…death toll likely higher as soldiers pick up dead bodies – Witnesses
At least 10 persons were reportedly killed as soldiers opened fire on demonstrators gathered at a protest site in Lagos that has been the epicentre of widespread rallies against police brutality in Nigeria, according to several witnesses.
Amnesty International also said in a statement on Tuesday it had received “credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos”, adding that it was investigating “the killings”.
Witnesses said that the soldiers fired at the protesters who had gathered in the Lekki district of Nigeria’s largest city in defiance of an indefinite curfew imposed hours earlier by the authorities.
Hundreds of people were at the site at the time of the shooting, which witnesses said took place around 7pm.
“They started firing ammunition toward the crowd. They were firing into the crowd,” said Alfred Ononugbo, 55, a security officer. “I saw the bullet hit one or two persons,” he said.
Inyene Akpan, 26, a photographer, said more than 20 soldiers arrived at the toll gate in Lekki and opened fire.
He said he saw two people being shot. Akinbosola Ogunsanya, a third witness, also told disclosed he saw soldiers remove bodies.
Scenes of protesters removing a bullet from someone’s wound and pleading for help were broadcast in a live video on Instagram by DJ Switch, a popular disc jockey. Gunfire and sirens could be heard in videos filmed near the toll gate.
There was no immediate comment from the Nigerian army. Gboyega Akosile, spokesman for the governor of Lagos state, said in a Twitter post that authorities had ordered an investigation.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu alleged that criminals had hijacked the protest movement “to unleash mayhem”, as he announced the curfew.
As the round-the-clock restrictions went into force at 4pm, protesters in Lagos sang the national anthem and pledged to remain out on the streets.
“Are you afraid?” a man shouted to the flag-waving crowd from a stage. “We will stay here peacefully,” 32-year-old demonstrator Akin told AFP. “This is our new home.”
Separately on Tuesday, the national police chief ordered the immediate deployment of anti-riot forces nationwide following increased attacks on police facilities, according to a police spokesman.
Tens of thousands of people have been taking to the streets every day for nearly two weeks across Nigeria to demand an end to police violence.
The protests, organised under the #EndSARS hashtag, began with calls to scrap a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which has long been accused of extortion, torture and extrajudicial killings.
After days of widespread demonstrations, the authorities announced the dissolution of SARS and later ordered all personnel to report to the police headquarters in Abuja for debriefing and psychological and medical examinations.
Meanwhile, the forming of a new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team was announced to replace SARS. – Additional report from Reuters.
However, the announcements did not satisfy protesters, who viewed them as just another renaming exercise and pledged to stay on the streets until promises are delivered and their demands – including the release of those arrested – are met.
On Monday, Amnesty said at least 15 people have been killed since the demonstrations began.