The Nigerian Army has said it will not disclose the identities of its men who were deployed to the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020.
In an interview with Punch, Osoba Olaniyi, spokesman of the 81 division of the Nigerian Army, said it is unprofessional for the Army to release the names of the soldiers who were deployed to the tollgate on that day.
“It is against operational security. We don’t give that. It is against the policy of operational security. There is no problem here. The picture some people paint, as if we are fighting with the state government, is wrong,” the newspaper quoted him to have said.
Olaniyi in the interview, also stated that the Army will only appear before the judicial panel set up by the Lagos state government to investigate allegations of police brutality in the state as well as the October 20 Lekki tollgate gunfire incident, if the invitation is coming from the state government and not the panel.
Recall that the judicial panel on Friday, October 30, paid an unscheduled visit to the Military hospital Ikoyi to inspect the mortuary. They were initially denied access but after a while, were allowed in. They were later to be told that the morgue is undergoing renovation.
Punch reports that an invitation has been sent to the military to appear before the panel. However, Olaniyi said only the state government can ask them to appear before the panel.
“If we receive a letter from the state, we will go. Are we not under civil authorities? Are we not part of Nigerians? Have you forgotten that we did not go there (Lekki tollgate) on our own?
It is not the duty of the members of the panel to tell us that. If the state wants the (81) Division to come, they will write and we will oblige. See, if they have written to the division, it is our duty to go. It is not for them to go through the media as if we are scared of coming.
It is the state government that constituted that panel of inquiry. So if anybody needs to get in touch with us to come, it is still the state and not members of the panel.” Punch quotes him as saying
The Nigerian Army had initially denied being responsible for the incident. In separate tweets, the army had labeled the reports of soldiers opening fire at the tollgate as fake news. However, in a statement released last week, Olaniyi confirmed that soldiers from the division were the ones who carried out the operation. He said they were deployed to the tollgate on the request of the Lagos state government and that they also did not shoot any protester.
“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 were involved.
However, the decision to call in the military was taken by the Lagos State Government (LASG) 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 LASG 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.”the statement read
The Lagos state government is yet to react to the Military's claim that it requested the deployment of soldiers to the tollgate. Governor Sanwo-Olu has repeatedly said he had no hand in the deployment of the military as it wasn't within his jurisdiction to call in the military.