Military officers representing the Nigerian Army before the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing the Lekki tollgate shooting said soldiers did not use live ammunitions on peaceful protesters at Lekki on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
The top army officers said soldiers did not shoot at or kill anyone, adding that there was no massacre at the tollgate.
A top military officer and Commander, 9 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Brig Gen Musa Etsu-Ndagi told the panel on Friday, November 6, 2020, that he received a phone call from the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on the night of October 20, that a certain Lt Col Bello was shooting at Lekki tollgate.
But Bello said he only fired blank ammunition upward to scare hoodlums, who were throwing objects at soldiers.
He said the protesters were happy to see soldiers, adding that he offered one of them water and drinks while persuading them to go home and observe the 24-hour curfew imposed by the Lagos State Government.
He said, “I persuaded the crowd to go home and observe the 24-hours curfew declared by the state government. But surprisingly, the hoodlums continued throwing stones, bottles and other dangerous objects at us and were burning tyres. I again fired some blank ammunition upward to scare the hoodlums away. But some protesters who were still at the tollgate sitting down quietly were given water and drinks by me while pleading with them to go home.”
“We did not fire at the protesters. Blank ammunition were fired upward to scare the hoodlums from the crowd. Nobody was shot dead at the Lekki tollgate, there was no massacre as claimed. The claim that the military took away dead bodies was not true. The protesters were happy to see us as indicated in some of the video clips of 20th October 2020.”
Brig Gen Francis Omata, another military officer listed as one of the witnesses of the Nigerian Army before panel, said by the time he arrived at the tollgate at about 7:30 on the night, the protest had turned rowdy and violent.
Omata said, “On arrival at the tollgate at about 7.30pm, I met a rowdy situation. I also met the Commanding Officer, 65 Battalion (Bello), who briefed me on the situation. He briefed me that he met a hostile crowd, hoodlums mixed with the protesters, who were chanting and throwing stones at them. I was able to disperse the crowd by firing blank ammunition into the air.
“At this point, stones and sticks were being thrown at us. Then I moved to a safe area and briefed General Officer Commanding 81 Division, Maj Gen Godwin Ahamefuna Umelo by phone.
“The General Officer Commanding directed me to pacify the hostile crowd and move the troops back to base. However, the crowd still continued chanting #EndSARS. I then instructed the troops to withdraw to base.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, has said that the men caught on tape firing into a crowd of peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll may be hoodlums masquerading as soldiers.
Malami said it is “pre-emptive” to conclude that there had even been shootings, adding that “hoodlums” may have been hired to create a scene.