Counsel for some #EndSARS protesters in Lagos State, Mr Adesina Ogunlana, has said Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will have to appear before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing the alleged killing of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate on the night of October 20.
Ogunlana said since the military claimed before the panel that their operation on that day was on the invitation of the governor, it would be important for the governor to appear before the panel, particularly to demonstrate his professed belief in the rule of law.
The Commander of 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo, had during his cross-examination on Saturday said the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, ordered the deployment of soldiers to the tollgate and other parts of the state that day following a request by the governor.
“He (the governor) called the Chief of Army Staff, following which 81 Division, Nigerian Army was ordered into phase four of internal security operation; the call was in the afternoon, before 4pm,” Taiwo told the panel.
Meanwhile, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, the lawyer was asked if the appearance of the governor was important to the case of his clients and whether he would be pushing for the governor’s appearance before the panel.
Ogunlana said, “Of course, that is taken (sic). That person (Sanwo-Olu) will have to come; he’s a factor and he will come. He says he believes in the rule of law, his Attorney General, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), has come to appear before that panel to just make a short speech and to affirm that the Lagos State Government is indeed committed to unraveling the truth about what happened at Lekki on that day; and the military has mentioned him, so, he is a factor.”
While the Nigerian Army has consistently maintained that it did not kill any of the #EndSARS protesters, Ogunlana, on the other hand, insisted that “people died on my side.”
His clients, Kamsiyochukwu Perpetual, Dabira Ayuku and Samuel Isah, had in their individual affidavits on oath submitted to the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel, stressed that soldiers and policemen shot and killed protesters.
Perpetual, in her petition, stated that she saw many dead bodies, including one with a bullet-torn head at Reddington Hospital, Lekki the morning after the shootings.
“The doctors refused us access to see the dead bodies. The media man waded in again and we could only see one of the dead bodies whose head was torn by (a) bullet fired to his head. He laid at the emergency unit. The doctor called the corpse ‘John Doe’ (sic).”
Ayuku, in her statement on oath, said, “The soldiers were asking people to run whilst they shot at them. I remember a particular soldier that kept dancing whilst he shot.”
Also, Isah said he witnessed how policemen allegedly gunned down a Nigerian flag-bearing youth.
He said, “That young man was hit by bullet in his head and died immediately, falling to the road with the Nigerian flag in his hand (sic).”
Isah said he managed to video the shootings by soldiers on his mobile and had submitted two footages to the panel.
But Taiwo, who testified for the Nigerian Army before the panel on November 14, said soldiers used only blank bullets, which they fired into the air.
“Blank expended ammunition contains only gunpowder, which just makes noise and a flash,” Taiwo said.
The general said a blank bullet “can do no damage to the flesh and you have nothing to fear except you take a rifle, put it against your eye and fire. Even if you put it against your skin and fire you will only have burn marks to show for it.”
Retired generals demand govt probe of live ammunition, Serbian bullets claim
Meanwhile, some retired generals have called for a deep scrutiny by the Lagos judicial panel investigating allegations of police brutality levelled against SARS personnel and the Lekki tollgate incident, given evidence on account of a report by the Cable News Network.
The generals noted that if necessary, the panel should invite the military and other parties to speak on the new evidence.
The CNN report revealed that expended Serbian ammunition, allegedly fired by the soldiers, were picked from the scene of the incident.
The report said, “CNN has examined bullet casings found at the scene and confirmed with current and former Nigerian military sources that the bullet casings match those used by the army. Two ballistics experts have also confirmed with CNN that the shape of the bullet casings indicate they used live rounds, which contradicts the army’s claim they fired blanks.
“And working with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, CNN has established that several of the bullets from the Lekki tollgate originated from Serbia. Export documents CNN has seen show that Nigeria purchased weaponry from Serbia almost every year between 2005 and 2016.”
One of the generals, a former Provost Marshal of the Army, Brig Gen Idada Ikponwmen (retd.), told one of our correspondents that the panel should be thorough in its investigation based on the facts and the law.
Ikponwmen said, “I think the original scope of the panel still covers whatever evidence we are getting. I don’t think there is a need for a new panel. There should be evidence before the panel. Those who are saying that they found this and that should be able to establish them before the panel.
“The panel is empowered to invite anybody, based on whatever new evidence, to clear the air. The panel is not just to look at facts a lone; they should also look at the evidence in view of the law; how do you engage the military in a law enforcement role; what does the constitution say?
“We are already aware of the inconsistent statements or positions from the various parties; the governor, the army and all that. The panel should be able to look into all those things. It is not just about the bullets on the ground; how did they get there? The panel should be able to ascertain the facts and the relevant laws and see whether everyone acted properly or there were shortcomings.”