The Nigerian Army in its response to the Lekki massacre, filed papers at the Lagos State Panel of Judicial Inquiry registry probing the alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate on the night of October 20.
Among the documents filed by the army are the witness statements of the Commander of 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Taiwo; the Chief of Staff, 81 Division, Nigerian Army, VI, Lagos, Brig. Gen. Nsikak Edet; Commander, 81 Division Garrison, VI, Brig. Gen. Francis Omata; Commander, 9 Brigade, Ikeja, Brig. Gen. Musa Etsu-Ndagi; and Commanding Officer, 65 Battalion, Bonny Camp, VI, Lt. Col. Salisu Bello.
It said it was also bringing before the panel expended and unexpended blank ammunition, which was used to disperse the crowd by firing into the air on 20th day of October, 2020.
The army has also submitted 13 flash drives containing the recorded videos of the soldiers’ involvement in the incident.
Our correspondent gathered that the testimony of the Army was listed as number one on the panel’s list for Saturday (today).
But it is unclear whether the army will still appear before the panel today as scheduled as the panel on Friday adjourned further hearing in the Lekki tollgate shooting till November 10.
The adjournment followed the inability of the panel to watch till the end on Friday the video footage of the incident submitted by the Lekki Concession Company, operator of the Lekki tollgate.
Before the commencement of the footage viewing on Friday, counsel for LCC, Mr Rotimi Seriki, had suggested that only the portion relevant to the probe should be viewed.
Backing him, counsel for the Lagos State Government, Mr Jelili Owonikoko (SAN), said he had had the opportunity of watching the video and the portion relevant to the probe should be from 5pm of October 20.
But counsel for the #EndSARS protesters, Mr Adesina Ogunlana, insisted that the entire 20-hour footage be viewed on the grounds that “we should not sacrifice quality for speed.”
The panel chairman, retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, ruled that the entire footage be viewed.
Though the panel normally ends its sitting by 4pm, the footage was watched till about 5pm when there was a power outage in the building.
Seeing that after over four hours of viewing, nothing eventful had been seen in the soundless video, Justice Okuwobi asked Ogunlana if he still wanted the entire 20-hour video to be watched, to which Ogunlana responded, “I will wait; it’s a marathon.”
But intervening, Owonikoko submitted that lawyers had a duty to assist the panel, stressing that having viewed the video, the portion relevant to the panel’s mandate would be from about 5pm on October 20.
“We can all agree on what portion of the footage is relevant to this panel,” Owonikoko said, adding that for transparency sake, Ogunlana should be given a copy to also go and watch.
Aligning with Owonikoko, LCC’s lawyer, Seriki, recalled that he had earlier suggested that the viewing should be limited to the portion relevant to the mandate of the panel, explaining that the LCC only made the entire 20-hour footage available to demonstrate transparency.
Seriki argued that the panel could not afford to waste time watching the entire footage because it had only six months to sit and it still had petitions from victims of human rights abuse by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad to contend with.
But Ogunlana maintained his stand, saying every second of the footage was important to him because “people died on my side.”
Facing the lawyers for Lagos and LCC, Ogunlana said, “We lost lives here, you lost money.”
However, intervening, a representative of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Bernard Onigah, urged the panel to narrow the viewing to the relevant portion.
In the end, it was agreed that a copy of the footage should be given to Ogunlana, so he could go and view after which he should decide whether the panel needs to view the entire footage.
Justice Okuwobi approved Ogunlana’s request for 48 hours to view the footage and then adjourned till November 10 for further proceedings into the Lekki incident.