The Commander of 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo, has explained that Phase Four of military internal security operation, which was deployed at the Lekki tollgate on the night October 20, involved the use of both live and blank ammunition.
He said the soldiers took live bullets to the scene for the purpose of self defence
Taiwo said a portion of the troops that operated at the tollgate 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 tollgate on the night of October 20 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 two counsel for #EndSARS protesters, Messrs Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN) and Mr Adesina Ogunlana.
When Olumide-Fusika asked Taiwo if soldiers who went to the tollgate 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 Four military internal security operation “soldiers would be given both live and blank bullets.”
He said, “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.”
Meanwhile, the panel concluded the viewing of the CCTV footage submitted by the Lekki Concession Company, operator of the Lekki tollgate.
The CCTV footage showed that the Nigerian Army deployed no fewer than seven vehicles to the tollgate 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 tollgate from the Oriental Hotel end. Two minutes later, at 6.45pm, military vehicles, with flashing headlights, arrived on the scene. The some of the military trucks were white coloured, while the others were black.
At 6.53pm, about eight minutes after the arrival of the military vehicles, the tollgate went into a blackout. Two minutes later, at 6.55pm, one of the military vehicles drove through the tollgate to the other end where the crowd of protesters was gathered.
Soldiers started shooting at 6.43, says general
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 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.”
Taiwo told the panel that the soldiers disembarked from the vehicles before they arrived at the tollgate. According to him, the soldiers were confronted by hoodlums pelting them with stones around the Oniru junction before the tollgate.
“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,” he said.
When asked if any of the soldiers sustained an injury, Taiwo was one soldier was hit by a stone on the lips.
No gunshot signs at tollgate during my visit – General
Taiwo told the panel that he was not personally at the tollgate on October 20 but went there the following day.