Several dead, injured as soldiers open fire on protesters in Lagos

Police vehicles are seen parked during a protest, as authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew on the Nigerian state of Lagos, in response to protests against alleged police brutality, Nigeria.

Soldiers opened fire on Nigerian protesters in the Lekki district of the commercial capital Lagos on Tuesday, shooting at least two people, three witnesses said.

The toll gate in the upmarket Lekki district has been the site of daily protests in Lagos. Protesters have demonstrated here for more than a week over allegations of police brutality in Nigeria.

“They started firing ammunition toward the crowd. They were firing into the crowd,” said Alfred Ononugbo, 55, a security officer. “I saw the bullet hit one or two persons,” he said.

Lagos state government said it would open an investigation into the shooting, which witnesses said took place around 7 p.m. (1800 GMT).

“There have been reports of shooting at the Lekki Toll Plaza,” Gboyega Akosile, a spokesman for the governor, said on Twitter. “The State Government has ordered an investigation into the incident,” he said in another tweet.

Inyene Akpan, 26, a photographer, said 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. He also said he saw soldiers remove bodies.

A witness heard sirens and gunfire.

Over ten videos, which were livestreamed on Instagram or posted on Twitter, showed scenes of people running in near darkness and the sound of what appeared to be gunfire.

A doctor at the private Reddington Hospital in the Victoria Island area of Lagos said people were being treated for gunshot wounds. The doctor, who did not want to be identified, did not specify the number of people being treated.

Thousands of Nigerians demanding an end to alleged police brutality have taken to the streets every day for nearly two weeks across the country. Amnesty International said at least 15 people had been killed since the protests began.

Rights groups had for years accused the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit targeting violent crime, of extortion, harassment and torture. But a video allegedly showing SARS officers killing a man in Delta state sparked the protests. Police denied the incident, and disbanded SARS on October 11, but protests have persisted.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce said Nigeria’s economy had suffered an estimated loss of 700 billion naira (an equivalent of $1.84 billion)in the last 12 days due to the disruption.

The speaker of Nigeria’s lower chamber of parliament, Femi Gbajabiamila, said he would not sign off on the federal budget for 2021 unless it included provisions to compensate victims of police brutality over the past two decades.

Authorities on Tuesday imposed a round-the-clock curfew on Lagos, which contains Africa’s biggest city, in response to the protests, which the state governor said had turned violent.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the curfew would apply to all parts of the state, including the metropolis of Lagos, Africa’s largest city with 20 million inhabitants. Only essential workers were exempted.

The southwestern state of Ekiti imposed a curfew hours after the announcement in Lagos. Its governor said protests had been “hijacked” by criminals who sought to “rape, assault, rob and extort innocent citizens”.

The southern state of Edo on Monday imposed a similar curfew after a jailbreak by prisoners during protests. Police said they had strengthened security around prisons nationwide.

The national police chief also ordered the immediate deployment of anti-riot forces nationwide following increased attacks on police facilities, a police spokesman said.

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