The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing the shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate area of the city on the night of October 20, 2020 had summoned personnel of the Nigerian Army to appear before it.
But the army, according to Sunday PUNCH, has expressed unwillingness not to honour any summons or invitation by the panel except it was from the state government.
The seven-man panel, which began sitting on Monday, is also saddled with the task of probing allegations of brutality by men of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
A member of the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel set up by the Lagos State Government, revealed that the panel had already dispatched an invitation letter to concerned authorities.
“We have summoned several authorities, including the military,” the panel member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
On whether the panel had fixed a date for the appearance of the army, the member said, “No date yet. But surely, we are summoning the military, police and everybody relevant to our probe.
“We have no limitation as to who we are going to summon. We want to get to the root of the case. The panel had agreed that a letter be dispatched to the military authorities.”
But when Sunday PUNCH reached out to the Nigerian Army over the invitation sent to it by the panel on the need for it to state its story regarding the incident, the Acting Deputy Director, Army Public Relations and 81 Division’s spokesperson, Major Osoba Olaniyi, said it was not the duty of the judicial panel to invite the army to answer questions regarding the reported shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate.
Olaniyi stressed that the army intervened in the Lekki incident based on a request from the Lagos State Government and that it would only appear before the panel based on the same directive from the state government.
He said, “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 Toll Gate) 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.”
The army had come under heavy criticism over how its personnel, while enforcing the curfew imposed by the state government, shot peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, killing some and leaving others with varying degrees of injury.
The army authorities in a tweet on October 21, initially denied that its personnel were at the scene of the shootings, describing it as ‘fake news’.
But following evidence and pressure from different individuals and groups, the army later admitted that its personnel were at the scene but were invited by the state government.
This contrasted the earlier submission of the state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who on the morning of October 21 blamed the shootings on “forces beyond our direct control”.
The army denied shooting the protesters while the governor also said no one was killed in the exercise, but available information showed that people were killed.
Amnesty International also said it had evidence that no fewer than 12 protesters were killed at the Lekki Toll Gate and Alausa areas of the state.