Nigerian army admits shooting in air at deadly protest

LAGOS, NIGERIA (AP) — Nigeria’s army has said after weeks of denial that its troop did fire shots into the air to disperse a large crowd at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos where several peaceful protesters were killed late in October.

The October 20 incident at the plaza caused both local and international outrage. At least 10 protesters were killed in the Lekki plaza shooting, according to Amnesty International, which charged that army troops opened fire on protesters without provocation. The government said two people died and 20 were hospitalised. The army denied shooting at protesters.

Military Intelligence Brigade Commander Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo told a judicial committee over the weekend that “blank ammunition were fired upward to scare the hoodlums from the crowd”, but added that no protester was fired at.

The crowd consisting mainly young Nigerians were singing the country’s national anthem and waving its flags as they peacefully protested against police brutality under the hashtag #EndSARS.

Brigadier General Taiwo said the military was at the toll plaza at the request of the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to enforce a curfew he imposed earlier that day.

The governor, however, had previously said the state has no authority over the national army. He said that security camera footage showed Nigerian soldiers firing at the peaceful protesters at Lekki plaza.

Many Nigerians question why the soldiers were deployed at the peaceful protest, in which thousands had gathered at the Lekki plaza.

Amnesty International issued a report in October citing security camera footage that it said shows army vehicles leaving the Bonny Camp barracks and arriving at Lekki plaza shortly before shots were fired.

The army had initially maintained that its troops were not at the site of the shooting, but in late October they said soldiers had been deployed.