Ebunoluwa Olafusi, CableNG
The Nigerian Army says the Lagos state government invited it to intervene in the fallout of the #EndSARS protest.
Youth protesting against police brutality had refused to stay off the roads despite a 24-hour curfew imposed by Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos, after widespread violence.
Subsequently, men in military uniform invaded the protest ground at Lekki toll plaza and opened fire.
The incident sparked an outrage and Sanwo-Olu blamed the incident on “forces beyond my direct control”.
In a statement on Tuesday, Osoba Olaniyi, acting director, army public relations, said soldiers stayed away from the #EndSARS protests until the Lagos government invited them to restore order.
Olaniyi said while restoring order, soldiers did not shoot protesters, describing reports on the attack of the protesters by the military as fake.
“The attention of Headquarters 81 Division Nigerian Army has been drawn to a viral video on social media in which it was alleged that civilian protesters were massacred by soldiers at Lekki Toll Plaza. This allegation is untrue, unfounded and aimed at causing anarchy in the country,” the statement read.
“At no time did soldiers of the Nigerian Army open fire on any civilian. From the onset of the ENDSARS protest, there was no time personnel of 81 Division Nigerian Army Lagos were involved.
“However, the decision to call in the military was taken by the Lagos State Government (LASG) after a 24- hour curfew was imposed.
“This was as 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 LASG requested for the military to intervene in order to restore normalcy.
“The intervention of the military followed all laid down procedures for Internal Security operations and all the soldiers involved acted within the confines of the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for Internal Security operations.
“Finally, Headquarters 81 Division Nigerian Army reiterates Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional responsibilities did not shoot at any civilian as there are glaring and convincing evidence to attest to this fact.
“This allegation is the hand work of mischief makers who will stop at nothing to tarnish the image of the Nigerian Army. The general public is hereby enjoined to discountenance this allegation as there is no iota of truth therein.”
The military broke its silence on the crisis one day after Sanwo-Olu told CNN that footage of the shooting showed that the Nigerian Army is responsible for the incident.