November 26, 2020

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Nigerian Army changes position again, says troops had ‘blank and live ammunition’

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Ahmed Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, has told the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry into the Lekki Tollgate incident that the army went to the tollgate “with both blank and live ammunition”.

The official also fell short of saying his men fired live shots at Nigerians on their way “to clear the Lekki, Eti-Osa corridor”.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the brigadier general made the revelation while being cross-examined by lawyers to the #EndSARS protesters, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika and Adeshina Ogunlana.

Under cross-examination by Mr Olumide-Fusika, Mr Taiwo said “the there were men and materials from the Army at the Lekki Tollgate in the evening of Oct. 20”.

The army, in an earlier submission, said it went to the tollgate with blanks.

“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,” he now said.

While being cross-examined by Mr Ogunlana, Mr Taiwo said the military acted within the army’s rules of engagement in keeping up with professionalism.

“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.

The army general told the panel the army was not deployed to the Lekki Tollgate, “but were on patrol to clear up the Lekki, Eti-Osa corridor”.

In its earlier submission, the army had said it was invited by the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who had in the heat of the controversy denied inviting the soldiers.

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But Mr Taiwo said the soldiers on patrol were attacked by hoodlums around the area of the Oriental Hotel, Lekki, “injuring a soldier”.

He noted that the army did not engage in any form of dialogue or negotiations with the #EndSARS protesters at the tollgate “because they were attacked by hoodlums.”

“They were pelted just before Oriental Hotel, their response was to fire blank ammunition. They (soldiers) were stoned just as they dismounted.

“By the time they fired a few shots in the air, the hoodlums hightailed it. Our mission was not to clear the protest, we were just on our way to ensure normalcy on the Eti-Osa corridor.

“One officer was wounded, he was stoned on the lips. If we are attacked with stones, the only option is gunshots,” the army general said.

PREMIUM TIMES, in the wake of the violence that trailed the protests against police brutality reported how the judicial panel appointed by the Lagos State Government to investigate police abuses and the shooting at the Lekki toll gate, recovered bullet shells from the scene.

Six shells were found, 10 days after the shooting, officials confirmed.

The Nigerian Army, accused of carrying out the attack believed to have killed at least two people, had initially denied its troops were at the scene.

It later admitted soldiers were there on the invitation of the state government, but insists they shot no one, despite video evidence showing otherwise.

The bullet shells, found during an inspection of the Lekki site by the panel led by Dorris Okuwobi, would be expected to serve as critical evidence to establishing the truth.(NAN)

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