The Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters in two locations of Lagos in a deadly crackdown on demonstrations, Amnesty International said yesterday.
“Evidence gathered from eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports confirm that between 6.45pm (1745 GMT) and 9pm (2000 GMT) on Tuesday 20 October, the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality,” the group said in a statement.
Buildings in Lagos were torched yesterday and sporadic clashes erupted after the shooting of the peaceful protesters.
Witnesses said gunmen opened fire on a crowd of over 1,000 people on Tuesday evening after a curfew was imposed to end spiralling protests over police brutality and deep-rooted social grievances.
“We were all sitting down, peacefully, and they shut down the lights and the billboards, everyone started screaming,” a protester called Toye said, asking that her full name not be used.
“They came to us, but I don’t know who it was. They were shooting, and everyone was running for his life.”
Pictures and videos showing scenes of chaos in the aftermath of the shooting were widely shared on social media.
The shooting drew international condemnation, with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet saying reports suggested it could have been premeditated.
“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” she said.
“Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protesters was premeditated, planned and co-ordinated.”
Human Rights Watch corroborated reports that the Nigerian army had opened fire on the crowd in “a shooting spree”.
“The authorities should immediately withdraw the military from the streets, and identify and prosecute officers responsible,” said Anietie Ewang, a Nigeria researcher with the rights group.
The Nigerian army did not respond to requests for comment but on Twitter it called reports of soldiers firing on protesters “fake news”.
The Lagos governor at first insisted no fatalities had been recorded but later said the authorities were investigating the death of one person resulting from “blunt force trauma to the head”.
He said at least 25 others were wounded.
President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed for calm, without directly addressing Tuesday’s incident.
The centre of Lagos, a sprawling city that is home to 20mn people, was largely deserted and shops closed yesterday under the curfew.
Tuesday night’s incident at the toll gate in Lekki district was the most serious yet in nearly two weeks of nationwide protests.
Thousands of Nigerians, many driven closer to poverty by economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic that has infected killed 1,125 and triggered lockdowns, have demonstrated since early October in protests that initially focused on a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
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