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12 protesters die as troops open fire in Nigeria

October 22, 2020 00:00:00

Protesters in Lagos blocking roads in Nigeria's commercial hub putting up barricades — Reuters

LAGOS, Oct 21 (BBC): A number of people taking part in a protest against police brutality have reportedly been shot dead or wounded in Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos.

Witnesses said up to 12 people were killed and others wounded when soldiers opened fire. Amnesty International said it had "credible reports" of deaths.

The army dismissed the reports as "fake news". President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed for "understanding and calm".

Multiple online accounts say the CCTV and lights were taken out at a toll gate where the protest took place before troops started advancing, leading to total chaos.

These details are galvanising a generation already disillusioned with the ruling class. The deafening silence from the presidency is only exacerbating this anger. The Nigerian government is running out of time to quell the growing dissatisfaction.

An indefinite 24-hour curfew has been imposed on Lagos and other regions.

The BBC's Nduka Orjinmo in Nigeria said a small group of protesters were defying the curfew on Wednesday and had gathered at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos where the shooting took place.

Protests over a now-disbanded police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars), have been continuing for two weeks. The protesters are using the social media hashtag #EndSars to rally crowds.

This is not the first time the Nigerian army has been accused of shooting unarmed protesters. There have been reports of violent crackdowns on EndSars protesters in other parts of the country.

But seeing live rounds used at one of the protest sites that had been peaceful until last night has rattled many. Just last week I stood at the very site of the shooting. The protesters were peaceful, organised, hopeful for the future of their country. But this is no more.

Harrowing social media videos showing protesters singing the national anthem as shots ring out in the background have caused outrage.

Protests began nearly two weeks ago with calls for the Sars, which had been accused of illegal detentions, assaults and shootings, to be disbanded.

President Buhari dissolved the unit on 11 October.

Reacting to Tuesday's shootings in the wealthy Lekki suburb, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and the army "to stop killing young #EndSARS protesters".

US former vice-president Joe Biden - who is standing against President Donald Trump in next month's election - urged Nigerian authorities to cease the "violent crackdown on protesters".

"The US must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy," he said in a statement.

Nigerian footballer Odion Jude Ighalo, who plays for Manchester United, accused the Nigerian government of killing its own citizens.

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