More revelations on the October 20 shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos emerged yesterday as a former Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman (rtd), said blank bullets were fired by soldiers to disperse the protesters.
The revelation is on the heels of the release of a timeline of the killing of the protesters by global rights group, Amnesty International and admittance by the Nigerian Army that it was invited by the Lagos State government to intervene in the protest.
The Army had initially denied reports of being involved in the Lekki incident. It described the reports as “fake news” and stated that none of its officers were at Lekki Toll Gate on the said day. Amnesty International claimed that its crisis response experts investigated and verified social media videos and photographs confirmed that security forces were present at the scene, when the shootings occurred.
Country Director of Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho, on Wednesday, said the global rights group has a timeline that “collates photographs and video footage to confirm that Nigerian Army vehicles left Bonny Camp, a military base, approximately a seven-minute drive from the toll gate, at 6.29p.m. on October 20.
“Footage then tracks the vehicles to the toll gate. At approximately 6.45p.m., the Nigerian military opened fire on the #EndSARS protesters who were peacefully calling for an end to police brutality.
What happened at Lekki Toll Gate has all the traits of the Nigerian authorities’ pattern of a cover-up whenever their defence and security forces commit unlawful killings.” However, Brig.-Gen. Usman (rtd), who spoke in an interview with Arise Television, noted that blank ammunition fired by the soldiers has little or no effect on its target. His words: “If you look at the canisters, they were blank ammo and blank ammo doesn’t even kill.
At a close range, maybe 100 metres, maybe it will have some pigmentation on your skin.” He added that the military should be commended for avoiding “serious collateral damage” during the shooting. “Remember the military are armed and by the nature of their training,they are trained to kill and I think the military, in its wisdom, instead of using live ammunition, decided to use blank armour, which is meant for training.
“I think they should be commended for that, otherwise there would have been serious collateral damage, but they were professional enough to have done that,” he said. The former Army spokesman also said there were enough reasons to involve the military in the protests, citing reports of violence in parts of Lagos State as justification. Noting that Amnesty International has a long history of spuriously accusing the Nigerian military of extra-judicial killings, Usman cautioned against politicising the issue and lying against the military.
He said: “There was a time when I was the Director of Army Public Relations; Amnesty International accused the Nigerian military of killing over 5,000 people in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Common sense would have told you that there was no hospital with the capacity to contain even 50 dead bodies or 100. This and many other spurious allegations have been going on against the Nigerian military by the Amnesty International.
“People have decided to denigrate the military and to turn the military as the fall guy, but evidence on ground does not support that assertion. Yes, there was deployment of the military; to what extent and all that, it will be determined by the commission of inquiry.
“Let’s leave the commission of inquiry to do its job. But it is very dangerous for anybody to politicise security in this country. The military is a symbol of national unity and national power; they should be insulated from all these politics.”