Admission follows deaths of at least 10 demonstrators last month
Soldiers sent to break up a protest against Nigeria’s special anti-robbery squad police unit, known as SARS, last month where at least 10 people were killed were given live bullets, the army has admitted.
The military was brought in to disperse the crowd who were protesting against police brutality at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos in October.
Troops opened fire on protestors without provocation, killing at least 10, according to Amnesty International. The government disputed those figures, saying two people were killed and 20 were treated in hospital.
Ahmed Taiwo, commander of the 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, told a judicial committee set up to investigate the shooting that the soldiers had carried live bullets.
He said: “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.”
According to Mr Taiwo, the live bullets were only intended to be used as a backup. He previously testified that blank ammunition was fired into the air to scare “hoodlums from the crowd” but insisted soldiers did not fire at protesters.
Earlier this week Standard Daily Times revealed that the UK gave training and support to Nigerian security forces, condemned for their brutal crackdown against protesters in recent weeks.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that the College of Policing – the professional body for police in England and Wales – had worked with the Nigerian authorities to train its security officers in 2019.
At the protests last month the crowd of mainly young Nigerians were singing the country’s national anthem and waving 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.