SARS: Lagos protesters break curfew amid gunfire, chaos

Heavy security presence in Nigeria’s biggest city; Lagos state governor says one person died in hospital after Tuesday’s shooting

Thousands of Nigerians have demonstrated nationwide every day for nearly two weeks against a police unit SARS. [Sunday Alamba/AP Photo]

Nigeria’s anti-police protesters stayed on the streets in Lagos on Wednesday despite a government curfew following a night of chaotic violence in which demonstrators were fired upon.

A heavy police presence was on the streets on Wednesday to enforce the round-the-clock curfew, hours after reports emerged of protesters being shot dead by security forces.

On Wednesday, Lagos state governor said one person had died at a hospital in the city after a shooting in the suburb of Lekki on Tuesday, but it was unclear if the person was a protester.

Babjide Sanwo-Olu said in a tweet that the person died due to blunt force trauma to the head.

“This is an isolated case. We are still investigating if he was a protester,” he said.

Late on Tuesday, Sanwo-Olu said 30 people were hurt in the shooting.

Four witnesses said soldiers fired the bullets and at least two people were killed. The Nigerian army said on Twitter that no soldiers were at the scene at the time of the shooting.

“I recognise the buck stops at my table and I will work with the FG (federal government) to get to the root of this unfortunate incident and stabilise all security operations to protect the lives of our residents,” said Sanwo-Olu.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from the capital Abuja, said the situation in the country’s largest city, Lagos, appears to be worsening.

“Things have gone from bad to worse in Lagos. We are hearing of pockets of violence in the city. In Lekki, where last night’s attack happened, there’s been cases of arson, and attacks on properties,” he said.

“We are also hearing that about 30 government buses have been burnt down at a bus station. One of the leading private television stations in Nigeria is also off air. The station is owned by an influential politician who is in the same party as the president.”

Managing director that that TV station, TVC, later told AFP news agency that “hoodlums” had attacked the station with petrol bombs and that its main building was an “inferno”.

Amnesty International said it had received “credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos” on Tuesday, adding that it was investigating “the killings”.

Another witness, Chika Dibia, said soldiers hemmed in people as they shot at them.

Video verified by Reuters news agency showed men walking slowly in formation towards demonstrators, followed by trucks with flashing lights, and the sound of gunfire popping. Another video showed the toll gate itself, with a protester waving a Nigerian flag, as people ran amid the sound of gunfire.

Thousands of Nigerians have demonstrated nationwide every day for nearly two weeks against a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), that rights groups had for years accused of extortion, harassment, torture and murders.

Authorities imposed the 24-hour curfew on Lagos on Tuesday after the state governor said the protests had turned violent.

On Wednesday, police had set up roadblocks in the city and were not allowing vehicles to pass, although there were a few cars and people walking, Reuters reported.

The SARS unit was disbanded on October 11 following the uproar, but the protests have persisted with demonstrators calling for law enforcement reforms.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies