Top military official tells a judicial committee that soldiers indeed carried live bullets during October 20 protests in Lagos city where shootings killed several people causing both local and international outrage.

Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo speaks during a judicial panel investigating claims that Nigerian soldiers shot dead peaceful protesters in Lagos, Nigeria, on November 21, 2020.
Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo speaks during a judicial panel investigating claims that Nigerian soldiers shot dead peaceful protesters in Lagos, Nigeria, on November 21, 2020. (Reuters)

The Nigerian Army has admitted for the first time that soldiers were given live bullets when they went to disperse a large crowd at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos, where several peaceful protesters were killed in late October.

Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, told a judicial committee on Saturday that the soldiers indeed carried live bullets.

"The soldiers, they were given both live and blank bullets. In this particular case, we saw that these protests had been infiltrated by some hoodlums," he said, adding that the live bullets were for a backup.

Last weekend he testified that blank ammunition was fired upward to scare "hoodlums from the crowd," but insisted that soldiers did not fire at protesters.

The deadly October 20 shootings at the plaza caused both local and international outrage. 

At least 10 people protesting police brutality were killed in the Lekki Plaza shooting, according to Amnesty International, which charged that army troops opened fire on protesters without provocation. 

The government said two people died and 20 were hospitalised.

READ MORE: Nigeria protesters vow to fight on after crackdown

#EndSARS demand

The crowd of mainly young Nigerians were singing the country’s national anthem and waving its flags as they peacefully protested against police brutality under the hashtag #EndSARS.

The army had initially maintained that its troops were not at the site of the shooting, but later admitted they were deployed.

A judicial panel has begun investigating the shooting. 

The panel is also investigating allegations of abuse against the police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS.

There are calls for the International Criminal Court to carry out an inquiry into the protest deaths, the latest a petition signed by 154 organisations.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, head of the group Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, told the Associated Press the petition was submitted on Friday to the court in The Hague, Netherlands.

READ MORE: Protests over police abuses leave dozens dead in Nigeria

READ MORE: Unrest erupts in Nigeria's Lagos after protesters shot

Source: AP