The anti-police brutality movement #EndSARSNow that has seen Nigerian youth take to the streets over the last two weeks, erupted Tuesday evening when armed security forces opened fire on a group of demonstrators in Lekki, Lagos city.
The exact number of resulting wounded and fatalities is still unconfirmed.
Amnesty International is currently taking steps to get official figures – according to Director in Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, who gives insight into the incident based on the human rights organisation’s credible sources on the ground.
Osai Ojigho: The eyewitness accounts that we received last night and the views that we got and various other sources that were shared point to the fact that they were military officers. So it is important that they actually investigate this and find out what happened. What were they doing there? Were they there to protect the protesters? Were they there to stop something from happening? Were they given orders to shoot at unarmed people? It would be important for the authorities to give that information today. But for us where we sit, people have died, people have been injured and justice needs to be served.
In order to attain a just conclusion to these events, the human rights lawyer outlines the necessary legal avenues to take. Osai Ojigho: So the first thing is the individual culpability of officers and commanders who have actually perpetrated these acts of violence against protesters and the populace. because it is not only protesters who have been affected. Earlier on in the protests, there were also individuals who were not part of the protesters who were hit by stray bullets. That is 1.
The second is Nigeria needs to recognise that it has an international obligation under international human rights law to ensure that the safety and security of people within its territory are protected.
President Muhammadu Buhari had previously issued a statement last week denouncing excessive force used by the police – and also acknowledged officers in the country who are upright. Many now speculate on his stance since Tuesday’s shootings and many others question the silence from other Africa leaders.
Osai Ojigho: It would be good to see the political leadership in the African Union and ECOWAS actually come out to say, “Nigeria, we are seeing what is happening. You need to preach nonviolence.” This is not a time to be silent.
Not at all silent and still raising their voices – undeterred by the very same police brutality they seek to end in the country, are Nigerian youth and the NGO Director applauds their resilience. Osai Ojigho: The events of the last two weeks, on the one hand, have been inspiring to see people come out to express themselves. The overwhelming support they’ve received all over the world has been an eye-opener and it was a positive feeling – you know, that Nigerians are coming out and they are speaking truth to power.