The secrecy surrounding deployment of soldiers to protest ground at Lekki toll gate in Lagos State has taken different dimension as the Nigeria Army has disclosed that it officers were at the protest ground last Tuesday on alleged request of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led State Government
It explained that contrary to claims from different quarters that the army acted without invitation from relevant authorities, the soldiers intervention was allegedly on the request of the Lagos State Government.
The 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Victoria Island, Lagos, also insisted that as against several media and social media reports, soldiers deployed to protest ground were not involved in killing of any protesters, particularly unarmed civilians who were only demonstrating their civic rights as guaranteed in the country’s constitution.
Clarifying through a statement signed by the Division’s Acting Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Major Osoba Olaniyi, the army maintained that allegations against the deployed soldiers were baseless and unfounded, and that such was aimed at tarnishing the force image.
He explained that contrary to the state government’s official position, the decision to call in military was taken by the Sanwo-Olu administration after a 24-hour curfew that was introduced to curb violence and arsons that had greeted the protest against police brutality.
Olaniyi maintained that the military intervention followed all laid down protocol and rule of engagements for civil matters and that shots were not fired at protesters as being rumoured by Nigerians on social media.
“The attention of headquarters 81 Division of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to a viral video on social media in which it was alleged that civilians protesters were massacred by soldiers at the Lekki Toll plaza.
“This allegation is untrue, unfounded and aimed at causing anarchy in the country. 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 was involved. However , the decision to call in the Military was taken by the Lagos State Government 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 Lagos State Government 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 that the 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 handwork 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 statement said.