The Nigerian armed forces were said to have opened fire at the crowd of unarmed protesters on Tuesday, October 20. The protests against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, immediately turned bloody despite a state-wide curfew. According to eyewitnesses, multiple demonstrators had been shot by soldiers.
Nigerian armed forces killed unarmed civilians
The demonstrators had taken part in daily street protests across Nigeria for nearly two weeks now. This is due to claims of harassment, kidnapping, and extortion done by a police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad or SARS. On October 20, the state government imposed a 24-hour curfew and deployed anti-riot police to Lagos.
Akinbosola Ogunsanya, one witness at the protest, said that the soldiers began shooting the demonstrators after the lights were turned off at the tollgate.
Ogunsanya said that the members of the Nigerian army pulled upon them, and they started firing. The army was shooting, and they were firing straight at the civilians. Numerous people got hit and had posted gruesome pictures online.
Temple Onanugbo, another witness of the horrific scene, said that he heard bullets being fired from his home nearby and that the sound of guns firing lasted for 15 to 30 minutes.
Onanugbo said that he saw multiple bodies lying on the ground when he went out to help those who were injured.
There is still no tally of the confirmed casualties.
According to Gboyega Akosile, the Lagos Governor's spokesman, the State Government had ordered for the incident to be investigated.
Akosile wrote on Twitter that Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has also advised security agents not to arrest anyone on account of the curfew.
Peaceful protest turned violent
The protests at the Lekki toll gate had been peaceful, with demonstrators singing the national anthem, praying, and staging sit-ins. Sanwo-Olu had imposed a 24-hour curfew, including the closure of all schools in the city.
First responders and essential service providers were the only ones given the permission to be on the streets past the curfew. The city has an estimated population of 20 million people.
Sanwo-Olu tweeted, "Dear Lagosians, I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society." He then announced the 4 p.m. curfew.
On October 11, SARS was officially disbanded, and a new police unit replaced it. The new unit will be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross or ICRC. The demonstrators are demanding for more protection against the police, as they wanted psychological evaluation to be done on every officer.
Since the weekend, there have been multiple reports of death and severe injuries. Amnesty International wrote on Twitter that it had received disturbing evidence of the army's use of force that had resulted in the severe injuries and deaths of demonstrators.
On October 19, a 17-year-old died in police custody in Kano, a city located in the north of Nigeria, after being tortured. Many protestors and journalists were also assaulted by the police in the capital Abuja on the same day. Videos of the horrific confrontations were posted on social media.
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