Lekki killings: It’s too hasty to blame military ―DHQ spokesman
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ), on Thursday, said that it would be too hasty to conclude that its troops actually shot and killed innocent youths who were protesting against the brutality of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) tagged #EndSARS at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos State.
Fielding questions from defence correspondents in Abuja while giving an update on the various operations of the Armed Forces of Nigeria to end insurgency in the country, the coordinator, Defence Media Operations (DMO), Major General John Eneche said it was disheartening to hear that soldiers were shooting and killing innocent citizens in the manner described in the videos and by certain analysts going in the country.
Gen Eneche who hinted of the suspicious nature of the trending videos which he said may be photoshopped stated there would have to be the deployment of technologies to analyse them to determine the authenticity or otherwise.
When pressed further to speak on the various clips circulating in the media on the incident, Eneche said that he would not comment much on the issue in view of the inquiry already ordered into it by the government of Lagos State, saying that the outcome of the inquiry would guide the military’s position on the matter.
General Enenche, while not denying that troops were deployed to the scene, said the deployment was to take care of the hoodlums that had hijacked the protests, attacking protesters and destroying property nationwide.
He said that the Military was currently having nine operations in the country, out of which the troops that went to the Lekki Tollgate was not part. He said that the Lagos operation was under Operation MESA that comprised other security agencies for the internal security of the state directly under the governor.
According to him, “What you heard, I heard. If it is true that they actually shot and killed, the Governor came out and spoke. Prof. Pat Utomi was on live programme and said they heard gunshots. Let us allow appropriate authorities to handle this issue.
“It is not a major operation, so I can’t speak on it. Let us not set the cart before the horse. An inquiry has been set up on that. Let us be patient. I will not be fair to the panel if I speak now.
“We have a lot of intelligence that even the protesters themselves are not safe, so who is killing who?
“From all the evidence as a general, I will tell you, it might not be true. If you said they’re shooting, where are the empty cases picked up?”, the Defence operations spokesman stated, asking everyone to exercise caution.
Speaking on the allegation that troops were abandoning protesters to thugs, the DMO said it was far from the truth because that was even the reason troops were deployed to prevent thugs from continuing to attack protesters and destroy the property of innocent citizens.
General Enenche said that the military would continue to provide protection to ensure that the protesters themselves are safe.
While stressing that the recently announced Operation Crocodile Smile VI had nothing to do with the protests, the DMO said that Operation MESA, which was the oldest operation, were on ground in every state of the federation, working with other security forces to contain internal security challenges such as this.
According to him, “we started with operation MESA. We have nine operations. Operation MESA is strictly under the policy directive of various states. It is a minor of all operations, working with other security agencies. It is the oldest, used by various states for internal security”.
He said that the Police and other security agencies, including military operatives, were out under operation MESA, across the nation to ensure that hoodlums don’t attack protesters.
“Be patient with them. We have a mixed multitude. The crowd that we have is not uniform,” the military said.