Southwest governors have passed the buck on Lekki shooting to President Muhammadu Buhari in a subtle move that may indicate a rift between Abuja and Lagos.
On October 20, protesters live-streamed soldiers laying siege to Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos and opening fire on the demonstrators who refused to leave the venue following a curfew declared by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
As many as 15 people were reported killed but Sanwo-Olu continues to deny any fatality. The governor also said he had no power to deploy soldiers. The Nigerian military, contrary to Sanwo-Olu’s claim, said no soldiers were present.
Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu visited Sanwo-Olu on Sunday and said the following:
“We are particularly worried that 48 hours after the unfortunate incident at the Lekki Toll Gate by persons adorning military outfit, there has been no definitive statement from the military authorities on the incident.
“Our anxiety becomes heightened by the categorical denial of the Governor of Lagos State concerning the military deployment.
“No governor has powers to authorise deployment of military personnel in Nigeria.”
Akeredolu is the chairman of the forum of governors in the southwest. His speech was endorsed by the other southwest governors who visited Sanwo-Olu. It was also posted on Lagos government’s official channels.
The comments shifts attention back to President Buhari who addressed the nation last week but refused to mention the shooting in Lekki. Under Nigerian law, he is the only person that can deploy Nigerian troops.
The most important question right now is, according to observers, “who ordered the shooting?”
The shooting came after days of peaceful demonstrations against police brutality. Demonstrators, under the banner of EndSARS, were demanding comprehensive police reform. President Buhari laughed when Sanwo-Olu told him that protesters also want compensation for victims of police brutality.
Following the Lekki shooting, All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and former Lagos governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu said those in Buhari’s circle “reported to Aso Rock that I was the one behind the protest”.
Tinubu made the comments after his private number was leaked online and Nigerians bombarded him with phone calls seeking answers about the shooting which they accused him of masterminding. He denied doing so.
In the morning of October 20, Tinubu had released a statement saying the president was justified to use force to quell the protests. He based his argument on the activities of thugs whom he said had hijacked the protests.
But demonstrators alleged that the thugs were sponsored by the government to discredit the protests, accusing the government of failing to arrest the thugs who were pictured threatening peaceful protesters with lethal weapons.
At his first public appearance after the shooting, Tinubu said those who “suffered casualties (at Lekki) also have some questions to answer”. He also said he asked Sanwo-Olu to name the person who ordered the shooting.
In the wake of the looting that ensued after the shooting, Lagos arrested and vowed to prosecute over 200 looters. But the government is yet to identify the soldiers who opened fire on protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza.