The Nigerian Army in Lagos State has said its personnel were not responsible for the bloodshed witnessed in the state last week. The Army also claimed that the government of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu invited the military in.
Eyewitnesses reported, on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 how soldiers of the Nigerian Army fired live ammunition at them at the Lekki-Epe Toll Gate in Lagos.
The eyewitnesses were protesters who had shut down the toll gate for over one week as part of nationwide demonstrations against police brutality.
At least seven people were reported dead by eyewitnesses, though the Lagos State Government has only officially acknowledged two.
At least 30 people were also acknowledged by the government to have received treatment at different hospitals for injuries sustained during the crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Since the incident, the Army has not offered any additional information other than outright denial, and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has maintained the deployment of troops was beyond his powers.
However, spokesman of the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major Olaniyi Osoba said, on Tuesday, October 27, that troops were invited by the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led government after he imposed a curfew.
In the statement, the Major Osoba said, “The attention of Headquarters 81 Division Nigerian Army has been drawn to a viral video on social media in which it was alleged that civilian protesters were massacred by soldiers at Lekki Toll Plaza.
“This allegation is untrue, unfounded and aimed at causing anarchy in the country. At no time did soldiers of the Nigerian Army open fire on any civilian.”
The Army said that the 81st Division never got involved in the #EndSARS protests.
The statement continued, “From the onset of the ENDSARS protest, there was no time personnel of 81 Division Nigerian Army Lagos were involved. However, the decision to call in the military was taken by the Lagos State Government (LASG) after a 24 hours curfew was imposed.
“This was as a result of the violence which led to several police stations being burnt, policemen killed, suspects in police custody released and weapons carted away.
“The situation was fast degenerating into anarchy. It was at this point that LASG requested for the military to intervene in order to restore normalcy.
“The intervention of the military followed all laid down procedures for Internal Security operations and all the soldiers involved acted within the confines of the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for Internal Security operations,” the statement read.
Despite the long-awaited admission of troops’ presence at the toll gate, Major Osoba said soldiers did not fire at peaceful protesters, despite all the videos online.
He said the allegation, reported by numerous eyewitnesses, was sponsored by ‘mischief makers’ to tarnish the Army’s image.
Tuesday night’s shooting was the escalation of a prolonged wave of demonstrations against police brutality, particularly by officers of SARS, a notorious unit that was dissolved one week into the protests.
A judicial panel, headed by the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, has been tasked with investigating the incident which caused local and international outrage.
Sanwo-Olu said on Monday, October 26 he’ll ensure a thorough investigation is done so that offenders don’t go unpunished.