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World Trauma and fury as soldiers open fire in Nigeria, drawing global attention to weekslong protests

16:53  21 october  2020
16:53  21 october  2020 Source:   nbcnews.com

Nigeria's youth finds voice in police brutality protests

  Nigeria's youth finds voice in police brutality protests Protests against police brutality in Nigeria have brought Africa's largest city to a standstill and dominated social media, channelling anger among the frustrated youth that has forced the government to listen. But the government has previously promised to end the unit and not followed through, so the protests have continued and even spread, the country's youth vowing to hold the authorities accountable. © PIUS UTOMI EKPEI The hashtag "EndSARS" has been one of several used to galvanise support online - 'Learnt not to trust' -"It's no news to us that things are said but not actually done," said Anita Izato, a young lawyer based in the capita

Nigeria witnessed scenes of violence and chaos as protests calling for an end to police brutality continued overnight and into Wednesday, despite a 24-hour curfew and multiple eyewitness reports of soldiers opening fire on protesters.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck © Provided by NBC News

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said Wednesday that one person had died at a hospital in Lagos, the country's financial capital, after a shooting in the upmarket suburb of Lekki on Tuesday, but did not confirm whether the victim was a protester.

"This is an isolated case. We are still investigating if he was a protester," he said on Twitter. Earlier he said 30 people were being treated for "mild to moderate" injuries. Of these, two were receiving intensive care and three had been discharged. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appealed for calm in a statement Wednesday.

Nigeria's anti-police protesters storm prison, free inmates

  Nigeria's anti-police protesters storm prison, free inmates LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's protests against police brutality turned violent Monday when a crowd stormed a prison and freed inmates in Benin City in southern Nigeria. Some prisoners jumped from a high fence of the institution while others were seen running away on the street, according to videos from the scene. Local media reports say as many as 200 prisoners may have escaped. Nigerian officials have not announced if there were casualties from the prison break.Protesters also attacked police stations and police trucks in other parts of the country.

Protests in Lagos turned violent Tuesday night after a three-day, 24-hour curfew was announced and anti-riot forces deployed, with scores hospitalized after authorities moved to clamp down on protests in the Lekki area.

Human rights organization Amnesty International in Nigeria said in a statement it had "received credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki tollgate in Lagos."

Thousands of Nigerians in the oil-rich country have taken to the streets nationwide every day for nearly two weeks demanding the shutdown of a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which they hold responsible for years of brutality, extortion and harassment in the west African country.

Odion Ighalo and Anthony Joshua condemn police brutality in Nigeria

  Odion Ighalo and Anthony Joshua condemn police brutality in Nigeria Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo and heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua took to social media to condemn police brutality in Nigeria, following eyewitness reports that soldiers opened fire on protesters in Lagos on Tuesday. © Provided by CNN © Joe Gideens/Pool/Getty Images Odion Ighalo of Manchester United posted a video on Twitter Tuesday. Demonstrators have taken part in daily protests across the country for nearly two weeks over widespread claims of kidnapping, harassment, and extortion by a police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

After growing public pressure, the government disbanded the unit on Oct. 11. But the protests have persisted with demonstrators calling for a raft of new law enforcement reforms. The hashtag #EndSARS has garnered global support online.

"It's been a peaceful protest, right from the beginning," said Eti-Inyene Godwin Akpan, 26, a local photojournalist who was at the protest at the tollgate before the Lekki bridge and witnessed events.

Akpan, who has been documenting the demonstrations for weeks, told NBC News most protesters were sitting on the ground, brandishing Nigerian flags and singing the national anthem by the tollgate near the bridge that connects the affluent area with the mainland of the city.

Around 3 p.m. Tuesday he said he saw bridge workers near the tollgate take down security cameras and switch-off street lighting, which raised his suspicions. Hours later, Akpan said Nigerian military in uniform arrived and within seconds began shooting at the crowd.

Nigeria's Lagos shut down after at least 12 protesters killed

  Nigeria's Lagos shut down after at least 12 protesters killed Nigeria's army has dubbed as "fake news" reports that soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. Police Minister Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi told the BBC that troops were not ordered to open fire on protesters."I cannot say who is involved in the shooting... definitely not the police. Soldiers have already spoken about this, they are denying their involvement," he said. © Provided by CBS News Protesters run away as police officers use teargas to disperse people demonstrating against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020.  / Credit: Sunday Alamba / AP On Thursday, U.S.

"They came down and they started shooting," he said. "It was very, very scary."

