*Army: Live Bullets Taken To Lekki Tollgate Was For Our Protection
By Gbenga Abulude (Politics and General Desk)
More revelations have been made at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry investigating the Lekki shooting and alleged cases of police brutality.
At the panel’s Saturday hearing, the Nigerian Army which has been under fire for its alleged role said it deployed about 7 military trucks to the Lekki Tollgate on the evening of Oct. 20, as revealed by CCTV footage of the incident.
Recall that the governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been under severe criticism for requesting the assistance of the military in quelling the Lekki protest.
Political observers and analysts believe that it amounts to sheer inexperience, and lack of understanding of the role of the Army in civilian-military relations for the governor of Lagos state to have requested the help of Army personnel.
Said a retired Army officer who spoke with The New Diplomat: ” The role of the Army is very clear in our constitution. You don’t request the Army to come in internal, peaceful protest. Because the Army by its training is to defend the territorial integrity of the nation.
”The police and other para-military institutions are to carry out internal security such as managing the Lekki protest. So the Governor erred seriously for requesting the assistance of the Army. It is never done that way. The Police should have been reinforced by other para-military services, not the Army.”
He added: ” So it is not the fault of the Army. Blame the governor who sought the help of the Army personnel. I keep saying that the work of the police is more difficult in terms of internal security. Army is trained on war but Police officer is trained to apprehend the suspect.”
Recall that the Army has been accused of firing live ammunitions and killing some protesters, but the Army has repeatedly denied the accusation, saying it only fired blank bullets at them.
The footage was played at the panel on Saturday prior to the cross-examination of Brig.-Gen. Ahmed Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island.
The video footage showed people running from the vicinity of Oriental Hotel towards the direction of the tollgate in the Lekki area at 6.43pm.
According to the video footage, at 6.45pm, Army personnel reportedly arrived with at about seven trucks as seen in the footage.
At 6.53pm, lights appeared to have been turned off at the tollgate facility and the footage became blurred showing in black and white.
At 6.55pm, they allegedly drove through the tollgate and at 6.57pm, while flashes of gunfire could be seen in the footage.
At about 7.09pm, the protesters appeared to be surrounded on all sides by vehicles allegedly belonging to the Army which had flashing lights.
Earlier during proceedings, the Chairman of the panel, retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, noted that during the hearing of Nov. 6, a 20-hour worth of footage was presented by the Lekki Concession company (LCC) and handed over to Mr Adeshina Ogunlana, counsel to the #EndSARS protesters.
Okuwobi noted that the lawyer had on that day informed the panel that he would sift through the footage and select the portions that would be relevant to his case.
Responding, Ogunlana told the panel that he had watched the footage and had noted the parts of the video that are of interest to him.
“LCC has furnished us with the footage and we have taken our time to reach out to the counsel of LCC and the Lagos State Government.
“We agreed that subject to their acceptance, all we watched is the same until 5pm and we should limit viewing from 5pm to 7.59pm when the tape ended,” Ogunlana said.
The counsel for LASG, Mr Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) aligned his views with Ogunlana’s submission.
“The relevant portions of the footage which is from 5pm to 7.59pm should be viewed,” he said.
Meanwhile, General Taiwo at the panel said, even though the Army took live bullets to Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020 they were never used on the protesters at Lekki tollgate.
He insisted that the officers who had live ammunitions were there to protect their colleagues who were on ground to enforce the curfew using blank bullets.
The Lekki Shooting saga has caused a lot of furore on account of the alleged killing of #EndSARS protesters at the tollgate plaza.
While a live witness, DJ Switch, the international Cable TV, CNN and the Amnesty International have made various claims that protesters were killed on that night in Oct 20, the Lagos state government, the Nigerian Army and the Federal Government have debunked the claims insisting that no one was killed as a result of the shots fired by the soldiers deployed to the scene.
The Army personnel have reiterated at the Lagos panel that people could have been injured as a result of blank ammunitions fired but no one died.
CNN during the week unveiled an investigative report that reportedly established that indeed live bullets were used on protesters and their report showed two people that could have died as a result of live bullets fired at them.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has condemned the broadcast by CNN demanding for proof of the bodies that died as result of the alleged ‘Lekki Massacre’.
He noted at a press briefing in Abuja that the parents of those alleged to have died have not come forward to demand for the bodies of their children or declared them missing.
The minister said fake news propagated on the social media, caused a lot of havoc during the #EndSARS protests.