BY VICTOR BUORO, ABUJA – The Commander of 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo, has said that the first statement by the Nigerian Army denying military presence at Lekki Toll Gate on the night of October 20, 2020 was based on the fact that it did not have the full facts at the point in time.
General Taiwo also pointedly said that the fact remains that nobody was sent to the Lekki tollgate to break up any protest, adding however that the soldiers were only passing through the tollgate on their way towards Epe.
The Army Commander told the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing the alleged killing of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate on the night of October 20, 2020 by soldiers that the Phase Four of military internal security operation deployed at the Lekki tollgate on the night October 20, involved the use of both live and blank ammunition.
When asked by Olumide-Fusika that “But you were there,” General Taiwo responded saying, “I was not at that tollgate,” adding that he was not aware of the statement by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), that hoodlums in military uniform might be behind the shooting at the tollgate.
According to him; “The soldiers took live bullets to the scene for the purpose of self defence. A portion of the troops that operated at the tollgate on that night were indeed armed with live bullets but only soldiers with blank bullets fired shots into the air”.
Taiwo, who appeared before the panel in defence of the Nigerian Army on November 14, reappeared on Saturday for cross-examination by two counsel for #EndSARS protesters, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN) and Mr Adesina Ogunlana.
Asked by Olumide-Fusika SAN, if soldiers who went to the tollgate carried guns, Taiwo responded saying; “When you are talking of guns, you are talking about high-calibre guns. They were carrying rifles; not guns. 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.”
Under cross-examination by Ogunlana, General Taiwo said that in Phase Four military internal security operation soldiers would be given both live and blank bullets.
Taiwo continud; “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.”
Asked by Olumide-Fusika when the soldiers began shooting, Taiwo said, “From the video we watched, I reckon by 6.43pm.”
But Olumide-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,” adding that the soldiers disembarked from the vehicles before they arrived at the tollgate.
Taiwo said that the soldiers were confronted by hoodlums pelting them with stones around the Oniru junction before the tollgate, adding; “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 an injury, Taiwo said that one soldier was hit by a stone on the lips.
Asked why the military singled out a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation and submitted to the panel, rather than reports by any of the other international media, including Aljazeera and the Radio Deutsche Welle, Taiwo said it was only the BBC report that the military saw.