The Nigerian Army has insisted that soldiers did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate area of Lagos State.
Although they admitted that soldiers were deployed to ‘restore normalcy’ in the area, the Acting Deputy Director, 81 Division, Army Public Relations, Osoba Olaniyi in a statement on Tuesday, described reports of a massacre by the officers as “untrue, unfounded, and aimed at causing anarchy in the country”.
Olaniyi also stated that the decision to involve the military was taken by the Lagos State Government after a 24-hour curfew was imposed.
“From the onset of the onset #EndSARS, there was no time personnel of the 81 Division, Nigerian Army Lagos, were involved,” the statement read.
“This was a result of the violence which led to several police stations being burnt, policemen killed, suspects in police custody released, and weapons carted away.
“The situation was fast degenerating into anarchy. It was at this point that the LASG requested for the military to intervene in order to restore normalcy.”
This is coming days after the Nigerian Army had been accused of opening fire on the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on Tuesday, October 20.
The incident came hours after the state government declared a 24-hour curfew as part of efforts to stop the violence which had broken out in some parts of the state by criminal elements hijacking the protests.
Although the curfew was to commence at 4:00 pm, but later shifted to commence for 9:00 pm, many were still seen protesting across the state.
At the Lekki Toll Gate which had been one of the major converging points, peaceful and unarmed protesters were also still seen gathered in large numbers.
The situation, however, took a turn for the worse around 7:00 pm when the security operatives stormed the area and started shooting sporadically.
Although videos that later surfaced online showed men in military uniform firing the gunshots, the military immediately debunked the allegations, labelling them as ‘fake news’.
According to the state government, investigations are currently ongoing, with a panel of judicial inquiry and restitution already commencing sittings.
Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu is, however, yet to confirm the position of the army with regards to who gave the orders.
In an interview with CNN, the governor said: “from the footage that we could see, because there were camera’s at that facility, it seemed to me that they will be men in military uniform which should be the Nigerian Army.”
When asked further if military forces ordered the shooting of the peaceful protesters, he said: “yes, they were there, that’s what the footage shows”.
Viral videos online from the scene of the shooting had shown several persons who sustained gunshot wounds, raising fears of multiple fatalities.
But according to the governor, only two persons are confirmed to have died from the incident so far.
“Two dead bodies. That is what we have seen from all the morgues, that is what we have going to hospitals, that is what we have seen as records.
“What has happened is, there have been so many footages that people have shown but we have not seen bodies.
“We’ve not seen relatives, we have not seen anybody truly coming up to say indeed I am a father or mother to someone and I cannot find that person.
“I have been to the ground and there’s no scratch of blood anywhere”.