ABUJA (Forsige) – A group of independent United Nations Human Rights experts said Tuesday that the Nigerian government must create a credible, independent investigation into the recent killing of at least 12 peaceful protesters by soldiers, as protests against a discredited police unit continue across the country.
“While excessive use of force is often inappropriate during peaceful demonstrations, the shootings at Lekki toll plaza in Lagos on 20 October, where young unarmed #EndSARS protesters were massacred by Nigerian army men, were” particularly disturbing because protesters were calling precisely for accountability for previous police brutality,” the experts said.
Forsige reports that the protesters marched against police brutality in the country and the attack targets a section of the movement at the Lekki district of the commercial capital of Lagos on Tuesday after men in uniform arrived at the scene at about 6:45 pm WAT.
The fact that CCTV cameras and lights were apparently shut off shortly before the soldiers opened fire suggests, they said, “a disturbing level of premeditation.”
Forsige confirmed that some unknown officials moved to disable all Surveillance footage linked to the scene before the attack on the demonstrators, and all street lights took off a few minutes to the assault.
In Lagos, Africa’s largest city, the toll gate in the upmarket Lekki district has been the site of regular protests.
Since 2005, the United Nations Special Rapporteurs have repeatedly discussed with the Nigerian government the question of police killings and impunity, the eight experts said. We’ve had 15 years of assurances from the government, but little has changed.
Governments come and go, but as intractable as ever is police brutality. Nigerians are in search of justice.
Since early October, thousands of Nigerians have taken to the streets to demonstrate against abuses allegedly committed by a controversial police unit named the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
According to the UN expert, hundreds were wounded and an unknown number killed in the protests, while security forces reportedly detained and beat demonstrators, and armed individuals assaulted others.
“What is particularly disturbing is that the authorities said they had disbanded the SARS and agreed to the protestors other demands, including investigations”, the rights experts stated. “But they immediately announced the formation of another similar unit and have not ended the excessive use of force.”
The UN experts highlighted the need to critically and impartially investigate systemic police violence and excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators. Offenders should be brought to justice, as well.
The Nigerian authorities must explain, in addition to setting up an independent investigation, why the military was deployed and who gave the order, they said.