LAGOS, Nigeria (NewsNation Now) — United Nations officials and other members of the international community are condemning recent violence from Nigerian security forces against anti-police protesters in Lagos.
Unrest continued across Nigeria’s biggest city Wednesday, a day after the shooting of civilians by security forces.
Human rights group Amnesty International reported that Nigerian security forces opened fire on two large gatherings of peaceful protesters Tuesday night, killing at least 12 people. At least 56 people have died across Nigeria since nationwide protests began on Oct. 8, with about 38 killed on Tuesday alone, Amnesty said.
The #EndSARS protests came amid calls for Nigeria’s government to close the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS, but has become a much wider demand for better governance in Nigeria.
Citing witnesses, video footage and hospital reports, Amnesty said that security forces opened fire without warning on protesters at the Lekki toll plaza Tuesday night.
“Opening fire on peaceful protesters is a blatant violation of people’s rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Soldiers clearly had one intention – to kill without consequences,” said Osai Ojigho, country director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
The Nigerian Army said no soldiers were at the scene.
On Wednesday, armed police set up checkpoints in Lagos to try to enforce a round-the-clock curfew, but groups of people blocked a number of major roads while fires burned across the city.
Police also fired tear gas at demonstrators and smoke was seen billowing from several areas in the city’s center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily when their offices were burned by unidentified attackers.
“People are aggrieved over the deaths,” Lagos resident Michael Oladapo Abiodun told the Associated Press. “They are aggrieved by police violence and they are going out on the streets to show their anger.”
Demonstrations and gunfire were also reported in several other Nigerian cities, including the capital city, Abuja.
“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” she said in a statement.
Bachelet called on Nigerian authorities to address the “underlying problem of persistent violations committed by security forces.”
“Nigeria was already at boiling point before this shooting because of the revelations about years of unchecked violence, including alleged killings, rape, extortion and other violations, by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),” the UN Human Rights Chief said.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo issued a statement Thursday, saying that the “United States strongly condemns the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos, causing death and injury.”
Pompeo called for an investigation into the use of force, and said that “those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law.”
The African Union Commission’s chairman said he “strongly condemns the violence”.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) urged Nigerian security forces to exercise restraint in handling protests and to act professionally.
Britain’s also foreign minister called for an end to violence in the country.
“I am deeply concerned by the recent violence and continued clashes in Nigeria, and am alarmed by widespread reports of civilian deaths,” Dominic Raab said in a statement.
“We call for an end to violence. The Nigerian government must urgently investigate reports of brutality at the hands of the security forces and hold those responsible to account,” he added.
For transparency, Amnesty International receives donations from the Open Society Foundation, Norwegian Telethon and the Ford Foundation, among others. For more information on the human rights group’s funding, Amnesty has provided its latest income report from 2016 on its website.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.