…Says Sanwo-Olu had enough grounds to seek Army’s intervention,
…Says hoodlums attempted to invade Govt House
…#EndSARS protesters counsel: I am unable to make claim for my clients
By Henry Ojelu
The Nigerian Army, yesterday, gave a graphic narration of the dire security situation in Lagos that warranted them being invited to restore order in the state.
Brig.-Gen. Ahmed Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Division, Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos told the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters that Lagos had descended into total chaos.
Taiwo was testifying before the panel about the Army’s alleged role in the shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters on Oct. 20 at the Lekki Tollgate.
The general, who testified before the panel using a projector, had shown graphic images of policemen being lynched, police stations being looted and burnt, as well as citizens resorting to cannibalism by eating the burnt flesh of the corpses of lynched police officers.
“Many of us have lived through the 70s to the 2000s, and one thing I have said is that once a peaceful protest goes beyond three days there are hoodlums waiting in the wings to hijack it and cause mayhem and this was no different”, he said.
“This state of affairs continued until Oct. 20 and even I was caught up in one of such mobs. The hoodlums I met are not the #EndSARS protesters we have come to see.
“It is the task of the armed forces to intervene when the security task overwhelms the police and other paramilitary services.
“Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu asked the army to intervene which was the correct thing to do.”
Playing a video of the siege to the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu, by hoodlums, Taiwo said that the monarch and his family had to be rescued by the Nigerian Army.
“Both the Oba and his family were ferried to safety by the Nigerian Army,” he explained as he played a video recording of the monarch and his family being rescued and taken into a military pickup truck.
“The business district areas were looted and offices were ransacked and destroyed. The hoodlums attempted to invade the Government House, but it was repelled.
“They attempted to break into the Ikoyi Prison and it was repelled. The 81 Division had to support the Correctional Services and the Police.
“They also burnt down the Igbosere High Court. The inmates had burnt part of the Ikoyi Prison, they all did this at the same time because they had gotten information about what was happening on the outside.
“They burnt Shoprite and Spar Lekki were looted. What was shocking and saddening to me was that mothers were taking their children to loot.”
The officer said that he had received a distress phone call from the Managing Director of Spar pleading for the military’s assistance.
“The MD was pleading and saying that let them loot the place, but they should not burn it down.
“When we arrived, these looters had the temerity to come up to soldiers while holding looted goods and say come collect sir!
“A man we arrested had looted household items and when we went to his house to recover the items he had already installed them.”
The general said that while trying to restore order at Spar Lekki, he had met looters looting Shoprite Lekki and that he had ordered soldiers under his command not to shoot at them, but into the air.
“I wanted to catch them and I did not want any casualty. All the looters our men arrested were taken to the 65 Battalion and we have people of almost every tribe there that day.
“There was a voice note on social media purportedly from Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), saying Igbos should cause mayhem in Lagos.
“This could not be further from the truth because from my assertion, most of the businesses affected were owned by Igbos,” Taiwo said.
According to him, financial institutions were the most targeted by looters during the #EndSARS unrest, and that the army had evacuated about N2billion in two days for banks during the chaos.
He said the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. -Gen.Tukur Buratai, had ordered that the captured looters be treated humanely by the military.
“They were fed three times a day and were given what the soldiers were eating. Some of them did not even want to leave,” he said.
Late last night, Sunday Vanguard learnt that Taiwo recanted under cross examination by lawyer to Lagos State government that Sanwo-Olu had prior knowledge of soldiers deployment to Lekki on October 20, admitting that only President Muhammadu Buhari has the power to deploy soldiers to trouble spots in the country as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
Meanwhile, the Army said no formal petition over the alleged shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate had been received.
Counsel for the Nigerian Army, Mr. Akinlolu Kehinde (SAN), said this before the panel.
His words: “I must submit today that there is no allegation whatsoever against the Nigerian Army before this panel. I urge your Lordship to discountenance any proposal that the testimony of the Nigerian Army should not be allowed because of a proposed petition.
“Unfortunately for reasons known to most of us, the Nigerian Army could not give their testimony when they were summoned on the last adjourned date. It is a very respectable organisation.
“The Nigerian Army is here again ready to testify, and they have set up their projector and is ready to discharge the summons.
“I repeat, as at six minutes to 11 a.m today, no petition has been served against the Nigerian Army, if any petition has been served, we will respond.”
Earlier, Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN), counsel representing seven #EndSARS protesters said he was unable to make a formal claim on behalf of his clients before the panel.
Olumide-Fusika said the panel’s terms of reference only covered matters relating to the Nigeria Police and the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
He also noted that the panel must be set up by a legal instrument.
“We applied for the copy of the instrument establishing the panel by the governor, but we were refused on the ground that Freedom of Information Act does not apply to Lagos State.
“We applied here this morning and the secretary said there is no authority that states that it should be granted to us,” Olumide-Fusika said.
He sought the panel’s directive as to whether the Nigerian Army should give evidence during proceedings because according to him, “their presence here today is not mature”.
Terms of reference
In a related development, the head of the nine-man panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (retd), in a ruling, stated that the alleged shootings at Lekki covered the panel’s terms of reference.
“The Lekki incident was not covered by the original instrument of the panel and it was amended on Oct. 21 to include the Lekki incident”, Okuwobi said.
“The amended instrument is a public document which should not be shrouded in mystery, I have a copy here with me if Mr. Olumide-Fusika pleases.”
Three petitions heard in Osun
Also, yesterday, Osun State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality heard three different petitions filed by members of the public against the brutality of the men and officers of the defunct SARS.
The panel also granted adjournments to the petitioners and respondents in line with their request to ensure a fair hearing.
It also disclosed that it had received another petition, making the petitions before it to be six, as the panel chairman, Justice Akin Oladimeji, said more petitions were underway.
Addressing the journalists shortly after the court session, retired Justice Oladimeji, said the court granted adjournments to both petitioners and respondents based on the circumstances around the petitions.
He said the decision to grant the adjournment was to ensure a fair hearing for all parties involved and to strengthen the judicial process for justice and equity.