We never used live ammunition on #EndSARS protesters – Nigerian Army tells panel

Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo at EndSARS Panel Lagos

…played a footage which showed soldiers standing in front of singing protesters and firing their weapons into the air

The Nigerian Army on Saturday denied using live ammunition on unarmed #EndSARS protesters, during the alleged Oct. 20 shooting at the Lekki Tollgate before the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry.

Brig.-Gen. Ahmed Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, who testified on behalf of the Nigerian Army said that the military had fired blank ammunition into the air to disperse protesters on the night of the alleged shooting.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Nigerian Army made the denial before the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters.

Brig.-Gen. Ahmed Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, who testified on behalf of the Nigerian Army said that the military had fired blank ammunition into the air to disperse protesters on the night of the alleged shooting.

Taiwo, who gave a presentation to the panel with the use of a projector, played a footage which showed soldiers standing in front of singing protesters and firing their weapons into the air.

He said there would have been a lot of fatalities if the 600m live ammunition normally used by the military were used to disperse the #EndSARS protesters.

“I have been in the army since 1986 and you cannot be under fire and be singing.

“The entry hole for the 600m is thin while the exit is wide, if it hits you in the chest or the bowels, the intestines comes down.

“I am an expert in ammunition having spent so long in the army. Blank ammunition is slower and can do no damage to the flesh and you have nothing to fear except you take a rifle, put it against your eye and fire.

“Even if you put it against your skin and fire you will only have burn marks,” he said.

Taiwo said that troops had managed to disperse most of the #EndSARS protesters, and had even shared drinks from protesters who had remained at the Lekki Tollgate.

He said he was monitoring the situation on the internet, and that it was after the departure of the soldiers that hoodlums set the tollgate on fire.

He said that non-kinetic (non violent) means was used in the Army’s rules of engagement during the protests.

Following his revelation, Taiwo through the counsel of the Nigerian Army, Mr Akinlolu Kehinde (SAN), presented four spent blank ammunition to the panel as evidence.

NAN reports that Taiwo told also the panel that there was a lapse in communication between the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Army regarding the imposing and lifting of the curfew.

“Due to the urgency of the security situation in the state, the governor declared a 24-hour curfew which was supposed to start at 4pm.

“They wanted everyone off the streets to deal with the hoodlums, but after some observations the timing was shifted to 21:00 hours, but this timing was not communicated to the Nigerian Army.

“Be that as it may, we the Nigerian Army had already immediately deployed the 65 Battalion under the 81 Division Garrison to forestal all further violence and loss of lives.

“It is important to note that this deployment of troops contrary to reports, was done throughout Lagos to activate Phase 4 of the Internal Security Operations,” Taiwo said.

The officer told the panel that the Army had entered the Stabilisation Phase of the Internal Security Operations, and had started recovering looted items when the Lagos State Government lifted the curfew without informing them.

“We were still recovering a lot of looted items which were given back to the owners on production of receipt or proof of ownership.

“If the curfew was not lifted we would have recovered a 100 times more than the items we recovered,” Taiwo said. (NAN)

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A press statement by the Embassy on Friday, said: “During the visit, Townsend met with the Nigerian President’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, and National Security Adviser, Babagan Monguno, to discuss regional security issues and to express the command’s gratitude for the assistance provided during a hostage rescue operation last year.

“When we asked for their help, the Nigerian government answered the call. Our hostage recovery mission in October would have been impossible without their support.

“They quickly provided assistance that helped the U.S. military to save an American life. That is a strong example of our partnership with Nigeria.”

Townsend also met with senior military officials, including the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magash, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Leo Irabor, to talk about on-going cooperation in the region and greater maritime security and threat mitigation.

Nigeria is a key partner in countering violent extremist organizations throughout the Lake Chad Basin.

Townsend said furthermore: “The bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the U.S. is built on several pillars including security cooperation.

“U.S. Africa Command will do our part to advance the security cooperation pillar, so that Nigerians can enjoy the more secure future they all deserve.”

As close partners, the U.S. and Nigeria have worked at ensuring the collaborative relationship continues to grow to include a commitment to interoperability. Nigeria purchased 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, which will be delivered later this year.

“Nigeria’s purchase of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is another example of their commitment to interoperability and security in the region,” he added. “Our economic relationship with Nigeria is already strong, and we look forward to the continued strengthening of security relationships. Nigeria’s leaders understand the importance of a collaborative approach to ensuring stability in West Africa and partnering on areas of mutual interest.”

The Commander also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard.

Leonard said: “General Townsend’s visit to Nigeria demonstrates the strategic importance the United States places on our bilateral relationship with Nigeria.

“Our security cooperation partnership with Nigeria’s military will strengthen the country’s capabilities to secure land and sea borders, enhance overall security, and combat terrorism in the North East.”

As part of the visit, Townsend participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Nigeria Military National Cemetery to honour those who have given their lives in the service of their nation.

During the visit, the delegation expressed their condolences for the seven service men killed in the crash of a Nigerian Air Force aircraft in Abuja.