Reports: Nigerian security forces open fire on protesters


People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality, in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

LAGOS, Nigeria (NewsNation Now) — Nigerian security forces reportedly opened fire on protesters demonstrating against police brutality in the country’s commercial capital Lagos on Tuesday, according to witnesses and human rights organization Amnesty International.

“There have been reports of shooting at the Lekki Toll Plaza following the 24-hour curfew imposed on Lagos,” the Lagos state commissioner for information, Gbenga Omotoso, said in a statement Tuesday night.

He said the state government has called for an investigation into the incident in the district of Lekki.

After about two weeks of protests, authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, on Tuesday. Thousands of Nigerians have held demonstrations against a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery, which rights groups have accused of extortion, harassment, torture and murders.

Demonstrators hold hands as they gather near the Lagos State House, despite a round-the-clock curfew imposed by the authorities on the Nigerian state of Lagos in response to protests against alleged police brutality, Nigeria October 20, 2020. (REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja)

The unit was disbanded on Oct. 11, but protests have persisted with demonstrators calling for law enforcement reforms.

The 24-hour curfew came as part of a bid to quell the growing unrest in the city, as the state governor said some of the protests had turned violent. On Tuesday, authorities also said nearly 2,000 inmates had broken out of jail after crowds attacked two correctional facilities a day earlier.

Video shown on Nigeria’s Channels Television appeared to capture audio of live rounds being fired at the scene in Lekki Tuesday night.

A Nigerian Army spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Witnesses offered varied accounts of what unfolded and the number of victims.

“They started firing ammunition toward the crowd. They were firing into the crowd,” Alfred Ononugbo, 55 told Reuters. “I saw the bullet hit one or two persons.”

The condition of those two people was not immediately known. 

Inyene Akpan, 26, a photographer, told Reuters that 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, said he saw around 10 people being shot. Ogunsanya, who said lights went out shortly before the soldiers arrived, also said he saw soldiers remove bodies.

The Nigerian Army said in a statement on Twitter that no soldiers were at the scene of the shooting in Lekki Tuesday night.

People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality, in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

The governor of Lagos ordered an investigation into reports of shootings in the Lekki district, his spokesman said on Twitter. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has “advised the security agents not to arrest anyone” on account of a curfew that was announced earlier on Tuesday, spokesman Gboyega Akosile said in a tweet. 

Amnesty International reported receiving “credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos,” the organization said on Twitter.

“While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the Nigerian authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury,” the human rights group said.

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.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. Reporting on the alleged shootings comes from Alexis Akwagyiram and Libby George of Reuters, and Sam Olukoya of the Associated Press.

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