Several shot dead after Nigerian officials open fire on protesters
Several people were shot dead and dozens wounded after Nigerian security forces opened fire at protesters Tuesday — with a politician’s family home then torched after he denied any fatalities, according to reports.
Gunfire could be heard across Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city of 14 million, as two weeks of peaceful protests against police brutality “degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society,” governor Obajide Sanwo-Olu tweeted Tuesday.
He called it “the toughest night of our lives” that will leave “dark notes in our history.”
The protests began two weeks ago after a video circulated showing a man being beaten, apparently by police officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS.
Disturbing videos on social media showed flag-waving protesters singing the national anthem in darkness at a bridge toll gate — the singing then punctured by the sound of gunfire and screaming.
Amnesty International said it had “credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths,” with reports of up to 10 protesters being killed.
Witness Chika Dibia told Reuters that soldiers hemmed in people as they shot at them. Another, Akinbosola Ogunsanya, said he saw around 10 people being shot, and soldiers removing bodies. The Washington Post said “several” people were known to have been killed.
There have also been widespread reports of the youthful protesters being attacked by armed gangs, who demonstrators say are sent by the police to break up the protests.
The Nigerian military denied aiming at protesters, tweeting “Fake news!!!” over a series of headlines about the carnage.
Sanwo-Olu, the governor, confirmed that 30 people had been hospitalized and — after initially reporting no deaths — said early Wednesday that one of them had died “due to blunt force trauma to the head.”
“It is an unfortunate and very sad loss. This is an isolated case,” he said, claiming it was still not confirmed that it was a protester.
Before the announcement, the governor sparked outrage by claiming there were no deaths because soldiers merely “shot in the air” to disperse the protesters — leading to a mob torching his family home early Wednesday, according to local reports.
Angry mobs also set fire to other buildings across the city, including police stations and the Nigerian Port Authority, the reports said. TVC News managing director Andrew Hanlon told AFP that “hoodlums” had attacked the station with petrol bombs, leaving its main building in an “inferno.”
“Watching these videos is a major heartbreak for me personally and as Governor,” Sanwo-Olu tweeted of earlier arson attacks.
“I cannot watch as arsonists, hoodlums and anarchists continue to hide under the [police brutality] protest to unleash mayhem on the State and wantonly disrupt citizens’ lives and property.”
He claimed mobs had raped women returning from a church service, and that “lawlessness blossomed into attacking and lynching of Police officers.”
Protesters have been marching across Nigeria under the banner #EndSARS. In response, the government announced it would ban the anti-robbery squad, which for several years human rights groups have blamed for widespread abuses, including torture and killings.
Unsatisfied, the demonstrators are demanding an end to abuses and respect for human rights in all parts of the police force. The protests have stopped traffic in Lagos, the capital Abuja and many other large cities in Nigeria, a country of 196 million people.
With Post wires
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