Army Director of Information denies army presence at shooting
The Country Director, Amnesty International Nigeria, Ms. Osai Ojigho, has maintained that the Nigerian Army has questions to answer concerning the recent shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza despite army denials.
In an exclusive interview with Lagos Metropolitan, Ms. Ojigho said, “I think the Nigerian Army should be very concerned if people were in military fatigue and they say they were not there. I think that’s a cause for concern. In fact, it is even alarming now. Are they saying there is another non-state unidentified factor that is causing this kind of damage? It also begs the question, “who are these people and why are they doing what they are doing?” And they just disappeared into thin air after everything?”
Speaking to the absence of evidence of casualties after the shooting, she said, “It is complicated to get this information when the state is not known to be open and transparent about this thing. It has happened in the past before with allegations of security agents moving bodies away. If you look at the Shi’ites killing in 2015, they were always disputing the number of people that died until when the Kaduna panel investigated and said they uncovered mass graves of 350 people. The Shi’ites insisted that there were hundreds more and still missing but nobody has found them. Then if you look at other incidents that have happened in other communities like the 2018 IPOB clash where they said that Nnamdi Kanu was captured or escaped, but people couldn’t really tell how many people had died because bodies were taken away after the operation. So, I think for me, we need to first know these people in military fatigues, how they got there in the first place? Because I don’t think they walked there, they used a vehicle to get there and they did what they did. We also need to look at the fact that Lagos is a big city with a lot of people, and the rate at which people are calling their loved ones, they may not know that some of them are missing.”
Confirming that 12 persons have been reported killed by these security agents, Ms. Ojigho said, “We don’t have all the names but the ones we have, I cannot share that with you for security and privacy concerns. As at yesterday, we were able to confirm 12 deaths in Lagos, 7 in Lekki and some in other parts of Lagos. I mean, the numbers keep changing as we get more verified information. So, we hope that we get more details on the next few days.”
In a separate development, the Nigerian Defence Headquarters’ Director of Information, Maj. Gen. John Eneche on Thursday, while speaking during a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, described the report of soldiers shooting the protesters as mere allegations.
He, however, admitted that the military is involved in the internal security operations codenamed ‘Operation MESA’ in nine states, but failed to disclose further details of the joint security task force.
According to him, Operation MESA is under the control of the state governments which comprised the Army, Navy, Air Force, Civil Defence and police personnel.
“The issue is not an operation that I can respond to, but I can tell you that it is an allegation, for now; so let us not set the cart before the horse.
“If the matter was still open-ended, I would have had a response for you but it is no longer open-ended because immediately, not even up to five hours before midnight, the Governor of Lagos set up an inquiry.
“So, whatever we say now will not be fair to the commission.
“So these operations are still standing and running and I am aware that the state governments are using them in all these capacities, that is internal security.
“The level we are now is internal security and that is why the police proactively came out and then deployed all their force package that are necessary to handle that violence,” he said