunition into the air to disperse protesters on the night of the alleged shooting.
Taiwo, who gave a presentation to the panel with the use of a projector, played a footage which showed soldiers standing in front of singing protesters and firing their weapons into the air.
He said there would have been a lot of fatalities if the 600m live ammunition normally used by the military were used to disperse the #EndSARS protesters.
“I have been in the army since 1986 and you cannot be under fire and be singing.
“The entry hole for the 600m is thin while the exit is wide, if it hits you in the chest or the bowels, the intestines comes down.
“I am an expert in ammunition having spent so long in the army. Blank ammunition is slower and can do no damage to the flesh and you have nothing to fear except you take a rifle, put it against your eye and fire.
“Even if you put it against your skin and fire you will only have burn marks,” he said.
Taiwo said that troops had managed to disperse most of the #EndSARS protesters, and had even shared drinks from protesters who had remained at the Lekki Tollgate.
He said he was monitoring the situation on the internet, and that it was after the departure of the soldiers that hoodlums set the tollgate on fire.
He said that non-kinetic (non violent) means was used in the Army’s rules of engagement during the protests.
Following his revelation, Taiwo through the counsel of the Nigerian Army, Mr Akinlolu Kehinde (SAN), presented four spent blank ammunition to the panel as evidence.
The Army Officer told the panel that there was a lapse in communication between the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Army regarding the imposing and lifting of the curfew.
“Due to the urgency of the security situation in the state, the governor declared a 24-hour curfew which was supposed to start at 4pm.
“They wanted everyone off the streets to deal with the hoodlums, but after some observations the timing was shifted to 21:00 hours, but this timing was not communicated to the Nigerian Army.
“Be that as it may, we the Nigerian Army had already immediately deployed the 65 Battalion under the 81 Division Garrison to forestal all further violence and loss of lives.
“It is important to note that this deployment of troops contrary to reports, was done throughout Lagos to activate Phase 4 of the Internal Security Operations,” Taiwo said.
The officer told the panel that the Army had entered the Stabilisation Phase of the Internal Security Operations, and had started recovering looted items when the Lagos State Government lifted the curfew without informing them.
“We were still recovering a lot of looted items which were given back to the owners on production of receipt or proof of ownership.
“If the curfew was not lifted we would have recovered a 100 times more than the items we recovered,” Taiwo said.