Salisu Bello, the commanding officer of the 65th Nigerian Army Battalion, who appeared before the Lagos judicial panel as part of the # EndSARS crisis resolution steps, alleged that on October 20, 2020, his men were assaulted at Lekki tollgate, but did not fire protestors.
Bello who made this claim in his statement on oath filed before the judicial panel probing the Lekki shooting averred that the soldiers did not kill any protester as they were all happy to see them.
According to PUNCH Bello said that, while persuading them to go home, he personally offered the protestors water and drinks. Bello added that he heard gunshots before the tollgate while heading towards the Lekki-Ajah Expressway about 6.45pm and later realized that the crowd had transformed from peaceful demonstrators to a mob.
The army commander said;
“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 tyre.
“I again fired some blank ammunition upward to scare the hoodlums away. 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.
“We did not fire at the protesters. Blank ammunition was fired upward to scare the hoodlums from the crowd. Nobody was shot dead at the Lekki tollgate, there was no massacre as claimed. 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.”
On his part, Commander, 81 Division Garrison, VI, Brig-Gen Francis Omata said;
“On arrival at the tollgate at about 7.30 pm, I met a rowdy situation. 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. I was able to disperse the crowd by firing blank ammunition into the air.
“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.”
It was further gathered that the absence of the two youth representatives serving on the panel stalled proceedings on Saturday November 7, and the army officers could not testify.