Romanus Ugwu, Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja and Chukwudi Nweje
Several persons were feared killed last night as gunmen attacked peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, in Lagos.
One of the protesters said he counted seven bodies while many others sustained gunshot injuries.
The assailant, believed to be security agents stormed the venue, which had served as the hub of the EndSARS movement in the last two weeks at about 7:30, turned off the light. Moments later, sound of sporadic shooting rent the air forcing the protesters to flee in difference directions.
Prof. Pat Utomi, who was an eyewitness to the shooting condemned the decision to apply force on protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate describing it as “worrisome.”
He said he was talking to some persons abroad when he heard gun shots at about 7pm at the toll gate.
“They were shooting at these kids and they were shouting ‘kneel down, kneel down, they are shooting at us.’ I was wondering if it was not really a worrisome strategy to take an ultimatum to have a curfew 24 hours. In decision making, as a manager, I will be wary of taking such a decision,” Utomi said.
Reacting, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) condemned the shooting saying “this must stop immediately.”
SERAP said: “Under the Nigerian constitution, 1999 and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party, the authorities are obligated to respect and protect the right to life and security of the person, the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly of everyone, including peaceful protesters.
“We call on the Nigeria authorities to order a prompt, independent and impartial inquiry into the reports of shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll gate by security agents, identify suspected perpetrators and ensure that they are brought to justice without delay.
“All the victims must be allowed access to justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation, satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition.
“SERAP calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open investigations into cases of attacks on peaceful protesters in Nigeria in the context of #EndSARS.
“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case. Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or states parties refer a situation or if information is provided from other sources such as the information that is now publicly available in the country.”
The protest which began on October 8 has been relative peaceful until Monday when hoodlums hijacked it, stormed two prisons in Edo and released hundreds of inmates.
The Nigerian Army has cordoned off Apo-Kabusa axis following the destruction of over 15 vehicles, shops and massive looting.
The stern-looking security personnel came in over five trucks at about 5pm, and restricted movement.
Suspected hoodlums have burnt down the Dutse Makaranta police station in the Kubwa area of the nation’s capital.
The mob was said to have set the station on fire after a policeman reportedly opened fire while trying to disperse the crowd that converged outside the station.
The protest, which was staged to put an end to police brutality particularly the defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), and bad governance in the country, was hijacked by suspected hoodlums.
At least, 17 persons were killed in Lagos, Abuja, Edo, Kano, Oyo, Ekiti just as three
police stations, LG HQS, vehicles and buildings were burnt across the country.
In view of the situation, the United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria has warned its nationals living in the country against dangers occasioned by the protest across the country.
Titled ‘Message for American Citizens – Demonstration Alert,’ the US Government said multiple demonstrations were ongoing across Nigeria, to include areas within the consular districts of Abuja and Lagos.
The United States Embassy also said although most demonstrations were peaceful, some have become violent and have shut down major thoroughfares and bridges.
“Some police stations have been targeted. Lagos State closed all schools indefinitely as of October 19 due to protests and implemented a 24-hour curfew starting at 4pm on October 20. Consulate General Lagos is closed for the rest of today and tomorrow.
“We continue to urge all U.S. citizens to avoid areas around protests and demonstrations and to check local media for updates and traffic advisories. Continue to be vigilant and avoid areas affected by the protests,” the United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria warned.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday, told the international community that #EndSARS protesters were making unreasonable demands.
The government also said some people who were not part of the original movement had moved from #EndSARS to #EndBuhari.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this when he briefed diplomatic corps in Abuja, yesterday.
The briefing which was at the instance of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, had in attendance, Ministers of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, Foreign Affairs (State), Ambassador Zubairu Dada and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anthonia Ekpa.
Mohammed explained that the five demands made by the protesters which include the immediate release of all arrested protesters; justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families; the setting up of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days, and others, were received by the authorities and on October 11, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) across the country.
He recalled that on October 12, President Muhammadu Buhari, personally intervened when he addressed Nigerians and said the disbandment of SARS was the first step in the comprehensive reform of the police in Nigeria.
Mohammed, however, said what bothered the government was that after the five demands had been comprehensively met, the protest, rather than abate, has been getting stronger.
“The movement started very peacefully, but very soon, we witnessed looting, assassination attempt on the Governor of Osun State, and burning and looting of malls.
“In Benin, they freed 2,000 inmates, in Lagos today (yesterday), they set ablaze police stations and both the Governments of Edo and Lagos, have been compelled to impose curfews.
“The demands they came with first have been met. But now, we have some people who were not part of the original movement now using this movement to ask for unreasonable demands. From #EndSARS, we now hear EndBuhari,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed further said the development troubled the government and it felt there was the need to give out the correct narrative out there.