The 81 Division of the Nigerian Army in Lagos says its soldiers were not responsible for the bloodshed witnessed in the state last week.
Eyewitnesses reported on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 how soldiers of the Nigerian Army fired live ammunition at them at the Lekki-Epe toll gate in Lagos.
The eyewitnesses were protesters who had shut down the lucrative toll gate for over one week as part of nationwide demonstrations against police brutality.
At least seven people were reported dead by eyewitnesses, even though the Lagos government has only officially acknowledged two.
At least 30 people were also acknowledged by the government to have received treatment at different hospitals for injuries sustained during the crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Since the incident, the Army has not offered any additional information other than outright denial, and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has maintained the deployment of troops was beyond his powers.
However, 81 Division spokesperson, Major Osoba Olaniyi, said on Tuesday, October 27, that troops were invited by the Sanwo-Olu-led government after he imposed a curfew last Tuesday.
“The decision to call in the military was taken by the Lagos State Government after a 24 hours curfew was imposed.
“This was as a result of the violence which led to several police stations being burnt, policemen killed, suspects in police custody released and weapons carted away.
“The situation was fast degenerating into anarchy. It was at this point that LASG requested for the military to intervene in order to restore normalcy,” he said.
Despite the long-awaited admission of troops’ presence at the toll gate, Major Olaniyi said soldiers did not fire at peaceful protesters, despite all the videos online.
He said the allegation, reported by numerous eyewitnesses, was sponsored by ‘mischief makers’ to tarnish the Army’s image.
“The intervention of the military followed all laid down procedures for internal security operations and all the soldiers involved acted within the confines of the Rules of Engagement for Internal Security operations,” he said.
Tuesday night’s shooting was the escalation of a prolonged wave of demonstrations against police brutality, particularly by officers of SARS, a notorious unit that was dissolved one week into the protests.
A judicial panel, headed by the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, has been tasked with investigating the incident which caused local and international outrage.
Sanwo-Olu said on Monday, October 26 he’ll ensure a thorough investigation is done so that offenders don’t go unpunished.