ABUJA, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) — The Nigerian Army on Wednesday denied allegations that soldiers had shot at peaceful protesters who gathered at a location in Lagos last week demanding an end to police brutality in the country.
A shooting incident during a government-imposed curfew on Oct. 20 at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos, the economic hub of Nigeria, where the protesters gathered, was allegedly to have been carried out by men in military uniforms.
In a statement, the first to be issued since the incident last week, the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army said although it was involved in restoring order in Lagos following the declaration of curfew by the government, its soldiers did not engage in any shooting.
“This allegation is untrue, unfounded, and aimed at causing anarchy in the country,” the army statement said. “At no time did soldiers of the Nigerian Army open fire on any civilian.”
The authorities in Lagos had imposed a curfew as a result of the violence which led to several police stations being burnt, policemen killed, suspects in police custody released and weapons carted away.
The army said it was called upon by the Lagos government to intervene in restoring order, as the situation was fast degenerating into anarchy.
It said the intervention of the military followed all laid down procedures for internal security operations and all the soldiers involved acted “within the confines of the rules of engagement for internal security operations”.
On Oct. 21, the Lagos governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the massive shooting was carried out by “forces beyond our direct control” after he visited hospitals to see the victims.
Sanwo-Olu said 28 persons were injured in the shooting incident, which had drawn concerns from international communities including the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.
An investigation is underway to find people culpable in the shooting, the government said on Tuesday.
Sanwo-Olu vowed a full investigation by the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on what happened and people suspected of misconduct would be held accountable.
“People have claimed that their friends and family members have been killed. So, this Judicial Panel of Inquiry is meant to bring all of these stories to accountability, where we can make restitution, where families can prove and identify officers that were responsible for this,” the governor said.
Violence has been reported in several cities in the country as suspected “hoodlums” blamed by the government reportedly took control of the peaceful protests by citizens calling for extensive reform of the police since early October.
A total of 69 people, including civilians, policemen, and soldiers, were killed during protests nationwide for the past days, a government spokesperson told Xinhua on Friday after the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari held an emergency meeting with former Nigerian leaders aimed at finding ways to end the unrest.