The Nigerian Army has finally admitted that it took live bullets to the Lekki toll gate where some #EndSARS protesters who gathered at that spot were shot on the night of October 20
The Commander of 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo, disclosed yesterday testifying before the judicial panel set up by the Lagos State government set up to probe the incident.
Taiwo who had earlier in his evidence-in-chief on November 14 told the panel that no live rounds were fired at the scene, said yesterday under cross-examination by Mr.Olumide Fusika that Phase Four of military internal security operation, which was deployed at the Lekki toll gate on that day involved the use of both live and blank ammunition.
However, he said the live rounds were not used on protesters, but were meant for the protection of the army team deployed to restore order in the state.
“We had men and materials – vehicles and rifles for shooting. A portion of the force were carrying live bullets in case they are attacked. Another portion will carry magazines charged with blank ammunition. 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,” he said.
While being cross-examined by another counsel for #EndSARS protesters, Mr. Adeshina Ogunlana, Taiwo said the military acted professionally and within the army’s rules of engagement.
“The soldiers will be using both live and blank bullets and in this particular case, we saw that this protest had been infiltrated by hoodlums. We had peaceful protesters no doubt, but there were hoodlums who sought to take advantage of the protest,” he said.
He, however, claimed that the army was not deployed to the Lekki Tollgate, “but were on patrol to clear up the Lekki, Eti-Osa corridor,” once again countering its earlier claim that the army was invited by the state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Sanwo-Olu had earlier denied inviting the soldiers.
When asked again by Fusika when the soldiers began shooting, Taiwo said, “From the video we watched, I reckon by 6.43pm.”
Fusika pointed out that the soldiers did not start shooting immediately they arrived at the tollgate, suggesting that they were waiting for the light to go off, so they could operate under the cover of darkness, but Taiwo responded, “It is absolutely untrue.”
Taiwo told the panel that the soldiers disembarked from the vehicles before they arrived at the tollgate. According to him, the soldiers were confronted by hoodlums pelting them with stones around the Oniru junction 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.
When asked if any of the soldiers sustained an injury, Taiwo said one soldier was hit by a stone on the lips.
Meanwhile, the Punch reported that the panel concluded the viewing of the CCTV footage submitted by the Lekki Concession Company, operator of the Lekki tollgate.
The CCTV footage showed that the Nigerian Army deployed no fewer than seven vehicles to the tollgate in the evening of October 20.
According to the CCTV footage, 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 trucks with flashing headlights arrived at the scene.
There were no fewer than seven of them.
At 6.53pm, about 10 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 toll gate to the other end where the crowd of protesters was gathered.