The Nigerian Army, on Saturday, denied using live ammunition on unarmed #EndSARS protesters, during the alleged October 20 shooting at the Lekki Tollgate before the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry.
The Nigerian Army made the denial before the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters.
Brig.-Gen. Ahmed Ibrahim Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, who testified on behalf of the Nigerian Army, said that the military had fired blank ammunition into the air to disperse protesters on the night of the alleged shooting.
Taiwo, who gave a presentation to the panel with the use of a projector, played a footage which showed soldiers standing in front of singing protesters and firing their weapons into the air.
He said there would have been a lot of fatalities if the 600m live ammunition normally used by the military were used to disperse the #EndSARS protesters.
“I have been in the army since 1986 and you cannot be under fire and be singing.
“The entry hole for the 600m is thin while the exit is wide, if it hits you in the chest or the bowels, the intestines comes down.
“I am an expert in ammunition having spent so long in the army. Blank ammunition is slower and can do no damage to the flesh and you have nothing to fear except you take a rifle, put it against your eye and fire.
“Even if you put it against your skin and fire, you will only have burn marks,” he said.
Taiwo said that troops had managed to disperse most of the #EndSARS protesters, and had even shared drinks from protesters who had remained at the Lekki Tollgate.
He said he was monitoring the situation on the internet, and that it was after the departure of the soldiers that hoodlums set the tollgate on fire.
Taiwo maintains that despite their non-kinetic approach to stop the protests, the campaign against the Army on the social media was wicked and atrocious.
He deplored a situation where an old clip of video was used to describe how the army killed a lady wrapped with the Nigerian flag.
He said that non-kinetic (non violent) means was used in the Army’s rules of engagement during the protests.
Following his revelation, Taiwo through the counsel of the Nigerian Army, Mr Akinlolu Kehinde (SAN), presented four spent blank ammunition to the panel as evidence.
Taiwo told also the panel that there was a lapse in communication between the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Army regarding the imposing and lifting of the curfew.
“Due to the urgency of the security situation in the state, the governor declared a 24-hour curfew which was supposed to start at 4pm.
“They wanted everyone off the streets to deal with the hoodlums, but after some observations the timing was shifted to 21:00 hours, but this timing was not communicated to the Nigerian Army.
“Be that as it may, we the Nigerian Army had already immediately deployed the 65 Battalion under the 81 Division Garrison to forestal all further violence and loss of lives.
“It is important to note that this deployment of troops contrary to reports, was done throughout Lagos to activate Phase 4 of the Internal Security Operations,” Taiwo said.
The officer told the panel that the Army had entered the Stabilisation Phase of the Internal Security Operations, and had started recovering looted items when the Lagos State Government lifted the curfew without informing them.
“We were still recovering a lot of looted items which were given back to the owners on production of receipt or proof of ownership.
“If the curfew was not lifted we would have recovered a 100 times more than the items we recovered,” Taiwo said.
He also gave a graphic narration of the alleged dire security situation in Lagos that warranted soldiers being invited to restore order in the state.
Taiwo using a projector, had shown graphic images of policemen being lynched, police stations being looted and burnt, as well as citizens resorting to cannibalism by eating the burnt flesh of the corpses of lynched police officers.
“Many of us have lived through the 70s to the 2000s, and one thing I have said is that once a peaceful protest goes beyond three days there are hoodlums waiting in the wings to hijack it and cause mayhem and this was no different.
“This state of affairs continued until October 20 and even I was caught up in one of such mobs. The hoodlums I met are not the #EndSARS protesters we have come to see.
“It is the task of the armed forces to intervene when the security task overwhelms the police and other paramilitary services.
“Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu asked the army to intervene which was the correct thing to do,” he said.
Playing a video of the siege of the palace of the Oba of Lagos by hoodlums, Taiwo said that the monarch and his family had to be rescued from the chaos by the Nigerian Army.
“Both the Oba and his family were ferried to safety by the Nigerian Army,” Taiwo said as he played a video recording of the monarch and his family being rescued and taken into a military pickup truck.
“The business district areas were looted and offices were ransacked and destroyed. The hoodlums attempted to invade the Government House, but it was repelled.
“They attempted to break into the Ikoyi Prison and it was repelled. The 81 Division had to support the Correctional Services and the Police.
“They also burnt down the Igbosere High Court. The inmates had burnt part of the Ikoyi Prison, they all did this at the same time because they had gotten information about what was happening on the outside.
“They burnt Shoprite and Spar Lekki was looted. What was shocking and saddening to me was that mothers were taking their children to loot,” he said.
The officer said that he had received a distress phone call from the Managing Director of Spar pleading for military’s assistance.
“The MD was pleading and saying that let them loot the place, but they should not burn it down.
“When we arrived, these looters had the temerity to come up to soldiers while holding looted goods and say ‘correct sir!’
“A man we arrested had looted household items and when we went to his house to recover the items, he had already installed them,” he said.
Taiwo said that while soldiers were trying to restore order at Spar Lekki, he had met looters looting Shoprite Lekki and that he had ordered soldiers under his command not to shoot at them, but into the air.
“I wanted to catch them and I did not want any casualty. All the looters our men arrested were taken to the 65 Battalion and we have people of almost every tribe there that day.
“There was a voice note on social media purportedly from Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) saying Igbos should cause mayhem in Lagos.
“This could not be further from the truth because from my assertion, most of the businesses affected were owned by Igbo,” Taiwo said.
The Nigerian Army told the panel that financial institutions were the most targeted by looters during the #EndSARS unrest, and that the army had evacuated about N2 billion in two days for banks during the chaos.
He said the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. -Gen.Tukur Buratai, had ordered that the captured looters should be treated humanely by the military.
“They were fed three times a day and were given what the soldiers were eating. Some of them did not even want to leave,” he said.