Lekki Shooting: Officer who led mission testifies

November 8, 2020
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Soldiers from 65 Battalion of the Nigerian Army and top brass of the 81 Division witnessing at the Justice Dori Obiokwu Judicial Panel of Inquiry have made statements before the hearing, denying shooting at or killing any of the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate during a curfew on October 20.

The Commander, 9 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Brig Gen Musa Etsu-Ndagi, said he received a phone call from Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, around 7.23pm on October 20,2020 informing him that a certain Lt Col Bello was reportedly shooting at the Lekki tollgate where #EndSARS protesters were gathered.

Col Bello is the commanding officer of 65 Battalion, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island.

According to Etsu-Ndagi who spoke before the panel on Friday, when he called that night, Bello denied shooting into the crowd, though he admitted shooting black ammunition into the air.

On his own, Bello said the protesters were happy to see the soldiers at the tollgate.

“On getting to the tollgate, I persuaded the crowd to go home and observe the 24-hour curfew declared by the state government. But surprisingly, the hoodlums continued throwing stones, bottles and other dangerous objects at us and were burning tyres. I again fired some blank ammunition upward to scare the hoodlums away,” he said.

“But some protesters who were still at the tollgate sitting down quietly were given water and drinks by me while pleading with them to go home.”

Commander, 81 Division Garrison, Gen Francis Omata also testified before the panel, confirming the rowdy situation he met at the toll gate.

“I also met the Commanding Officer, 65 Battalion (Bello), who briefed me on the situation. He briefed me that he met a hostile crowd, hoodlums mixed with the protesters, who were chanting and throwing stones at them,” Omata said.

“At this point, stones and sticks were being thrown at us. Then I moved to a safe area and briefed General Officer Commanding 81 Division, Maj Gen Godwin Ahamefuna Umelo by phone.

“The General Officer Commanding directed me to pacify the hostile crowd and move the troops back to base. However, the crowd still continued chanting #EndSARS. I then instructed the troops to withdraw to base.”

The three officers however insisted the troops didn’t shoot at the protesters.

“Nobody was shot dead at the Lekki tollgate, there was no massacre as claimed,’ said Bello.

“The claim that the military took away dead bodies was not true. The protesters were happy to see us as indicated in some of the video clips of 20th October 2020.”

Amnesty International has written two reports alleging a massacre at the toll gate, and local and international media have amplified the report, leading to looting , arson, and vandalism   by protesters now believed to be hoodlums.

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