The Nigerian army has dismissed as “manipulated” videos that showed its soldiers fatally shot or injured peaceful protesters during demonstrations against police brutality in the country’s economic hub of Lagos in October.
Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo, who heads the army’s 81st Division in Lagos, rejected on Saturday the authenticity of videos accompanying investigations by a judicial panel looking into allegations whether the army and police opened fire on and shot dead people protesting at the city’s Lekki Toll Gate against police brutality.
Protesters were seen and heard in the video footage saying the Nigerian army opened fire on people, and that they were hurt or they were being shot at.
“Many of these videos there were manipulated,” Taiwo claimed in his testimony to the Lagos judicial panel of inquiry into the incident.
As for another video that had been supplied by the army and appeared to show a demonstrator lying in a pool of blood, the army general said, “We discovered it was a fake video,” adding that the footage had been found online.
In his testimony last week, Taiwo said the Nigerian soldiers had only fired blank rounds into the air to disperse protesters but on Saturday, he admitted that there had been live rounds too.
“The soldiers would be given both live and blank bullets,” he said. “We saw that these protests had been infiltrated by some hoodlums. That is why they were armed with blank ammunition in addition to the live they were carrying.”
This is the first time the Nigerian army has admitted having live rounds during protests at the Lekki toll gate.
Last month’s protests were largely peaceful but spiraled into some of the worst civil unrest since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999. They climaxed in the events of October 20, with the rights group Amnesty International saying soldiers and police had killed at least 15 protesters in two districts.
Both the army and police have dismissed reports of killing demonstrators.
The Nigerian police have also maintained a heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful protests by the country’s Shia Muslims.
The demonstrators have been calling for the release of top cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigerian forces, during which he was beaten and lost vision in his left eye. Three of his sons were also killed, his wife sustained serious wounds, and more than 300 of his followers lost their lives.