Situation in Nigeria disturbing - deaths during protests in Lagos

Screenshot from srf.ch web report (link at end of text)

In Nigeria's largest city Lagos, several people were killed and injured in a military operation against protesters on Tuesday, October 20. The human rights organization Amnesty International announced via Twitter: "Amnesty International has received credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force leading to the deaths of protesters at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos."

The authorities confirmed indications of a shooting. However, the governor of Lagos initially denied that there had been any fatalities. He later retracted his statement, however, and confirmed that there had been military action and fatalities at the Lekki toll plaza. The events are being investigated, it said. Amnesty currently reports that 12 people were killed.

According to previous findings, protesters had been occupying the aforementioned toll booth for several days. They resisted the order to observe a complete curfew imposed on Tuesday. According to eyewitnesses and live videos on social media, violent clashes then broke out between the military and protesters, with shots also being fired into the crowd.

Escalation after weeks of protests

The protests have been taking place for several weeks. They were directed against a special police unit with the abbreviation SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad). The unit is accused of brutal methods such as torture, kidnapping, extortion and illegal arrests.

The protests and vehement criticism of the unit on social media under the hashtag #EndSARS led to the disbanding of the unit and the announcement that a unit called Swat, "Special Weapons and Tactics Team," would be established instead. Protesters fear that the new unit will merely replace the old one. They continue to lead protests and denounce structural problems in the country. Several church representatives as well as leaders of other faith communities have also joined the protest movement's criticism of police brutality and poor governance.

Meanwhile, the violence in Nigeria has sparked international criticism. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an end to the violence. Numerous media are now reporting on the situation in Africa's most populous state.

Uncertain future

The situation in Nigeria is difficult and complex. There are curfews not only in Lagos, but also in other cities. This is explained by contacts with Mission 21. Mission 21 works together with local partner churches and organizations in various projects for the population.

The current situation now also directly affects the project work. For example, the leadership of the women's ministry ("Women Ministry") of the partner church EYN could not travel to the city of Maiduguri. The plan was for them to provide support there in the Shuwari camp for internally displaced persons. We hope that the situation will calm down soon and that a peaceful solution to the conflict will be found.

Text: Mission 21, Photo: Website SRF

► Article in the NZZ from 22.10.2020

► Read and listen to article from 21.10.2020 on SRF website

► Background information on the protests in Nigeria (taz of 19.10.2020)

► To our projects in Nigeria

 

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