Vindicating CNN’s investigative report on the ordered shooting of peaceful EndSARS protesters, at Lekki toll gate, on Tuesday night, October 20, in Lagos, by suspected Law Enforcement Agents, the Commander of 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, Brigadier-General Ahmed Taiwo, has explained that Phase 4 of Military Internal Security Operation, which was deployed at the Lekki toll gate on the night, involved the use of both live and blank ammunition, .
He said that the Soldiers took live bullets to the scene, for the purpose of self defence, adding that a portion of the troops that operated at the toll gate on that night, were indeed armed with live bullets.
He, however, maintained that only Soldiers with blank bullets fired shots into the air.
The general stated this on Saturday, at the resumed proceedings of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing the alleged killing of EndSARS protesters at the Lekki toll gate by Soldiers.
Taiwo, who had earlier made a presentation before the Panel in defence of the Nigerian Army on November 14, returned on Saturday, for cross-examination by 2 Counsel for the EndSARS protesters, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, and Adesina Ogunlana.
When Olumide-Fusika asked Taiwo if Soldiers who went to the toll gate carried guns, Taiwo said: “When you are talking of guns, you are talking about high-calibre guns. They were carrying rifles; not guns.”
On further pressing by Olumide-Fusika, Taiwo added: “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.”
Also, under cross-examination by Ogunlana, Taiwo explained that in Phase 4 Military Internal Security Operation, “Soldiers would be given both live and blank bullets”.
He noted: “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.”
The Panel concluded the viewing of the CCTV footage submitted by the Lekki Concession Company, LCC, Operator of the Lekki toll gate.
The CCTV footage showed that the Nigerian Army deployed no fewer than 7 vehicles to the toll gate, in the evening of October 20.
The footage showed that the scene was calm until about 6:43pm, when people could be seen running towards the toll gate from Oriental Hotel. 2 minutes later, at 6:45pm, Military vehicles with flashing headlights, arrived on the scene. Some of the Military trucks were white coloured, while the others were black.
At 6:53pm, about 8 minutes after the arrival of the Military vehicles, the toll gate went into a blackout. 2 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.
When asked by Olumide-Fusika when the Soldiers began shooting, Taiwo said: “From the video we watched, I reckon by 6:43pm.”
Olumide-Fusika pointed out that the Soldiers did not start shooting immediately they arrived at the toll gate, suggesting that they were waiting for the lights 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 toll gate. According to him, the Soldiers were confronted by hoodlums pelting them with stones, around the Oniru junction, before the toll gate.
His words: “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.”
When asked if any of the Soldiers sustained any injury, Taiwo said that one Soldier was hit by a stone on the lips.
He told the Panel that he was not personally at the toll gate on October 20, but went there the following day.
When Olumide-Fusika asked him: “What were your observations at the toll gate on the day you visited?” he replied: “I did not see any signs of gunshots.”
However, Olumide-Fusika said that a number his Clients, “for whom I am here, claimed they were shot and suffered gunshot injuries, and it happened at the Lekki toll gate. Your account was that nobody died?”
Responding, Taiwo maintained 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.”
When Olumide-Fusika pointed out that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had during interaction with the Press, said that about 27 persons were injured and 2 died, Taiwo said: “The Governor was probably misinformed; whoever gave him that information, he was misinformed.”
When Olumide-Fusika asked Taiwo if he was aware that the Nigerian Army initially denied that Soldiers were at the toll gate, the he 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 toll gate to break up any protest”, stressing that the Soldiers were only passing through the toll gate on their way towards Epe.
“But you were there”, Olumide-Fusika told him, in reply, Taiwo said: “I was not at that tollgate.”
Taiwo also stated that he was not aware of the statement by the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, that hoodlums in Military uniform might have been behind the shooting at the toll gate.
Though Taiwo maintained that the Soldiers were only passing through the toll gate on their way to Epe when they met the protesters at the toll gate, he said that the Soldiers went back to their barracks after the shootings at the toll gate.
“They later went out at about 11pm”, he said.
Asked by Ogunlana if the protesters at the toll gate violated the curfew imposed by the Governor, Taiwo said that the Soldiers were not sent out to enforce the curfew.
“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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