Lt Col Bello of 9 Brigade, Nigerian Army, while appearing before the Logos Judicial Panel investigating the Lekki shooting, has said that he only fired blanks, and that soldiers on the scene on that fateful Tuesday, October 20th, fed the protesters.
He denied that soldiers shot at protesters and carried dead bodies away, insisting that hoodlums pelted them with stones and broken bottles while they responded with shots in the air.
The other army officers who deposed to witness statements before the panel are the Commander of 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, Victoria Island, Lagos, Brig Gen Ahmed Taiwo; the Chief of Staff, 81 Division, Nigerian Army, VI, Lagos, Brig Gen Nsikak Edet; Commander, 81 Division Garrison, VI, Brig Gen Francis Omata.
Omata said “On arrival at the tollgate at about 7.30pm, I met a rowdy situation. I also met the Commanding Officer, 65 Battalion (Bello), who briefed me on the situation. He briefed me that he met a hostile crowd, hoodlums mixed with the protesters, who were chanting and throwing stones at them. I was able to disperse the crowd by firing blank ammunition into the air.
“At this point, stones and sticks were being thrown at us. Then I moved to a safe area and briefed General Officer Commanding 81 Division, Maj Gen Godwin Ahamefuna Umelo by phone.
“The General Officer Commanding directed me to pacify the hostile crowd and move the troops back to base. However, the crowd still continued chanting #EndSARS. I then instructed the troops to withdraw to base.”
Giving his own account of the incident, Bello said while he was moving towards the Lekki-Ajah Expressway at around 6.45pm, he heard gunshots before the tollgate and on coming down he saw that “the crowd had turned from peaceful protesters to a mob, infiltrated by hoodlums.”
He said, “On getting to the tollgate, I persuaded the crowd to go home and observe the 24-hours curfew declared by the state government. But surprisingly, the hoodlums continued throwing stones, bottles and other dangerous objects at us and were burning tyres. I again fired some blank ammunition upward to scare the hoodlums away. But some protesters who were still at the tollgate sitting down quietly were given water and drinks by me while pleading with them to go home.”
Bello stressed that “we did not fire at the protesters. Blank ammunition were fired upward to scare the hoodlums from the crowd. Nobody was shot dead at the Lekki tollgate, there was no massacre as claimed. The claim that the military took away dead bodies was not true. The protesters were happy to see us as indicated in some of the video clips of 20th October 2020.”