Over the past few days, the Nigerian Army has come under intense scrutiny and criticism for using firearms and killing peaceful #EndSARS protesters in Lekki Tollgate Plaza on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
The Army’s social media campaign of flagging reports on the incident as fake was countered by the Digital Forensic Research (DRF) Lab on Thursday. The research noted that open-source evidence contradicted the denials and several videos corroborated the location and presence of Nigerian soldiers at the Lekki Toll Plaza.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, in a recent interview with CNN journalist, Becky Anderson, admitted that the Nigerian Army was present at Lekki tollgate during shooting.
At a conference with Principal Staff Officers, Commanding Officers and field commanders on Monday in Abuja, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, accused some organisations of threatening military officers with travel bans over alleged violations of human rights.
“Criminal elements are threatening us with travel ban but we are not worried because we must remain in this country to make it better.
“The first time I travelled outside of this country I was already 50 years and a General, so I don’t mind if I live the rest of my life here,” he said. Buratai was quoted as expressing the view in a statement issued by the Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa.
The COAS added that the Army was aware, from the onset of the #EndSARS protests, about a grand design by the sponsors of the protests to draw it into the crisis.
He added that the plan was to embark on massive propaganda to discredit the military and the government so as to set the people against the Army once it was called out to aid civil authorities.
According to him, the Army being aware of the plan was careful not to be dragged in and issued an initial warning through a press release on October 14 of its resolve to secure and safeguard a united Nigeria.
“Now, the detractors alongside their local and international collaborators have mischievously and deliberately misrepresented troops’ efforts to ensure compliance with the curfew imposed by legitimate civil authorities in Lagos and other states.
“These agitators are falsely accusing the Army of being responsible for the activities of the miscreants in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary.
“They have continually threatened to report the army to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and also threatened various forms of sanctions against personnel and their families.
“Thankfully, however, a large percentage of Nigerians and the international community have started seeing through the smokescreen of falsehood, and deliberate misrepresentation of facts being orchestrated by enemies of Nigeria and have retracted their earlier false publications,” he said.
Buratai stressed that the Army had continued to exercise restraint and fully abided by internationally recognised rules of engagement as contained in its published Standard Operating Procedures for Internal Security Operations.
On October 21, HumAngle reported about an online petition calling on the United Kingdom Government and Parliament to impose sanctions against members of the Nigerian Government responsible for the violence on peaceful protesters.
Amnesty International in a statement on Wednesday, October 21, said the Nigerian Army and Police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters in Lekki and Alausa during peaceful protest the day before.