The youth protests against police brutality in Nigeria turned bloody on Tuesday, when soldiers opened fire on peaceful protesters in cold blood. No official figures of the casualty have been released by the police, but many are believed to have been killed.
Security operatives had stormed the scene of the #EndSARS protest in the Lekki Toll Gate Area of Lagos on Tuesday night and opened fire hours on the protesters after the Lagos State Government had announced a 24-hour curfew.
Eyewitnesses told the media that the rampaging soldiers shot directly at the protesting youth with an intent to kill them. According to one of the protesters, they were gathered peacefully when the armed security operatives came and opened fire at them.
In some of the videos shared on social media, people cluster together as they struggle to save some of those who sustained gunshot wounds during the incident.
Tuesday was a bloody day in Lagos as violence in several parts of the sprawling city claimed 49 lives, according to the daily newspaper Punch.
Videos have emerged in social media of how protesters were killed in cold blood in some of the incidents. In tweets and Instagram posts shared, many contained video clips capturing sounds of gunshots and people with gunshot wounds and corpses.
Reacting to the incident at the Lekki Toll Gate, the state government said it had begun an investigation into the incident.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu also advised the security agents not to arrest anyone on account of the curfew.
Critics have been condemning the government over its handling of the protests. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Africa Bar Association (AfBA) have threatened international criminal proceedings against the Federal Government over the shooting of unarmed protesters by security agencies.
The NBA, in a statement by its President, Olumide Akpata, described the shooting of the unarmed protesters as reckless and lawless, while demanding that the military high command “immediately identify and name the officers involved in this gross professional misconduct for immediate prosecution and dismissal in line with extant laws.”
In the same vein, the AfBA, in a statement by its President, Hannibal Uwaifo, vowed to “immediately file formal criminal complaints before appropriate international bodies to open an international inquiry into the irresponsible behaviour of the Nigerian Government masquerading as a democracy.”
World leaders have also started reacting to the unprovoked killings. Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has called on the Nigerian government to stop killing #EndSARS protesters.
Clinton made the call in a tweet on Tuesday, in reaction to the shooting by officers of the Nigerian Army that occurred in the Lekki Toll Gate Area of the Lagos State killings.
“I’m calling on @mbuhari and the @hqnigerianarmy to stop killing young #EndSARS protesters. #StopNigerianGovernment,” she wrote.
The Democratic Presidential candidate in the upcoming United States election, Joe Biden, called on Buhari and the military to stop the violent crackdown on protesters.
The former American Vice-President said this in a statement titled, ‘Violence in Nigeria – Statement by Vice President Joe Biden’ on Wednesday.
Biden said the United States must stand with Nigerians who were peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption.
The statement read, “I urge President Buhari and the Nigerian military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths. My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one in the violence.
“The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy. I encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.”
In the United Kingdom, lawmakers ALSO discussed the killings on the floor of the parliament.
Protesters calling for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police have been carrying out peaceful demonstrations across the country since October 8.
The protests, which have been actively supported by Nigerians in the diaspora through solidarity rallies across the major cities across the world, have turned to a general expression of dissatisfaction with the way the country is being run.
However, the protests assumed a violent dimension last week when thugs attacked peaceful protesters in Lagos and Abuja.
The hoodlums, believed to be agents of government killed six protesters in the federal capital on Tuesday.
Calls are going to the UN, the EU and the international community to impose sanctions on leading members of the Buhari administration found culpable in what many has described as a deliberate massacre to stifle peaceful and democratic expression of dissent.
Kola Tella, Lagos