Nigeria: Police Beat, Arrest Protesters At Site Of Lekki Shooting
Activists called for protests after reopening of Lekki toll gate where security forces shot at demonstrators in October.
The Nigerian police beat and arrested demonstrators on Saturday as a small group protested over the reopening of the site where activists denouncing police brutality were shot last year in the commercial capital, Lagos. Rights group Amnesty International and witnesses said soldiers opened fire on protesters on October 20, killing at least twelve people at a toll gate in the city’s affluent
Lekki district and another area. The military has denied shooting live rounds and the police have also denied involvement. There was a very heavy presence of armed police officers on the Saturday at the toll gate, where a group of about fifteen 15 protesters gathered despite the calls by the government this week to scrap the demonstration, witnesses said. Also at least about six 6
of the protesters were also beaten with truncheons and arrested before being driven away in police vans. They are already manhandling us, but we’re not going to be deterred. We’re not going to step down, said one man, who did not provide his name and spoke to the media as he was being arrested. Police bundled about 13 protesters into a black truck at the toll gate where
security forces had deployed since Friday evening, a reporter at the scene said. Lekki toll gate should be made a museum of resistance and not a monument for money-making, said Damilare Adebola, 24, who spoke from the police van where he was being held. A Lagos police spokesman said in a text message he was unaware of the arrests but would look into accusations
that activists had been manhandled. On Friday, one of the two youth members of a Lagos state panel investigating the October shootings resigned, citing undue intimidation of peaceful protesters and the panel’s vote to reopen the toll gate - a source of revenue for the state government - before the probe had been finished. A news reporter reporting from the Lagos said
demonstrators were also angered by the failure of a commission of inquiry to submit its report into the killings. For many of the protesters and the protest organisers, this is sacred ground - so they cannot understand why the Lagos state government want to reopen the toll gate, he said. Lagos state government is looking at it from the revenue point of view. They are losing millions of dollars every week due to the non-collection of tolls here.
Hijacked by hoodlums
Nigeria’s information minister warned activists earlier this week to drop plans for the protest, saying it risked being hijacked by hoodlums. Mostly youth-led protests against police brutality and governance brought Africa’s largest city to a standstill in October in a campaign that won backing from many high-profile celebrities. The
#EndSARS protests, named after the SARS police force accused of abuses, spread even after the unit was disbanded and the government promised reforms. The demonstrations ended abruptly after the shooting in Lagos and a wave of looting and the unrest that also followed. The wave of civil unrest was one of the worst since the end of military rule in 1999.