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UN Rights Chief Calls for Justice After Nigerian Soldiers Kill Protesters

Protesters chant solidarity songs as they block the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, railing against police brutality and the killing of protesters by the military, at Magboro, Ogun state, Nigeria, Oct. 21, 2020.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet strongly condemns what she says was the excessive and disproportionate use of force by Nigerian armed forces against peaceful protesters in the capital Lagos on Tuesday, and is calling for perpetrators of these crimes to be brought to justice.

Amnesty International reports at least 12 demonstrators were killed, and many others wounded. It says the shooting of unarmed people amounts to extrajudicial executions.

Michele Bachelet says she is concerned about reports that closed-circuit TV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting. If confirmed, she says, this deplorable attack on peaceful protesters was premeditated, planned and coordinated.

Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, told VOA that details about what happened Tuesday need to be clarified. He said questions about who ordered, who arranged and who knew about what appears to have been a planned assault, remain unanswered.

“The bottom line here is - this endemic problem with security forces in Nigeria that need to be sorted out. Because what were these protests about? They were about a police force that was killing people, raping women, extorting money for years.… Now you have the army taking this heavy hand. So, now you have got a problem all across the security sector in Nigeria,” he said.

Colville said there is a great lack of trust in the security forces among the population, and until this is sorted out, the country is going to have huge problems.

Nigeria’s military initially denied its troops had fired on unarmed civilians. In a recent media interview, Nigerian Police Minister Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi said soldiers were not instructed to shoot at protesters. Nigeria’s army has dismissed reports that its soldiers were behind the killings as “fake news.”

Bachelet is calling for immediate, independent and transparent investigations into the killings. Spokesman Colville said it is important that the population sees investigations as independent and impartial.

“Clearly, just a run-of-the-mill, normal investigation, inquiry that does not lead to any arrests, any kind of accountability is not going to be acceptable to people anymore. They are making that really clear in the streets of Lagos. Not just Lagos but many other cities in Nigeria. So, that is what this is all about. It is about accountability,” Colville said.

Bachelet noted that Nigerian security forces suspected of serious crimes and gross violations of human rights have gone unpunished for years, and that this has to stop. She said Nigerian authorities must take concrete steps now to tackle impunity if they wish to regain the trust of their people.