Lagos Invited Soldiers - Defence Headquarters

The Defence Headquarters Thursday said the deployment of soldiers in Lagos State was part of the long-standing agreement with the state government and the military.

However, the Lagos State Government has declared the claim as false, saying the said arrangement was put in place during the Olusegun Obasanjo regime to fight crime and not to stop peaceful protests.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja, the Director of Defence Information, Col. Mohammed Yerima, denied the allegation that the Federal Government ordered the deployment of troops in Lagos to halt the protests against subsidy removal.

Yerima disclosed that the soldiers were acting based on the scope of the mandate of the Special Task Force (STF) codenamed “Operation MESA”, which he said, was set up and sponsored by the state government long before the fuel subsidy protests.

He noted that Governor Babatunde Fashola-led government had invited the soldiers for the purpose of supporting the civil police in protecting lives and property in Lagos, which was one of the main reasons they are currently deployed to do as a result of some security reports.

He said: “The soldiers seen on the streets of Lagos are still the same of the Special Task Force code-named Operation MESA set up and sponsored by the Lagos State Government long before the fuel subsidy protests for the purpose of supporting the civil police in protecting lives and property as is the case in many parts of the country.

“The men of the Task Force who are currently in Lagos have been there and were not brought from outside Lagos. They are members of Lagos State Government sponsored Operation MESA and the demand for their withdrawal is uncalled for.”

The Defence spokesman noted that while Lagos State Government reserved the right to refuse further services of the armed forces and may demand their withdrawal, such decisions should not be done through the pages of newspapers.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State government through the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, has challenged the military authorities to show proof of the request of troop deployment to the streets of the state.

The commissioner stated that what the military authorities would have done was to take "the honourable path by apologising to the people of Lagos for an unpopular act, they have resorted to offering spurious and bogus claims aimed at deceiving the people.” According to him, "That this claim is coming four days after the Governor’s address, which he followed with a letter to the Presidency, is an obvious afterthought. It is also inconsistent with the explanation offered by the Minister of Defence who said they deployed the soldiers in order to prevent a breakdown of law and order.

"This attempt to cover up has left the public with much confusion, as the Minister of Defence offered one reason and the Military authority has offered another. They should just take the honourable path by apologising to the people of Lagos State and withdraw the soldiers forthwith."

While reiterating that "the administration of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) has always been in the vanguard of democratic principles as well as civility," Ibirogba said: "It will be totally irrational to expect that the Governor would call on the Military to occupy the streets of Lagos."

"The presence of the Police, Army and other federally controlled security agencies in Lagos does not translate to their been under the control of the State and so the inclusion of soldiers in the joint Military patrol through OP-MESA should not be used to cover up this wrong act of drafting soldiers on the streets of Lagos to quell fuel subsidy protest which the Police has contained for five days," he added.