Nigeria’s main city Lagos reeled Wednesday after the shooting of peaceful protesters with Amnesty International saying security forces had killed “several” of them on the 20th of October 2020.
The rights group said it was seeking to determine the number of dead in the shooting on Tuesday evening.
The Lagos governor said authorities were investigating the death of one person due to “blunt force trauma to the head” and that 25 others were wounded.
Witnesses said gunmen opened fire on a crowd of over 1,000 people to disperse them after a curfew was imposed to end spiralling protests over police brutality and deep-rooted social grievances.
The Nigerian army did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment but labelled reports of soldiers shooting on protesters as “fake news” on Twitter.
The centre of the city, home to 20 million people, was deserted and shops were closed Wednesday morning. A journalist said several buildings were in flames around the area of the shooting and army patrols could be seen in the street.
In another district, there were sporadic clashes between bottle-throwing youths and police, who occasionally shot into the air.
Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said in a televised broadcast that no deaths were “recorded” while two of the 25 people wounded were receiving intensive care.
He ordered all “state activities” to be halted across the sprawling city for three days and said he had asked for a probe into “the rules of engagement employed by the men of the Nigerian army that were deployed to Lekki tollgate (the epicentre of the demonstration) last night”.
“This is the toughest night of our lives as forces beyond our direct control have moved to make dark notes in our history,” Sanwo-Olu wrote earlier on Twitter.
“Amnesty International has received credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos,” the NGO tweeted on Tuesday night.
“While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury.”
The protest movement, known as #endSARS, has attracted international attention, with Nigerian football stars based abroad and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among those calling on the authorities to end their crackdown.
There have also been cases of looting and arson across the country in recent days.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an end to what he called “brutality” by police in Nigeria.
In a statement, Guterres’s spokesman said the UN chief “urges the security forces to act at all times with maximum restraint while calling on protestors to demonstrate peacefully and to refrain from violence”.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also condemned the killing of protesters and has called for justice.
“It is alarming to learn that several people have been killed and injured during the ongoing protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Nigeria,” he said.
“It is crucial that those responsible of abuses be brought to justice and held accountable.”
Numerous government properties have also been set ablaze across the nation by angry youths. Demonstrations and gunfire were also reported in several other Nigerian cities, including the capital city, Abuja. Watch as Police & Army continue to kill unharmed citizens a day after the massacre:
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