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article imageWhat we know about Nigeria protest shooting

By AFP     Oct 27, 2020 in World

Authorities in Nigeria's Lagos have begun a judicial inquiry into the shooting of peaceful protesters one week ago that unleashed chaos across Africa's biggest city.

Witnesses and rights groups say that the army and police gunned down demonstrators in cold blood -- but both have denied responsibility.

Here's what we know so far about the shooting that has caused outrage at home and abroad.

- What happened? -

Peaceful demonstrations begin on October 8 against a loathed police unit.

The youth-led movement spirals and authorities struggle to contain spreading unrest.

The governor of Lagos Babajide Sanwo-Olu on October 20 announces a round-the-clock curfew, starting at 4 pm (1500 GMT). It then pushes it back to 9 pm (2000 GMT) to let residents of the sprawling megacity return home.

He says the demonstrations have "degenerated into a monster" and insists "criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem".

In Lekki, a gigantic toll gate at the entrance of the city centre, thousands of people are camped night and day for weeks, demanding an end to bad governance.

A thousand of them defy the newly announced curfew and decide to stay.

That afternoon, men wearing uniforms of the company operating the toll gate are seen removing cameras, according to witnesses and picture evidence.

"One of them said the cameras were being removed because they didn't want anyone to steal or break them," an organiser of the protests told AFP.

A woman whose name AFP has changed to Clara for her own safety says that as night falls at around 6 pm (1700 GMT), she walks up to toll gate employees and asks them to turn the lights back on.

They refused because of the curfew, she says, and insisted it was an order from their boss.

"I was begging them, begging them. I told them they shouldn't be on their side," the 24-year-old said.

"This is when I started hearing the shooting."

- Who fired? -

Between 6.45 pm (1745 GMT) and 9 pm (2000 GMT), the Nigerian military opened fire on protesters in two locations, says Amnesty International.

The rights group says 10 were killed in Lekki and two at a second location in Lagos, in Alausa.

Videos and pictures widely shared on social media show men appearing to be army soldiers, with their green berets and red insignia, firing shots at the crowd in Lekki, according to analysis by the US-based Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab).

Other verified videos show people covered in blood, in the presence of men in uniform.

"I saw five army vans in total. Two were at the back and three up front, all shooting," Clara told AFP.

The governor of Lagos says that the footage from the scene shows "men in military uniform" shooting.

"They were there. It's what the footage shows," he tells CNN in an interview.

The army labels reports of their implication in the shooting as "fake news".

- Official tolls? -

The Nigerian government has not yet given an official death toll.

A day after the shooting, local authorities in Lagos announce that 25 people were injured, including two in intensive care.

According to witnesses, security forces blocked ambulances from accessing the scene.

The governor of Lagos initially says that there were no fatalities -- later saying that in fact two people died.

Amnesty International maintains that 10 people were killed.

As in previous cases, the rights group says some of those killed could have been taken away to hide evidence.

- What now? -

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator in the 1980s and democratically elected in 2015 and 2019, did not directly address claims that the army was responsible.

The 77-year-old said he is avoiding getting "into a debate" until "all the facts are established".

The governor of Lagos has set up a judicial inquiry into the shooting and wider allegations of police abuse, and proceedings started on Tuesday.

If reports are confirmed that cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting, it would suggest the shooting "was premeditated, planned and coordinated," wrote Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

There is deep scepticism that the Lagos state inquiry will hold Nigeria's powerful security agencies to account.

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