Akpan said many fled in panic while he ran to hide in his car, watching as officers destroyed phones and cameras belonging to protesters. He eventually escaped but said he saw at least "three dead bodies" as he was fleeing the scene, fearing he too could be shot.

"I'm kinda traumatized," he said.

Protest organizer, Akinbosola, 30, who declined to give his surname fearing his safety, told NBC News he was on the "front line at the Lekki protest" when things turned ugly and said it was "unbelieve" that the army had denied deaths at the scene in the face of "damning video evidence" posted online.

Unverified images posted to social media show chaotic scenes including gunfire, widespread property damage and fires.

"They came down and started firing directly at us at exactly 6:45p.m.," Akinbosola said. "Everybody was trying to run for cover."

He said protesters had been seated, to make it clear they were "not making trouble" and were expecting the police to likely move them along.

He said he feared dozens had been killed and added that gun shots could still be heard in the Lekki area on Wednesday morning.

Nigerians in the diaspora join #EndSARS protests

  Nigerians in the diaspora join #EndSARS protests The #EndSARS protests against police brutality that have erupted in Nigeria have spilled beyond the country's borders.People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Oct. 19, 2020.

Like Akpan, Akinbosola said he saw lights and security cameras removed ahead of the violence and said the affair seemed "perfectly planned" by authorities.

"I was very, very lucky to be alive, people were dying right beside me," he added.

a man jumping in the air: Image: A protester raises his fist and holds a placard during a demonstration to protest against police brutality at Magboro, Ogun State in southwest Nigeria (Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP - Getty Images) © Pius Utomi Ekpei Image: A protester raises his fist and holds a placard during a demonstration to protest against police brutality at Magboro, Ogun State in southwest Nigeria (Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP - Getty Images)

The Nigerian Army has denied any deaths and on Twitter dismissed as "fake news" the shootings, adding that no soldiers were at the scene on Tuesday night in Lekki.

The army and Lagos state government had not replied to requests for comment from NBC News at the time of publication.

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appealed for "understanding and calm" in a statement on Wednesday, but did not directly address the shootings. He called on Nigerians to have patience as police reforms "gather pace."

He said least 13 states, including Lagos, had established "judicial panels" to provide redress to victims of police brutality, state-owned NTA Nigeria reported.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu said on Twitter: "As the Governor of our state, I recognize the buck stops at my table," adding that he would work to "get to the root of this unfortunate incident and stabilize all security operations to protect the lives of our residents."

Opinions | The roots of the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria

  Opinions | The roots of the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria Police and military brutality have propped up regimes for more than a century. The massacre at Lekki punctuated more than two weeks of protest of police brutality in Nigeria. The hashtag #EndSARS began trending (again) on social media on Oct. 4. The immediate trigger was a video that showed a SARS officer shooting a young motorist in Ughelli, Delta State, then pushing his body out of the car and driving off with the dead man’s Lexus Jeep. Within days, crowds of young people gathered in Nigerian cities to demand the abolition of SARS.

He later said events had taken a turn and blamed "criminal elements" taking advantage of the orders given "not to resort to shooting as a rule of engagement."

a group of people walking in front of a crowd: Image: Protesters gather at the front of Alausa, the Lagos State Secretariat, while chanting a people united can never be defeated in Lagos (Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP - Getty Images) © Benson Ibeabuchi Image: Protesters gather at the front of Alausa, the Lagos State Secretariat, while chanting a people united can never be defeated in Lagos (Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP - Getty Images)

Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden issued a statement on Tuesday calling on Nigerian President Buhari and the Nigerian military to "cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths."

"The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy," Biden said.

Celebrities including Beyoncé and Rihanna, John Boyega and Nigerian soccer star Odion Jude Ighalo have shown their support for demonstrators.

The United Nations condemned the violence on Wednesday — Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who is from Nigeria, added that the U.N. was "following the protests" and called on "security forces to exercise maximum restraint."

Reuters contributed to this report.

Hearings begin into killings of Nigerian protesters .
A week after the killing of activists protesting police brutality in Nigeria's largest city, a Lagos state government judicial panel began hearings into the violence on Tuesday. © Adetona Omokanye/Getty Images LAGOS, NIGERIA - OCTOBER 20: Demonstrators protest police brutality at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020 in Lagos, Nigeria. The Nigerian government had imposed a 24-hour curfew to tamp down on sustained protests against the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police division accused of abuse, extortion and extra-judicial killings.

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