NIGERIA’S justice minister and attorney-general Mallam Abubakar Malami has added some humour to the ongoing debate about the recent murder of innocent protesters as the Lekki Toll Gate by suggesting it could have been the handiwork of hoodlums dressed as soldiers.
On October 20, Nigerian Army troops opened fire on unarmed protesters demanding police reform at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State, killing several of them. This cold-blooded murder sparked a national outrage across the country, forcing people to the streets, setting fire to public buildings and looting warehouses, shops and the homes of the wealthy.
However, since the incident, the Nigerian Army has been desperately trying to absolve itself of the shooting, claiming its soldiers did not kill anyone. Debunking this, Amnesty International said its crisis response experts investigated and verified social media videos and photographs that confirmed that security forces were present at the Lekki Toll Gate when the shootings occurred.
Now, Mallam Malami has added a new dimension to the debate, suggesting that the shootings could have been carried out by criminals dressed in military uniform. Speaking with journalists yesterday in Abuja, Mallam Malami said investigations are underway to ascertain what truly happened at the Lekki Toll Gate.
Mallam Malami added: “It is pre-emptive to conclude that there had even been shootings, as hoodlums may have been hired to create a scene. You cannot rule out the possibility of perhaps hoodlums that set in to create a scene could equally partake in the process.”
Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos State blamed the incident on forces beyond his direct control, indicating that the order to despatch troops came from Abuja. However, Osoba Olaniyi, the acting director of army public relations, said the Lagos State government invited the army to restore order.
He then, however, denied that soldiers shot protesters, describing reports on the attack by the military as fake. After being forced to concede that its troops were involved the Nigerian Army said it will not disclose the identities of the men who were sent to the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20.
A judicial panel set up by the Lagos state government to probe alleged brutality by the disbanded Sars has already commenced sitting. In will review the October 20 as part of its remit and last Friday, the panel visited the Lekki Toll Gate.