Nigeria's army admits its soldiers were at Lagos shootings

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FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 23, 2020 file photo, people drive past burnt toll gates with anti police slogans sprayed across, in Lagos. Nigeria's army has on Tuesday, Oct. 27 admitted its soldiers were deployed at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos where live rounds were fired last week, killing several peaceful protesters prompting global outrage. At least 10 protesters were killed in the Lekki plaza shooting on Oct. 20, according to Amnesty International.(AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, file)

LAGOS – Nigeria's army has admitted its soldiers were deployed at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos where live rounds were fired last week, killing several peaceful protesters prompting global outrage.

At least 10 protesters were killed in the Lekki plaza shooting on Oct. 20, according to Amnesty International, which charged Wednesday that army troops opened fire on protesters without provocation.

The army had previously maintained that its troops were not at the site of the shooting, but Tuesday night a military spokesman, Maj. Osoba Olaniyi, reversed that position, saying soldiers had been deployed there to enforce a curfew. However, he denied that the troops shot at the protesters.

“At no time did soldiers of the Nigerian army open fire on any civilian,” Olaniyi said in a statement.

The military's admission of its presence at the plaza came after Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said security camera footage showed Nigerian soldiers firing at the peaceful protesters at Lekki plaza.

Olaniyi said soldiers were deployed on orders from the Lagos state government, but the governor has said the state has no authority over the national army. Many Nigerians question why the soldiers were deployed at the peaceful protest, in which thousands had gathered at the Lekki plaza.

Amnesty International issued a report Wednesday, citing security camera footage that it said shows army vehicles leaving the Bonny Camp barracks and arriving at Lekki plaza shortly before shots were fired.

“What happened at Lekki Toll Gate has all the traits of the Nigerian authorities’ pattern of a cover-up whenever their defense and security forces commit unlawful killings," said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty's Nigeria country director.