Politics

Army Commander reveals to panel that soldiers went to Lekki tollgate with live bullets, but for self-defence

ENDSARS Protesters

The Commander of the 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Brigadier-General Ahmed Taiwo, has revealed that soldiers were at the Lekki Tollgate with live ammunitions.

Brig. Gen. Taiwo told the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry into the October 20, 2020 #LekkiMassacre that soldiers were at the scene with both blank and live ammunitions.

He spoke while being cross-examined by counsels to the #EndSARS protesters; Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN) and Mr. Adeshina Ogunlana.

“We had men and materials – vehicles and rifles for shooting. A portion of the force carried live bullets in case they were attacked. Another portion carried magazines charged with blank ammunition,” the general stated.

He however noted that the soldiers only fired blank bullets into the air.

When #EndSARS counsel, Olumide-Fusika, asked Taiwo if soldiers who went to the tollgate carried guns, Taiwo said, “When you are talking of guns, you are talking about high-calibre guns. They were carrying rifles; not guns.”

Speaking further he said; “Definitely, a portion of the Force will carry live bullets, in case they are attacked. But the soldiers that formed the firing team, who fired, used blank bullets. And that is why you watched the video and saw exactly what happened.”

The general further stated that in Phase Four military internal security operation, “soldiers would be given both live and blank bullets.”

“In this particular case, we saw that the peaceful protest had been infiltrated by hoodlums. They were peaceful protesters, no doubt, but there were also hoodlums who sought to take advantage, that was why they were armed with blank bullets in addition with live bullets,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the CCTV footage submitted by the Lekki Consession Company, showed that the Nigerian Army deployed about seven vehicles to the tollgate.

As seen on ThePunch;
The footage showed that the scene was calm until about 6.43pm when people could be seen running towards the tollgate from the Oriental Hotel end. Two minutes later, at 6.45pm, military vehicles, with flashing headlights, arrived on the scene. The some of the military trucks were white coloured, while the others were black.

At 6.53pm, about eight minutes after the arrival of the military vehicles, the tollgate went into a blackout. Two minutes later, at 6.55pm, one of the military vehicles drove through the tollgate to the other end where the crowd of protesters was gathered.

Asked when the soldiers started shooting, the general said; “From the video we watched, I reckon by 6.43pm.”

The #EndSARS counsel stated that the soldiers did not just start shooting immediately they arrived because they were waiting for the lights to go off, so they could operate in darkness. Brig. Gen. Taiwo however said; “It is absolutely untrue.”

According to the general, the soldiers disembarked from the vehicles before they arrived at the tollgate, saying that they were confronted by hoodlums pelting them with stones around the Oniru junction, just before the tollgate.

“When the soldiers disembarked and cleared the hoodlums, everybody started running. By the time the soldiers fired a few shots into the air, the hoodlums hightailed it,” he said.

Asked if any of the soldiers sustained injury, the general stated that one soldier was hit with a stone on the lips.

Brig. Gen. Taiwo further noted that during his visit to the tollgate after the incident, there was no sign on gunshot.

Asked by the #EndSARS counsel; “What were your observations at the tollgate on the day you visited?” the general replied, “I didn’t see any signs of gunshots.”

The #EndSARS counsel however noted that his clients, the protesters, “for whom I am here, claimed they were shot and suffered gunshot injuries and it happened at the Lekki tollgate. Your account was that nobody died?” The General reaffirmed his earlier statment that nobody died.

“When you got to Lekki, was there any other uniform organisation that you met on the ground?” Olumide-Fusika asked. In response, Taiwo said, “Definitely, members of the Nigeria Police were around that vicinity, Oriental Hotel.”

Confronted with the statement by the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who stated that 27 persons were injured and two died, the general said that the governor was probably misinformed.

“The governor was probably misinformed; whoever gave him that information, he was misinformed,” the general said.

Asked by the #EndSARS counsel, Olumide-Fusika, if he was aware that the Nigerian Army had earlier denied that soldiers were at the tollgate, Brig. Gen. Taiwo said, “The first statement was borne out of the fact that we did not have the full facts at that time. The fact is that nobody was sent to the Lekki tollgate to break up any protest,” adding that the soldiers were actually on their way towards Epe.

“But you were there,” Olumide-Fusika told him, in reply, Taiwo said, “I was not at that tollgate.”

He further noted that he was not aware that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had stated that hoodlums in military uniform might be behind the #LekkiMassacre.

Asked if the protesters violated the curfew imposed by the state; he said; “about the curfew, it is with hindsight that we realised that the curfew was shifted. The truth is that the troops were not there to enforce the curfew. But since it was 6-7pm and the curfew was to start by 9pm, they were not in breach.”

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