The Nigerian army finally admits that soldiers were given both live and blank bullets when they were deployed to protests at the Lekki toll gate on October 20. This admission seems to confirm a key finding of a CNN investigation into the shooting.
“The soldiers were both given both live and blank bullets. In this particular case, we saw that these protests had been infiltrated by some hoodlums,” Brig. Gen. Ahmed Taiwo said in his testimony to the Lagos Judicial panel of inquiry into the incident. He then continued, “You had peaceful protesters no doubt. But there were also hoodlums who sought to take advantage. That is why they were armed (with) blank bullets in addition to the live (bullets) they were carrying.”
This is the first time the Nigerian army has admitted having live rounds at the Lekki toll gate. This new statement also challenges previous statements about the incident including from Taiwo himself – who had previously said that the soldiers were firing blank ammunitions in the air.
The CNN investigation included evidence that bullet casings from the scene matched those used by the Nigerian army. Two experts also confirmed that the shape of the bullet casings indicate they used live rounds, which contradicts the army’s previous claim they fired blanks.
On Thursday, Minister for Information and Culture Lai Mohammed said that the military “fired blank ammunition in the air.” He also dismissed the CNN investigation as “fake news” and “misinformation.” But, 2 days later the Army is confirming this “fake news” and “misinformation.”
A US State Department spokesperson told CNN that they were “closely following the Government of Nigeria’s response“. “We urge that the investigation be thorough, impartial, and appropriately transparent and that perpetrators be held accountable.”