Nigerian police fire tear gas at anniversary rally of Lagos shootings

Security forces stand guard during a protest against the reopening of the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Nigeria.

Police fired several rounds of tear gas at demonstrators marching at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos on Thursday to mark the second anniversary of peaceful protests against police brutality that ended in a hail of gunfire.

Witnesses saw police fire five rounds of tear gas to disperse around 200 people marching at the gate, some waving Nigerian flags and singing “solidarity forever.” Police also arrested two people, according to a Reuters witness.

“We refuse to allow the government to forget,” demonstrator Yemi Adamolekun said. “People were killed…Nigerians will not let them forget.”

By early afternoon, most protesters had left the scene.

On October 20, 2020 security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters demanding an end to what they said was endemic police brutality, particularly from a unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), according to a judicial panel investigating the incident and set up by the Lagos state government.

The panel said 11 were killed, four missing and presumed dead and multiple others had suffered gunshot wounds. It added that nearly 100 other unidentified corpses in Lagos state could be linked to the incident.

The army and police both denied using live rounds, and the Lagos state and federal governments rejected the judicial report, saying it was strewn with errors and its conclusions were not backed up by evidence.

The SARS unit – which rights groups had long accused of extortion, harassment, torture and murder – was disbanded on October 11, 2020 in response to the protests.

The shootings triggered the worst street unrest since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.

After the shootings, some protesters depicted a pattern of intimidation, detentions and even asset freezes.

Amnesty International said that more than 40 protesters were still in prisons nationwide following the 2020 demonstrations.

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