Lekki shootings: Why we lied about our presence — General Taiwo

The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing the killings at Lekki Toll Gate, on Saturday resumed viewing of the 24hrs footage of the October 20, 2020 shooting of #EndSARS protesters by personnel of the Nigerian Army.

The panel, as unanimously agreed by the counsel for the Lagos State government and #EndSARS protesters, began the viewing of the footage in part of events on that day from 5 pm to 8:10 pm.

The footage was played before a packed audience at the panel, and the timestamp in the video showed people running from the vicinity of Oriental Hotel towards the direction of the toll gate in the Lekki area at 6.43 pm.

At 6.45 pm, the military arrived and at least seven trucks are seen in the footage. At 6.53 pm, lights appeared to have been turned off at the tollgate facility and the footage began playing in a blurry black and white video. At 6.55 pm, the military drove through the toll gate and at 6.57 pm, flashes of gunfire could be seen. At 7.09 pm, the protesters appeared to be surrounded on all sides by the military vehicles which had flashing lights.

Counsel for some of the victims of the shooting, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika and Adesina Ogunlana took turns to cross-examine the Nigerian Army witness, General Ahmed Taiwo. Leading General Taiwo in evidence, Olumide-Fusika affirmed that there was no emergency situation at the toll gate on the night of October 20 that warranted the intervention of the military.

“The situation at hand on October 20 made it impossible for police officers to be mobilised from one point to another because the protests were directed at the police. They were attacked and their armoury were looted and [arms] carted away by hoodlums. The Nigerian Army intervened to restore normalcy.

“The CCTV footage corroborated our own account. We didn’t aim at protesters. We didn’t fire into the crowd. We shot awkwardly into the air. Our soldiers were pelted with stone and the only alternative was to react with gunshot and they shot in the air. They dispersed the crowd from Oriental Hotel down to Lekki roundabout.

“A portion of the soldiers carried live ammunition in case of an attack. But we used blank bullets to disperse protesters at the toll gate and not live ammunition. The commander on the ground, General Omata, gave the order to shoot blank bullet into the air. And the following day, I was at the tollgate, there was evidence of destruction,” General Taiwo said.

According to OlumideFusika, the account of the Nigerian Army contradicted what actually happened on October 20. He stated that the Nigerian Army on its official Twitter handle, @ ArmyHQ1 denied intervening at the Lekki tollgate and that nobody died as a result of the shooting.

Responding, General Taiwo said, “The army denied being at the tollgate because we didn’t have full facts of the incidence at hand. I am not on Twitter and I am not privy to the Twitter account you quoted. Nobody was sent to the tollgate to break up or attack any protester. By my estimation, no life was lost at the tollgate. The governor said one person died out of trauma on Admiralty Way which was 3km away from Lekki tollgate and another person at Yaba. It happened on Admiralty Way and had nothing to do with Lekki Tollgate.

“The governor that said people died at the toll gate was probably misinformed. It was shown in the footage that nobody died. I presented the BBC report in my testimony because it was the only report I saw and a reporter of the news corporation was at the scene. We were at the toll gate every night to maintain law and order, so I didn’t have access to other news network.”

Responding to more questions from Ogunlana, General Taiwo said, “The whole 81 Division was given the task of securing the entire Lekki-Epe axis. On the internet, we saw video of people screaming and allegedly being killed. When the first report came in, I dismissed it because I knew our soldiers were not at the tollgate to kill anybody. I knew they were supposed to be deployed along the corridor.”

Earlier during proceedings, the chairman of the panel, retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, had noted that during the hearing of November 6, 20-hours worth of footage presented by the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) was given to Mr Ogunlana, counsel for the #EndSARS protesters. Okuwobi noted that the lawyer had on that day informed the panel that he would sift through the footage and select the portions that would be relevant to his case. Responding, Ogunlana told the panel that he had watched the footage and had noted the parts of the video that are of interest to him.

“LCC has furnished us with the footage and we have taken our time to reach out to the counsel for LCC and the Lagos State government.

“We agreed that subject to their acceptance, all we watched is the same until 5 pm and we should limit viewing from 5 pm to 7.59 pm when the tape ended,” he said.

Counsel for Lagos State government, Mr Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), aligned his views with Ogunlana’s submission. “The relevant portions of the footage which is from 5 pm to 7.59 pm should be viewed,” he said.

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