The African Union (AU) has strongly condemned the deadly violence in Nigeria as the governor of Lagos state said the army has offered to deploy forces if needed.
In a statement on Thursday, AU commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said he “strongly condemns the violence that erupted on 20 October 2020 during protests in Lagos, Nigeria that has resulted in multiple deaths and injuries”.
“The Chairperson appeals to all political and social actors to reject the use of violence and respect human rights and the rule of law,” the statement said, urging all parties to “privilege dialogue”.
Unrest has broken out across Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, which is under a curfew following anti-police protests and the shooting of civilians by security forces on Tuesday evening.
Faki’s statement did not specifically denounce the security forces’ actions. It said he welcomed Nigeria’s decision to disband the police’s loathed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Meanwhile, Lagos governor said the Nigerian military has offered to deploy forces in Lagos to control the deadly unrest.
Governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu, in an interview on Arise News, said the chief of defence staff and the chief of army staff had called on Wednesday midday “to say that if indeed, I require for the military to come out, they will deploy them”.
He said the primary concern was the security of key business and government installations, such as the ports in Lagos.
Rights group Amnesty International said at least 12 people were killed by the Nigerian army and police in two locations in Lagos on Tuesday in a deadly crackdown on demonstrations spurred by police brutality and deep-rooted social grievances.
At least 56 people have died across the country since the protests began on October 8, with about 38 killed nationwide on Tuesday alone, according to Amnesty.
The Human Rights Watch also said it corroborated reports that the Nigerian army had opened fire on protesters on Tuesday in “a shooting spree”.
The use of lethal force by security forces drew international condemnation, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet saying reports suggested it could have been premeditated.
The Nigerian army has on Twitter called reports of soldiers firing on protesters “fake news”.
Separately, local media reports have said several media outlets have been attacked since the protests started.
Television Continental, Channels Television and the Nation newspaper have been attacked in the last few days in Lagos, according to reports.
The International Press Centre in Lagos said various journalists have also been individually attacked and prevented from doing their jobs since October 20.
Ahmed Idris, reporting from the capital Abuja, said there were reports of predominantly young people setting up roadblocks on Thursday.
“What is bothering a lot of people is how suddenly these peaceful protests were hijacked by individuals with a different agenda,” he said.
Idris said the economic activity has come to a halt in Lagos, home to Nigeria’s busiest air and seaports.
“If this situation lasts long, we will see a lot of economic damage, not only to the economy of the state but also of the country,” he said.