Nigeria’s army admits its soldiers were at Lagos shootings

LAGOS, NIGERIA (AP) — Nigeria’s army has admitted its soldiers were deployed at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos where live rounds were fired last week, killing several peaceful protesters prompting global outrage.

At least 10 protesters were killed in the Lekki plaza shooting on October 20, according to Amnesty International.

The army had maintained that its troops were not at the site of the shooting, but on Tuesday night a military spokesman, Major Osoba Olaniyi, reversed that position, saying soldiers had been deployed there to enforce a curfew. However he denied that the troops shot at the protesters.

“At no time did soldiers of the Nigerian army open fire on any civilian,” Olaniyi said in a statement.

The military’s admission of its presence at the plaza came after Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said security camera footage showed Nigerian soldiers at Lekki plaza and firing at the peaceful protesters.

Olaniyi said soldiers were deployed on orders from the Lagos state government, but the governor has said the state has no authority over the national army. Many Nigerians question why the soldiers were deployed at the peaceful protest, in which thousands had gathered at the Lekki plaza.

A judicial panel began investigating the shooting on Tuesday. The panel is also investigating allegations of abuse against the police unit, the Special Anti-Robberty Squard, known as SARS.

A widespread #EndSARS campaign erupted in Nigeria in early October after a video circulated showing a man being beaten, apparently by SARS officers.

The peaceful, well-organised protests disrupted traffic in Lagos and many other Nigerian cities. President Muhammadu Buhari’s government agreed to disband the SARS unit, but the protests continued with participants demanding sweeping reforms of police and action against corruption.

The protesters were largely peaceful, but several were killed, according to Amnesty International which accused authorities of using unnecessary force.

On October 20 the government imposed a curfew, ordering everyone to stay at home and that evening the shootings occurred at Lekki plaza. For two days after that Lagos saw widespread rioting.