Commander of the 81 military Intelligence Brigade, Brigadier General Ahmed Ibrahim Taiwo says the Nigerian Army intervened in the crisis in Lagos State to restore normalcy when the police had been overwhelmed.
Gen Taiwo who was prime witness of the Nigerian Army at the Lagos State Judicial Panel during his three-hour testimony in ‘Lagos said they were invited by the Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, when lawlessness and violence had engulfed the state.
The Army intelligence officer, however, said the Nigerian Army is unhappy with Governor Sanwo-Olu for denying that he called in soldiers to intervene in the crisis to restore normalcy in the state.
He said, “I spoke with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu that the Nigerian Army was not happy with him for denying that he invited us to restore normalcy in the state. That afternoon he had called the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai and the GOC after asking the Commander 9 Brigade to intervene. The Commander of the 9 Brigade couldn’t intervene because proper procedure was not followed. He asked him to call the Chief of Army Staff and the GOC. It will surprise you to know that the Governor did not have the phone number of the GOC, neither did the GOC have his number. So it was when the GOC was on assignment in Abuja and after the sitting, he saw some number of missed calls from a number and when he called back, it was Governor Sanwo-Olu. They were able to speak at some point but he had called the Chief of Army Staff following which the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army was ordered into phase four of internal security. The call was in the afternoon before 4pm.
“The second was when the governor said two people died. He said one person died on Admiralty Road due to brute force trauma. Admiralty road was few kilometres from the Lekki toll gate. According to a report on BBC, there was violent clash in Yaba and Yaba was far away from Admiralty.”
General Taiwo told the panel that the situation in Lagos State had degenerated into a war situation where police officers were killed, burnt and eaten by hoodlums. Being led in evidence by the head of the legal team of the Nigerian Army, Taiwo said, “I wish to tell the panel that some portions of the video I will be presenting contain a gruesome graphic. It is unfortunate that Lekki crisis has been reduced to an incident at the toll gate alone. Little mention was given to the destruction of property and the loss of lives, especially of police officers whose only crime was to protect us all. Wives have been made widows while children were made fatherless due to the action of the hoodlums.
“Worse was that the families of the murdered police officers were unable to get their corpses and they were disposed by the hoodlums.
“It is the term of reference of the Nigerian Army to intervene when the situation overwhelmed the police and other paramilitary.
“In Nigeria, this is contained in section 217, 2C of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which mandates the Armed Forces to suppress civil insurrection and protect the territorial integrity of the nation for internal and external aggression. The occurrence in Lagos State which started on October 18 was nothing but violence and lawlessness. This brings me to my aim which is to highlight our role in the October 20 shooting to enable you gain a proper perspective.
“The armed forces are the last hope of the nation. Throughout the #EndSARS protest, the Nigerian Army didn’t intervene in any form or shape. This was because we have not been called out. By October 20, Lagos State had degenerated into anarchy.
“And the event culminated in the Lekki toll gate crisis and it’s remote cause as the protest and the immediate cause as the violence and lawlessness that had engulfed Lagos state.
“Since October 18, hoodlum had blocked major highways in Lagos State extorting money from innocent Nigerians and damaging property, looting, raping and killing all in the name of EndSARS protest.
“It was not the aim of the genuine #EndSARS protesters to foment violence and lawlessness. This I wholeheartedly believe.
“However, the protest was hijacked by hoodlums to cause mayhem. This was the state of affairs until October 19.
“It took a turn for the worse on October 20 when hoodlums began to burn police station, loot and steal arms and ammunition from the police stations. They killed policemen in the most gruesome manners.
“At Orile police station, they attacked and made away with a box of ammunition and rifles. A policeman was lynched and a screwdriver was stuck into his nose. It was unfortunate that people were videoing but none came to the rescue of the officer.
“The situation in Lagos was pure cannibalism. Hoodlums burnt, cut and shared meat of the officer they killed and ate it. This is reminiscent of the Liberia civil war. This was the state of affair that made the Nigerian Army intervene on the order of the governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
“Due to the urgency of the situation, the governor declared a 24-hour curfew which was to start by 4 pm. Analyzing further, it shows the dire situation in the state. After some observation, the timing was changed to 9 pm, but this was not communicated to the Nigerian Army who had deployed its personnel immediately to forestall further violence and loss of lives.
“The deployment, contrary to what was out there, was down throughout the state.
“Troops were deployed from Badagry, Ikorodu, Row, Apapa, Ikeja and Alimosho, even to Lagos Island to restore order and normalcy.
“65 Batallion of the Nigerian Army under the 81 Division Garrison were deployed to Lagos Island, Victoria Island and Ikoyi, Lekki, Ajah, Badore, Sangotedo to Epe. The deployment was all over Lagos State and the rule of engagement was strictly followed.
“Not less than 12 people were killed between Monday and Friday last week. Our personnel intervened to restore normalcy. The commander had instructed personnel not to use live ammunition in order not to hit genuine protesters who had sat down on the floor of the protest ground.
“I have been in the Nigerian Army since 1986 and I know that you cannot be under intense force and be dancing. We were civil with the protesters. In fact, they offered us water.
“I was monitoring the internet that night and after the soldiers had left the scene, the hoodlums returned to the toll gate. And at 9:34 pm, a tweeter user posted on his handle picture of the blank bullet that was used to disperse protesters. Blank bullet contained gunpowder which only makes sound and flash compared to live ammunition which can kill someone as far as 600m away.”
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Office of the Public Defender (OPD), acting on the legal advice issued by the Office of the Lagos State Attorney-General exonerating 253 #EndSARS protest suspects, has secured the release of some youths from police facilities and correctional centres in the state.
According to a statement issued on Saturday by the agency, the release warrants were obtained by the Office of the Public Defender from Ogba Magistrates and Yaba Magistrates courts respectively, based on the order of the Office of the AttorneyGeneral clearing the suspects.
The statement added that the directive has made it possible for OPD to secure the release of eight #EndSARS protest suspects from Panti police station, 59 from Medium Correctional Centre and 40 from Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centre.