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SPOTLIGHT: Lt Colonel Bello, The Man Who Led Lekki Massacre And Shunned Judicial Panel

Lt. Col. S. O. Bello

For more than one year after the Lagos leg of the nationwide #EndSARS was brought to an abrupt end by murderous soldiers at Lekki Tollgate, Nigerians debated if indeed the army massacred unarmed civilians protesting against police brutality.

However, on Monday, the Lagos Panel on Restitution of SARS-Related Abuses and Other Matters admitted that there was a massacre at the tollgate.

Although it remains unclear who ordered the attack, the name of a certain lieutenant-colonel rang the bell in the ears of many Nigerians after the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate. He was said to have led the contingent of soldiers who unleashed the war-grade carnage on unarmed protesters. He ordered his soldiers to shoot at the protesting youth, killing and injuring many of them indiscriminately.

In November, Brig-Gen Musa Etsu-Ndagi, the commander, 9 Brigade, Nigerian Army, told the panel he received a phone call from Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State Governor, around 7.23 pm on October 20, 2020, that a certain Lt. Col. Bello was shooting at the Lekki Tollgate where #EndSARS protesters were gathered.

Etsu-Ndagi said he immediately called Bello, the Commanding Officer, 65 Battalion, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, but he claimed to have only fired blank ammunition into the air.

However, the Nigerian Army admitted that soldiers were given both live and blank bullets when they were deployed to protest at Lekki toll gate on October 20.

The admission came after a CNN investigation revealed how a night of bullets and brutality ruined a protest of young people. Also, a forensic investigation presented to the Lagos panel on police brutality revealed that soldiers fired live bullets at young protesters at the tollgate.

When summoned to defend the allegations levied against him, Col. Bello refused to appear before the Lagos panel on police brutality. When the matter was called, Jonathan Ogunsanya, one of the registrars attached to the panel, said Col. Bello refused to receive the summon issued to him.


Brigadier-General Francis Omata

However, Col. Bello was not alone in unleashing mayhem on defenceless protesters at the tollgate. Major-General Godwin Omelo and Brigadier-General Francis Omata joined Bello in committing what ranked among the cruellest human rights violations in the history of Nigeria.

The three officers were featured prominently in the testimonies of #EndSARS protesters, and they all disobeyed lawful summons by the panel.

“The panel finds that a good number of army officers who were directly involved in the Lekki Tollgate incident filed affidavits before the panel and were summoned on several occasions but failed to turn up, opting to rely upon the testimony of General Taiwo, who himself was not personally on the ground at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020,” a part of the panel report reads.

In the 309-page report, the panel admitted that #EndSARS protesters were murdered and injured by soldiers armed to the teeth. The report corroborates an investigation published by FIJ in January, which revealed the faces and names of protesters massacred at the tollgate and the attempts by the government to clean up the mess.

The panel recommended that troops deployed to disperse demonstrators with bullets should not go unpunished.


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