A Nigerian soldier identified by the army as Lance Corporal Harrison Friday has been arrested, according to the army’s official Twitter account, for hiding behind a mask “to commit cybercrimes”.
But a video that found its way online and has been attributed to the accused shows him warning of violent confrontations if soldiers are brought into ongoing protests across Nigeria. Friday, masked and speaking in a hushed tone in a nondescript place, is heard in the 43-second video cautioning soldiers not to allow themselves to be used.
It is not clear what constitutes a cybercrime in the Nigerian context or what actions Friday is accused of but as follows is what we transcribed from the soldier’s video:
“The fight that these civilians are fighting is our fight. Do not let them [army superiors, perhaps] use us. I know where you are. [Indistinct] the advice goes to the new people in the system. We’re talking about the [indistinct]. For this struggle, they will deploy you. As I am hearing the rumor that they want to deploy some soldier [sic] to like, to chase away, maybe to scare the protester [sic]. You guys should remember even if you were deployed, eventually, you will be deployed…remember that if you eventually take any unlawful order and you fire civilians…and the people you’re firing…remember the bullet may go and hit your brother or your sister.”
When Friday’s video went viral earlier this week, the Nigerian army dismissed him as a “Fake Soldier” in a tweet. Via their Twitter account, dismissing reports from various media outlets, both in that country and outside, as “fake” has become a prominent feature in the army’s response to protests against police brutality.
Now, the army says Friday was arrested as part of cyber operations “in support of Crocodile Smile VI”, a military drill.
But on Tuesday, protesters reported that soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at a protest site, Lekki Toll Gate, in the commercial capital Lagos, hours after a state-imposed curfew.
Witnesses told Reuters that the soldiers fired at the protesters in the Lekki district of the capital on Tuesday. Soon after the incident, the hashtag #LekkiMassacre started trending on Twitter, prompting calls by actress Gabrielle Union and former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton to call attention to the protests that have rocked the country for a fortnight.
Multiple footages seen on social media showed men in military uniforms with guns facing a crowd of protesters. A local compere, DJ Switch, streamed via her Instagram account what seemed liked people running away from gunshots that could clearly be heard.
Other images showed bloodied bodies and what appears to be bullets wounds on a number of people too. Protesters as well as the non-profit Amnesty International say multiple people died on Tuesday night.
The Nigerian army is yet to comment on the development but the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, told local TV that nobody died from Tuesday night’s altercation even though he tweeted on Wednesday morning that “forces beyond our direct control have moved to make darker notes in our history”.