The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry continued its sitting on Saturday with new information about the shooting at the Lekki tollgate uncovered.
While the session was ongoing, lawyers took turns to question the representative of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo, on the role of the Force at the tollgate where peaceful #EndSARS protesters had gathered on October 20.
General Taiwo, who is the Commander of the 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, confirmed that soldiers were at the venue of the protest.
He added that the soldiers were briefed before they were deployed to the scene and debriefed after the operation.
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When asked by a lawyer if there was any report of fatality when the soldiers were debriefed, the army representative said, “None”.
He told the panel that the soldiers did not just find their way to the protest ground, insisting that they acted on instruction allegedly prompted by the request of the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, whom he said sought the intervention of the military.
According to General Taiwo, there are four phases to be followed in the case of managing an internal security situation.
He explained that phases one, two, and three comprised observation, monitoring, training, and readiness for deployment of troops.
“Phase four is the actual deployment to hotspots, places that have problems, patrol, and things like that. We are currently in phase four,” the brigade commander said.
He added, “Before phase four is activated, the governor would have sought permission or made a few calls, or transmitted a letter to the President, or in this case, even to the Chief of Army Staff.
“The governor, indeed, called the Chief of Staff to the President.”
Who Gave The Order?
General Taiwo acknowledged that Governor Sanwo-Olu requested the military’s intervention, but did not instruct the soldiers to move to the scene of the protest.
He affirmed that the governor spoke with the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, and the General Officer Commanding 81 Division of the Army.
The brigade commander stated that the governor had initially reached out to the Commander of 9 Brigade, but the military officer does not have the power to deploy troops in such a situation.
“The governor is involved in that decision,” he insisted.
General Taiwo also insisted that the soldiers fired only blank bullets containing gunpowder into the air and not directly at the #EndSARS protesters.
He claimed the army arrived at the scene some minutes after 4pm when the curfew was initially meant to take effect and they were at the plaza for about one hour 20 minutes.
“By the time the troops had reached where the cubicles are, I doubt if anybody (the plaza officials) would have been there,” the army representative told the judicial panel.
However, the lawyers could not conclude their questioning before the end of Saturday’s sitting.
The panel, thereafter, adjourned until Tuesday next week.