Authorities in Nigeria are investigating reports that soldiers opened fire on demonstrators protesting against police brutality Tuesday night.
The incident took place at Lekki Toll Plaza, an upscale district in Lagos, the country’s largest city and financial hub. One eyewitness, Akinbosola Ogunsanya, told news outlets that soldiers pulled into the plaza and after the lights were turned off at the plaza began shooting.
Ogunsanya and other eyewitnesses say there were multiple casualties at the scene.
Reports of the shooting came on the first night of a 24-hour curfew imposed by Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, which prohibits all but essential workers and first responders from the streets after 4 p.m. local time. A spokesman for the governor, Gboyega Akosile, said on Twitter that the Lagos state government has ordered an investigation into the incident.
The State Government has ordered an investigation into the incident.— The Lagos State Govt (@followlasg) October 20, 2020
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has advised the security agents not to arrest anyone on account of the curfew, which he urges residents to observe for the peaceful atmosphere we all cherish. #LASG #ForAGreaterLagos
The international human rights group Amnesty International issued a statement saying there was “credible but disturbing evidence” of fatalities from the shooting at Lekki Toll Plaza.
“While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the 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 watchdog tweeted.
The West African nation has been engulfed by two weeks of massive protests against the government’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, commonly known as SARS, which were sparked by video allegedly depicting a man being beaten by SARS officers. The unit has long been accused of carrying out harassment, kidnappings, extortion, torture and murder.
The demonstrations, conducted under the banner #EndSARS, led the Nigerian government to disband the controversial police unit. But the demonstrations have persisted and turned violent as protesters demand broader changes to policing and an end to corruption.
Video taken by a stringer for VOA’s Hausa service in the city of Jos Tuesday showed angry demonstrators hurling rocks and setting fires in the middle of one street, sidewalks covered with glass from shattered windows, burned out vehicles, and uniformed and plainclothes police patrolling the streets.
“We need a new Nigeria. That is why we’re here,” protester David Danladi told VOA Hausa. “We need everything about the police to be changed.”
“We need someone that is going to address, that is going to tell us, ‘Look, we have heard your cry. We have heard your demands,’” Danladi said. “That is the change that we want.”
At least 10 people have died since protests began earlier this month. Protesters and rights groups including Amnesty International have accused Nigerian police of using excessive force during demonstrations.