Nigerian forces killed 12 peaceful protesters, Amnesty says

Nigeria_Police_Protest_07227 People protest at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Nigerians protesting against police brutality stayed on the streets in Lagos on Wednesday, breaking the government curfew following a night of chaotic violence in which demonstrators were fired upon, sparking global outrage.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_15809 Smoke rises from government buildings set on fire by protesters in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Nigerians protesting against police brutality stayed on the streets in Lagos on Wednesday, breaking the government curfew following a night of chaotic violence in which demonstrators were fired upon, sparking global outrage.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_43328 Police officer detain a protester at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_70393 A police officer stand guards on a street in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Nigerians protesting against police brutality stayed on the streets in Lagos on Wednesday, breaking the government curfew following a night of chaotic violence in which demonstrators were fired upon, sparking global outrage.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_72851 Alister, a protester who says his brother Emeka died from a stray bullet from the Army, reacts while speaking to Associated Press near Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_38277 People demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_64381 Police officers patrol at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_58496 Police officer detain a protester at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_37842 A Police officer crosses a road in front of the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_62578 Protesters run away as police officers use teargas to disperse people demonstrating against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_91739 People protest against alleged police brutality near to the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_04109 Police officers patrol near the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_06001 People protest against alleged police brutality, near the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_09215 People stand by as smoke rises from burning barricades set by protesters against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_28645 People stand near a burning shop as demonstrators protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_29746 Protesters run away as police officers use teargas to disperse groups of demonstrating against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_55842 Protesters run away as police officers use teargas to disperse groups demonstrating against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_08980 Burning barricades set by protesters against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_72773 People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality, in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2020. After 13 days of protests against police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos Nigeria's largest city as moves are made to stop growing violence.
APTOPIX_Nigeria_Police_Protest_72851 Alister, a protester who says his brother Emeka died from a stray bullet from the Army, reacts while speaking to Associated Press near Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
APTOPIX_Nigeria_Police_Protest_29290 People demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
APTOPIX_Nigeria_Police_Protest_92901 Police officers detain a protester at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_20939 Burning barricades set by protesters against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_89010 In this photo released by the Lagos State government press, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, centre, visit victims injured in last night's protests in a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Nigerians protesting against police brutality stayed on the streets in Lagos on Wednesday, breaking the government curfew following a night of chaotic violence in which demonstrators were fired upon, sparking global outrage.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_51451 In this photo released by the Lagos State government press, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, centre, visit victims injured in last night's protests in a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Nigerians protesting against police brutality stayed on the streets in Lagos on Wednesday, breaking the government curfew following a night of chaotic violence in which demonstrators were fired upon, sparking global outrage.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_35151 In this photo released by the Lagos State government press, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, right, visit victims injured in last night's protests in a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Nigerians protesting against police brutality stayed on the streets in Lagos on Wednesday, breaking the government curfew following a night of chaotic violence in which demonstrators were fired upon, sparking global outrage.
Nigeria_Police_Protest_04031 In this photo released by the Lagos State government press, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, centre, visit victims injured in last night's protests in a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Nigerians protesting against police brutality stayed on the streets in Lagos on Wednesday, breaking the government curfew following a night of chaotic violence in which demonstrators were fired upon, sparking global outrage.
APTOPIX_Nigeria_Police_Protest_24160 People protest against alleged police brutality near to the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. After 13 days of protests against alleged police brutality, authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as moves are made to stop growing violence.
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LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Amnesty International said in a report Wednesday that Nigeria’s security forces fired upon two large gatherings of peaceful protesters Tuesday night, killing 12 people calling for an end to police brutality.

At least 56 people have died during two weeks of widespread demonstrations against police violence, including 38 on Tuesday, the group said. The Nigerian government did not immediately comment about Amnesty International’s allegations.

The #EndSARS protests began amid calls for Nigeria’s government to close the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS, but has become a much wider demand for better governance in Nigeria.

Despite the growing violence, the Nigerian protesters defied a curfew and faced off with security forces Wednesday as gunfire rang out and fires burned in Lagos, a day after shots were fired into a crowd of demonstrators singing the country’s national anthem.

The security forces opened fire without warning on the protesters Tuesday night at the Lekki toll plaza, Amnesty said in its report, citing eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports.

“Opening fire on peaceful protesters is a blatant violation of people’s rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Soldiers clearly had one intention – to kill without consequences,” said Osai Ojigho, country director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

Amnesty said it has received reports that shortly before the shootings, CCTV security cameras at the Lekki toll gates, where protesters had been camped for two weeks, were removed by government officials and electricity was cut to prevent evidence emerging of the violence.

Some of those killed and injured at the toll plaza and in Alausa, another Lagos neighborhood, were taken away by the military, Amnesty alleged in the report.

“These shootings clearly amount to extrajudicial executions. There must be an immediate investigation and suspected perpetrators must be held accountable through fair trials,” said Ojigho.

Amnesty’s report backs up posts and images on social media that have shown widespread violence against protesters.

Amid global outrage, Nigeria’s military denied responsibility for the Lekki shootings, posting a tweet that labeled several reports as fake news.

More gunfire rang out across Lagos on Wednesday and into the night, including at the Lekki toll plaza, where young demonstrators rallied again despite an order for everyone to stay off the streets. At the sound of the shots, some protesters were seen on a live broadcast by The Associated Press running away, though it wasn’t clear if the crowd was fired upon.

Police also fired tear gas at bands of demonstrators and smoke was seen billowing from several areas in the city’s center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily when their offices were burned by unidentified attackers.

“People are aggrieved over the deaths. They are aggrieved by police violence and they are going out on the streets to show their anger,” said Lagos resident Michael Oladapo Abiodun, who said he has supported protesters on social media.

Demonstrations and gunfire were also reported in several other Nigerian cities, including the capital city, Abuja.

In response to the #EndSARS movement, the government announced it would disband the unit, which Amnesty International says has been responsible for many cases of torture and killings.

That has failed to satisfy demonstrators, who now demand more widespread reforms to end human rights abuses committed by security forces and pervasive government corruption.

Nigeria has massive oil wealth and is one of Africa’s largest economies, but many of its more than 200 million people face high poverty levels and lack basic services — because of rampant graft, according to rights groups.

The protests drew increased international attention after videos were posted on social media in which gunfire was heard echoing over protesters as they sang the national anthem at the Lekki toll plaza in the darkness Tuesday night.

It’s not clear in the videos who was firing, but many agree with the Amnesty report that Nigeria’s military is responsible. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said “there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces.”

Lagos governor Obajide Sanwo-Olu has ordered an investigation into the military’s actions at Lekki plaza. He said that 25 people were injured and one person had died from blunt trauma to the head.

President Muhammadu Buhari — who has said little about the protests engulfing his country — did not mention the Lekki shootings in a statement Wednesday but issued a call for calm and vowed police reforms.

Buhari’s statement said the dissolution of the SARS unit “is the first step in a set of reform policies that will deliver a police system accountable to the Nigerian people.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that the right of Nigerians “to protest peacefully needs to be guaranteed.”

He said “police brutality needs to stop, and those responsible for acts of such dramatic violence are made accountable.”

Guterres said he spoke with Buhari several days ago and believes he “will be able to bring things into a normal way to respect the rights of assembly of people, and to make sure that those that misbehaved are held accountable.”

Nigeria’s violence has also drawn denunciations by foreign dignitaries and celebrities ranging from U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden to Beyoncé.

___

Associated Press journalists Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, and Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg, contributed.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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