Miscreants, criminals, propagandists, the local and international sponsors of EndSARS protests are trying to blame Lekki shooting on the Nigerian military, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt Gen Tukur Buratai has suggested.
The suggestion came after Buratai met with senior military officers on Monday.
The Nigerian Army had denied the presence of soldiers at the Lekki Toll Plaza where protesters were shot and allegedly killed on October 20. In Monday’s statement, the military tacitly admitted that soldiers were at the scene.
Watch video of the military press conference above.
But the military, without directly mentioning the Lekki incident, said they were only trying to enforce the curfew declared by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, adding that soldiers did the same in other states where curfew was declared after criminals hijacked the protests against police brutality.
Sanwo-Olu had said that soldiers, over whom only President Muhammadu Buhari had control, were present during Lekki shooting. Witnesses said the same and showed video evidence as proof, adding that as much as 15 protesters were killed.
Buratai, during his meeting with senior military officers, urged the soldiers involved in enforcing any curfew to not be afraid of being dragged to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for human right violations as, according to him, the military maintained accepted rules of engagement.
“COAS made it unambiguously clear that there will be no room for disloyalty among all officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army,” the military told the media after the meeting.
“The army is determined to ensure the democratic stability in Nigeria. We will not allow any force or distabilising agent in or outside the country to set Nigeria on fire.
“Events of the past few days show the determination of unscrupulous invidviduals and groups to distabilise Nigeria. They hijacked EndSARS protests and caused the violence that led to curfews.
“Right from the beginning of the EndSARS protests, the Nigerian Army had been aware of the plan of the sponsors of the protests to draw it into the crisis. They embarked on massive propaganda to discredit the military and the government so as to set the people against the Nigerian Army.
“The army was aware of the devilish plan and was careful not to be dragged into the protests and issued a press release on October 14 of our resolve to safeguard a united Nigeria.
“Now, the detractors alongside their local and international collaborators have mischievously and deliberately misrepresented troops effort in ensuring compliance with the curfew imposed by legitimate civil authorities in Lagos and other states. These agitators are falsely accusing the Nigerian Army of being responsible for the activities of miscreants despite glaring evidence to the contrary.
“They have continually threatened to drag the Nigerian Army to the ICC and also threatened various forms of sanctions against our personnel and their families.
“Thankfully, however, a large percentage of Nigerians and the international community have started seeing through the smokescreen of deliberate falsehood and deliberate misrepresentation of facts being orchestrated by the enemies of Nigeria.
“COAS, during the meeting, also said that despite all these, the Nigerian Army has continued to exercise restraint and fully abided by the internationally-accepted rules of engagement as contained in our published Standard Operating Procedures for Internal Security Operations which are derived from international human right laws and are in accordance with the international principles guiding the use of force.
“We use this opportunity to emphasise that none of the officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army should be afraid of the ICC for carrying out their legitimate duties as stated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and other extant laws, rules and regulations of Nigeria.
“He further advised that they have every right under the constitution to carry out assigned legitimate roles of maintaining law and order in aide of civil authorities and other security agencies.
“He reiterated that anyone who doubts the commitment of the senior military officers to the constitutional responsibilities must be made to know that they remain committed, loyal and unwavering in ensuring the unity, stability and security of our dear country, Nigeria. He charged them to show the detractors and other elements of destabilisation that they are neither part of them, nor in any way supportive of their activities at all times.
“He directed that any act of arson or attempt to kill or maim any military or security personnel and other law abiding civilians must be responded to quickly and decisively.
“According to him, in dealing with any security threat, they must fully cooperate with the personnel of the Nigerian police force and other security agencies and must ensure that everyone is in full complain with imposed curfews and other extant security instructions in force.
“COAS further alerted senior military officers that the recent acvitivies by unscrupulous elements have show their desire to acquire arms at all cost from security personnel. Not less than 10 AK-47 rifles have been lost to these miscreants in the past two weeks across the country.
“He charged commanders to nip in the bud this emerging trend at all cost.
“COAS concluded but a democratically united, strong and prosperous Nigeria.
“At the end of the meeting, the senior military officials resolved to:
- Remain loyal to the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari
- Ensure the unity and indivisibility of our country
- Assist the federal government to bring an end to insecurity across the country and to prevent miscreants and criminals from hijacking EndSARS protests nationwide
- Remain focused not to be deterred by any local or international threat
“All commanders have been directed to intensify joint training with the Nigerian police and other sister security agencies to enhance inter-agency collaboration and cooperation.”