LAGOS – Soldiers opened fire on Nigerians protesting against police brutality in Lekki district of the commercial capital Lagos on Tuesday, shooting at least two people, three witnesses told Reuters.
Thousands of Nigerians staged a nationwide demonstration every day for nearly two weeks against a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), that rights groups accused of extortion, harassment, torture and murders.
The toll gate has been the site of daily protests in the uptake Lakeki district in Lagos, Africa’s largest city.
“They started firing at the crowd. They were firing at the crowd,” said 55-year-old Alfred Ononagbo, a security officer. “I saw that the bullet hit one or two people,” he said.
The condition of those two people was not immediately known. Amnesty International has said at least 15 people have died since the protests began.
The Lagos state government said it would investigate the shooting, with witnesses stating that it happened around 7 pm (1800 GMT).
“There have been reports of a shooting at the leaky toll plaza,” Gobiega Akosile, a spokesman for the governor, said on Twitter. “The state government has ordered an inquiry into the incident,” he said in another tweet.
The Nigerian Army spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A photographer, 26-year-old Inen Akpan, said more than 20 soldiers arrived at Lekki’s toll gate and opened fire. He said he saw two people shooting.
The third witness, Akinbola Ogunsyan, said he saw about 10 people being shot. He also said that he saw soldiers carrying out the bodies.
Ten videos watched by Reuters, which were livestreamed on Instagram or posted on Twitter, showed people running near the darkness and the sound of gunfire appearing. Reuters was not immediately able to independently verify the footage.
A Reuters witness heard sirens and gunshots.
A doctor at the private Redington Hospital in the Victoria Island area of Lagos said people were being treated for gunshot wounds. The doctor, who did not want to be identified, did not specify the number of people to be treated.
A presidential spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The weeklong protests were sparked by a video that aired in early October, showing SARS officers shooting a man in southern Delta state.
The police refused to fire. The SARS was dissolved on 11 October, but protests continue.
Authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew on Lagos in response to the protests on Tuesday, which the state governor called violent.
It is one of three of Nigeria’s 36 states that have announced such measures in the last two days, making millions of people in Africa’s most populous country subject to curfew.
The southwestern state of Eki imposed curfew in Lagos following the announcement. Its governor said the protests had been “hijacked” by criminals demanding “rape, assault, loot and evacuation of innocent civilians”.
The southern state of Edo imposed a similar curfew on Monday after inmates broke prison during protests. Police said they have strengthened security around jails across the country.
A police spokesman said that the National Police Chief ordered immediate deployment of nationwide riot forces after the escalating attacks on police facilities.