•Insists it was for protection of its force
The Nigerian Army yesterday admitted that soldiers were given both live and blank bullets when they were deployed to disperse #ENDSARS protesters at Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020.
Brigadier General Ibrahim Taiwo, commander of the 81 division of the Nigerian Army, broke the news while testifying before the judicial panel the Lagos state government set up to probe the incident.
This is the first time the Nigerian Army has admitted carrying live rounds to the Lekki toll gate.
The army statement also contradicts previous statements about the incident including from Taiwo himself who told the judicial panel previously that the soldiers were firing in the air and firing blank ammunition.
Answering questions on the incident while being cross examined by Olumide Fusika, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Taiwo said the live rounds were not used on protesters.
He said they were meant for the protection of the army team that was deployed to restore order in the state.
The army commander said while the soldiers who opened fire used blank bullets, their colleagues with live rounds were on ground to protect them from suspected hoodlums who fomented trouble. Taiwo said the military responded to stone attacks with gunshots.
He said soldiers came under attack immediately when they arrived at the scene.
He said the soldiers did not have the intention to disperse the protesters but were on patrol to clear up the Lekki, Eti-Osa corridor.
Taiwo said the soldiers were, however, attacked by hoodlums around the Oriental Hotel, Lekki, and one of them sustained injuries.
He said: “We had men and materials – vehicles and rifles for shooting. A portion of the force were carrying live bullets in case they were attacked. Another portion will carry magazines charged with blank ammunition,” he said.
“The soldiers will be using both live and blank bullets and in this particular case, we saw that this protest had been infiltrated by hoodlums.
“We had peaceful protesters no doubt, but there were hoodlums who sought to take advantage of the protest.
“They were pelted just before Oriental Hotel, their response was to fire blank ammunition. They (soldiers) were stoned just as they dismounted.
“By the time they fired a few shots in the air, the hoodlums hightailed it. Our mission was not to clear the protest, we were just on our way to ensure normalcy on the Eti-Osa corridor.
“One officer was wounded, he was stoned on the lips. If we are attacked with stones, the only option is gunshots.”
In the aftermath of the shooting, the army denied any involvement, describing reports of the incident as “fake news,” before backtracking and saying that soldiers were present but fired their weapons in the air and used blanks, not live rounds.