Since young Nigerians took to the streets early October to protest against police brutality and impunity, the question of who ordered the shooting of peaceful protesters by security operatives at the Lekki Toll Plaza is one that nobody wants to take responsibility for.
However, efforts by the Judicial Panel set up to investigate the Lekki Shooting and cases of police brutality, tend to be unravelling the mystery behind the shooting. Concerned Nigerians may find the answers to some of their questions from Brigadier General Taiwo’s Testimony before the Lagos Judicial Panel where he represented the Nigerian Army as a witness.
Here’s a breakdown of the Brigadier General’s testimony before the panel.
1. The governor made a call to the Chief of Army Staff to intervene at the Lekki Toll-gate
Lagos Judicial Panel: “In phase four call, who made the call, was it the military’s decision or a decision by the governor of the state? Who made the call that we are now at phase four?”
Brigadier General Taiwo: “Before phase four, the governor made a few calls or transmitted a letter to the president or in this case even to the chief of army staff.”
2. The governor’s call was a request not an order
Lagos Judicial Panel: “Now that stage of the governor is still part of phase three because it’s a decision that would come after that. The decision of the governor that says look, this thing is out of our hands; the police are overwhelmed, the threat is real, we need additional force. It’s a request, it’s not a demand; he made a request, is that not so.”
Brigadier General Taiwo: “Yes.”
3. The Nigerian Army did not act on its own
Lagos Judicial Panel: “Did Mr President take a decision whether that request as at that time was warranted, is that not so? It’s a call to Mr President, even if he sent it to the Chief of Army Staff, he still has to clear with Mr President. You know I’ve read to you the section of the constitution about the constitutional demands.
“So, when the governor, after a Security Council meeting on Monday 19th, at which I’ve explained to you who appeared, a decision was taken that this is what warranted the curfew – you have confirmed here that the governor tried to get Mr President, and he also tried to get the Chief of Army Staff.”
Brigadier General Taiwo: “I didn’t say Mr President, I know he spoke to the Chief of Staff to the President, the Chief of Army Staff and he spoke to the GOC 81 division. Also, before then, he had spoken to the Commander 9 Brigade but the Commander 9 Brigade does not have the power to deploy troops in that manner.”
Lagos Judicial Panel: “Thank you, sir. Now, I’m very happy with your answer. Now, with all these calls, the Governor has no preemptive power to impose the decision. They had to accept… whether his request made sense or not. Am I right sir? That’s why he had to make the request – this is the situation on ground sir. Please, Chief of Staff to the President, help me inform the president that this is where we are, Chief of Army Staff, this is where we are. Then they take a decision after looking at it, supported by your intelligence?”
Brigadier General Taiwo: “Mr Governor is involved in that decision.”
Lagos Judicial Panel: “General, let’s not go into politics… You know I asked you before… that when the president sends an order in terms of security in a state, the governor has no right to veto it, he must comply. You know I read that to you. Now, what I’m saying is… the request to deploy armed forces by a governor is just what it is – a request. The decision, the call whether that will be done is left to the Commander in Chief and his line officers. That should be simple, it’s obvious.”
Brigadier General Taiwo: “What you are saying is that when the governor called for intervention…. That is what I understand.”
4. The governor is not in a position to give orders to the Nigerian Army
Lagos Judicial Panel: “No, no, no, no, that’s not what I’m saying, I’m saying that he has to do that because he has no right of command over the forces he requires for security, so he runs to the higher authority and says, this is where we are we need it. Then the authority makes an informed judgment based on facilities and intelligence – security report everything whether it is necessary, otherwise, you don’t want to go and alarm a community that is in peace and say there is a problem and put the military all over the place.
“So what I’m saying now is that the last stage for the governor is to after confiding in the security council that this is a situation that warrants the army to come in, is to now make that request to the Commander in Chief because… he doesn’t have a line of command with any of your military personnel. If the military is a political appointee and really relates with the head of police political authority which is the president who doubles as both military, Commander in Chief and president of the country. So what I’m trying to find out from you is that, if Mr President considered that it was unnecessary for the military to be deployed that day, would the governor be in a position to direct you to go out…?”
Brigadier General Taiwo: “Obviously, No.”
Lagos Judicial Panel: “Thank you. My lord, that is all for the witness.”