Lekki Shootings: Legal Warfare as Army, Protesters’ Lawyer Argue at Lagos EndSARS Panel
The Commander of 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo, has disclosed that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu invited the military during the #EndSARS in the State, to avoid total anarchy.
“It was these incidents that made the Governor of Lagos State ask for military intervention, and in my opinion, that was the correct thing to do since the police had been overrun and policemen were fighting for their dear lives.
“Contrary to what is out there, it was done throughout Lagos State upon receipt of Stage 4 of IS Security. Phase 4 is the immediate deployment of soldiers outside the barracks to intervene.
“Troops were deployed from Badagry, Ikorodu, Epe, Apapa, Ikeja, Alimosho and even Lagos Island to restore order. The rules of engagement for internal security were strictly followed. It is inexcusable for troops to stand aside and watch the situation deteriorate,” he said.
Taiwo, a Brigadier General, disclosed this on Saturday, while appearing before the Lagos judicial panel.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos, had declared a 24-hour curfew on October 20, earlier scheduled to begin at 4 pm. However, the time was changed to 9 pm afterwards.
A few minutes before 7 pm, men in army uniform arrived the Lekki tollgate where #EndSARS protesters had gathered and forcefully dispersed the protesters.
The army commander, firmly alleged that Sanwo-Olu called on the military for support on October 20, after the #EndSARS crisis degenerated into chaos.
“I spoke with the governor and said the army was unhappy that he said he did not ask for army’s intervention, but I am sure that after you watched everything (video footages), you saw he had more than enough grounds to ask for army’s intervention; perhaps it was the way everything went,” he said.
Blank Bullets Wasn’t Fired at Protesters
Brig. Gen. Taiwo, while testifying further, insisted that the military only fired into the air and not directly at the #EndSARS protesters.
Explaining that the blank bullets used cannot cause any damage to the flesh, he said if real bullets were indeed fired, one bullet had the potency to kill three persons at one shot.
Lagos Didn’t Communicate Curfew Time
Gen. Taiwo, equally said the change in timing of the curfew imposed by the Lagos Government, was not communicated to the Nigerian Army.
He said, “Due to the urgency of the situation, it is no wonder the governor declared a 24-hour curfew which was supposed to start by 4pm. Analysing that further, it shows that the situation was so dire and the governor wanted everyone off the streets.
“After some observations, this timing was shifted to 2100hrs, that is 9pm. However, these timings were not communicated to the Nigerian Army. Be that as it may, the Nigerian Army deployed immediately to forestall further break down of law and order.”
Protesters Pelted Soldiers with Stones, Bottles
The brigadier-general, said the soldiers were pelted with stones and bottles, yet they were able to stop a popular hotel beside the toll-gate from being razed.
No Petition yet Against us–Army
At the Saturday hearing, the Nigerian Army also said that they have not received any formal petition over their alleged shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, on October 20.
Counsel for the Nigerian Army, Akinlolu Kehinde (SAN), who made the assertion today, said the panel had invited Brig. Gen. Taiwo to give evidence on behalf of the Nigerian Army over the October 20 event, but Kehinde stated why the testimony could not be given.
“I must submit today that there is no allegation whatsoever against the Nigerian Army before this panel. I repeat, as at six minutes to 11am today, no petition has been served against the Nigerian Army, if any petition has been served, we will respond,” he said.
EndSARS protesters’ counsel reacts
Earlier, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN), the counsel representing seven #EndSARS protesters said that he had been unable to make a formal claim on behalf of his clients before the panel, because the panel’s Terms of Reference only covered matters relating to the Nigerian Police and the disbanded SARS, and that his complaint is against the Nigerian Army.
He also noted that the panel must be set up by a legal instrument, and apart from the tweets from the Lagos State Governor, Babajide, Sanwo-Olu, stating that a panel will be established.
“We applied for the copy of the instrument establishing the panel by the governor, but we were refused on the ground that freedom of information Act does not apply to Lagos State.
“We applied here this morning and the secretary said there is no authority that states that it should be granted to us,” Mr. Olumide-Fusika said.
He sought the panel’s directive as to whether the Nigerian Army should give evidence during proceedings because according to him, “their presence here today is not mature”.
Lekki Shootings Cover Panel’s Mandates
Meanwhile, the head of the nine-man panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi in a ruling stated that the alleged shootings at Lekki covered the panel’s Terms of Reference.
“The Lekki incident was not covered by the original instrument of the panel and it was amended on October 21 to include the Lekki incident.
“The amended instrument is a public document which should not be shrouded in mystery, I have a copy here with me if Mr Olumide-Fusika pleases,” Ms. Okuwobi said.