The Nigerian Army Council has approved the promotion of Lieutenant Colonel S.O. Bello, the commanding officer of the 65 Batallion, which was at the Lekki tollgate on the evening of October 20, 2020, to the rank of a Colonel.
On Monday, a report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Police Brutality, including an investigation on the Lekki massacre said protesters were killed at the tollgate in what the panel described as a massacre.
According to the report, at least nine persons were confirmed dead at the Lekki toll plaza when soldiers led by Bello stormed there to disperse #EndSARS protesters on October 20, 2020.
Titled, ‘Report of Lekki Incident Investigation Of 20th October 2020’, a copy of the 309-page report which was leaked said at least 48 protesters were either shot dead, injured with bullet wounds or assaulted by soldiers.
Major Gen. Ahmed Ibrahim Taiwo of the 81 Division Intelligence Brigade had while appearing before the Lagos Judicial Panel in November 2020 revealed that Bello was the commander on the ground, who gave the order for the soldiers to release bullets at the toll gate.
He had said, “Bello had arrived the scene first before Omata, as the whole 81 Division Garrison had been given the mandate to secure the whole Eti-Osa corridor. Omata had left Obalende to meet up with Bello and patrol the whole area.
“When I called Bello, he said that while they were being deployed, they were attacked by hoodlums and they released some shots into the air. I also asked him if anybody had died as it is being reported over the Internet and he replied ‘negative’ that nobody had died that he had only seen two people who had fainted and were revived.
“I had called three times and after speaking with Bello, I spoke to General Omata using Bello’s phone. It was one of those instances that when I called Bello he said Omata was with him. I spoke with Omata and asked if deaths were recorded and he told me no. I called him twice and he said no, that the place had been cleared.”
Bello however refused to appear before the panel when summoned to defend all the allegations levelled against him.
When the matter was called, Jonathan Ogunsanya, one of the registrars attached to the panel, said the Kogi State-born military officer refused to receive the summons issued to him.
Military sources on Thursday said Bello, despite leading the team that unleashed mayhem on defenceless protesters, has been promoted to the rank of a Colonel.
Lt Col. S. O. Bello with full name, Salisu Ovada Bello, and Service Number–N/11249, was promoted on November 13, 2021, SaharaReporters learnt.
“Lt Col S.O. Bello has just been promoted to the rank of a Colonel. He is the commanding officer who led the Lekki massacre,” one of the sources, a colonel told SaharaReporters.
SaharaReporters learnt that the Army Council on October 28 met to approve the promotion of officers.
It was learnt that the promotion would favour some Majors, Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels with new ranks.
Calls put across by SaharaReporters to the Director, Army Public Relations, Onyema Nwachukwu were not answered nor returned. He had also not replied to a text message sent to his line, at the time of this report.