Week-long protests against police brutality escalate in Nigeria. There is a bloody incident. The president calls for peace and offers the prospect of reforms. But the protests continue.
Shooting at protesters during protests against excessive police brutality in the economic metropolis of Lagos, Nigeria, has provoked horror and outrage across the world. Protests in Africa’s largest economy continued despite a curfew on Wednesday. However, the situation remained confusing. Both the EU and the United Nations and eyewitnesses on social media consistently reported dead and injured in Lagos. Human rights organization Amnesty International said it has evidence that at least 12 people have been killed by security forces. The governor of the eponymous state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, spoke of 25 injured but denied dead. President Muhamed Buhari called for calm and promised further reforms to the police.
According to officially unconfirmed reports on social networks, emergency services opened fire on protesters late Tuesday evening. The provincial government only confirmed a shootout and announced an investigation. “Amnesty International has received credible but troubling evidence of excessive use of force, which led to the deaths of protesters at the Lekki toll booth in Lagos,” the human rights organization wrote on Twitter about the incident. Amnesty reminded authorities that the use of deadly force by security authorities was only allowed in a few extreme cases.
After a riot in front of a police station on Tuesday, authorities imposed a 24-hour curfew in the oil-rich West African state’s largest city and the surrounding area. However, the protesters refused to leave a toll booth and respect the curfew. The army denied reports that his soldiers were at the toll booth.
The EU and the UN condemn the violence
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former US Vice President Joe Biden expressed concern and, along with UN Secretary General António Guterres, called for an end to violence against the protesters. Spokesman von Guterres said, “He condemns the violent escalation of October 20 in Lagos, which has resulted in countless deaths and injuries.” He offered his condolences to the relatives of the dead and wished the injured a speedy recovery. The Nigerian government must immediately look for ways to de-escalate the situation.
EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell also expressed condolences to the relatives of the dead, saying, “It is alarming to learn that several people have been killed and injured in the ongoing protests.”
Protesters in South Africa: The violence in Lagos sparked a wave of outrage around the world. (Source: Nardus Engelbrecht / AP / dpa)
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, referred to the still unclear situation regarding the number of victims, but spoke of excessive violence with live ammunition, resulting in the loss of life. She complained, “Reports that surveillance cameras and lights were intentionally turned off prior to the shooting are even more troubling; if confirmed, it suggests that this regrettable attack on peaceful protesters was deliberately planned and coordinated.”
Music star Rihanna wrote on Twitter that it was unbearable to see what was happening in Nigeria. “It is such a betrayal of civilians that the very people we had to protect are now the ones we most fear to be murdered.”
The situation in Lagos remains chaotic
The situation in Lagos remained unclear on Wednesday. The provincial governor spoke of continued violent protests, including fires. Unconfirmed reports spoke of angry youths setting fire to cars and government buildings. Hearing witnesses also reported isolated shots.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently warned that police are now responding with renewed violence to protesters who took to the streets against police brutality. On Wednesday she called for the immediate withdrawal of the army and punishment of those responsible.
The protests were triggered by a video in which an officer from the now-defunct elite unit Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) murdered a young man and made the rounds on social media. The protests quickly spread internationally under the hashtag #EndSARS and also led to protest rallies abroad.