The Nigerian Army has made an unexpected U-turn on its decision not to appear before the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry probing the alleged shooting of #EndSARS peaceful protesters by soldiers on October 20 at the Lekki tollgate.
Recall that for two weeks last month, youths calling for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police protested across the country.
Those protesting in Lagos were more pronounced at the State Secretariat in Alausa, Ikeja and the Lekki Toll Gate.
However, the Lekki Toll Gate became bloody when soldiers allegedly shot protesters on Tuesday, October 27.
The shootings later attracted local and international condemnations with Amnesty International saying that no fewer than 12 people were killed.
Reports that the panel had invited the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, whose soldiers were alleged to have carried out the shootings but the invitation was rejected.
Spokesman for the Nigerian Army, 81 Division, Lagos, Major Osoba Olaniyi, said the army would not honour a summons from the panel as the army believed that it was not the panel’s “duty” to invite the army.
Olaniyi had stressed that the military would only appear before the panel if it received an invitation directly from the Lagos State Government, rather than the panel.
“If we receive a letter from the state, we will go. Are we not under civil authorities? Are we not part of Nigerians? Have you forgotten that we did not go there (Lekki tollgate) on our own?.
“It is the state government that constituted that panel of inquiry. So, if anybody needs to get in touch with us to come, it is still the state, not the members,” Olaniyi had said.
However, insider sources close to the retired Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel on Thursday hinted that the army had acknowledged the panel’s invitation and the panel had fixed Saturday (November 7) for its appearance at the hearing taking place at the Lagos Court of Arbitration, Lekki.
One of the sources close to the panel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Contrary to its earlier posture of resistance, the Nigerian Army seems to have bowed to pressure in respect of the invitation to appear before the Lagos panel on SARS. The Army will appear before the panel on Saturday. That is the day the panel has fixed for the Army to appear.
“You know the panel was set up with the approval of the National Executive Council and President Muhammadu Buhari has always assured Nigerians and indeed the international community of full cooperation with the panel, so the Army cannot afford to ignore the invitation from the panel duly signed by its chairperson, who is a judicial officer.
“The whole world is watching us and all eyes are on the panel, especially in respect of the Lekki Tollgate. The Army is critical to the work of the panel and it will erode public confidence in the government if any of its institutions snubs the panel with impunity. After all, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, so how can the army openly defy the Panel that its own Commander-in-Chief has endorsed?”