On Tuesday, Nigeria's Lagos governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, ordered an investigation into "reports of shooting at the Lekki Toll Plaza, following the 24-hour curfew imposed on Lagos State to stop criminals who hid under the #EndSARS protests to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens", according to a tweet from Gbenga Omotoso, the Lagos state Commissioner for Information.
Omotoso argued that the Lagos governor "advised the security agents not to arrest anyone on account of the curfew, which he urges residents to observe for the peaceful atmosphere we all cherish", noting that "The Governor will do everything within his power to ensure that the lives of all Lagosians are protected at all times".
Shortly after ordering the investigation, the governor tweeted that he had visited "hospitals with victims of this unfortunate shooting incident at Lekki", noting that "This is the toughest night of our lives, as forces beyond our direct control have moved to make dark notes in our history, but we will face it and come out stronger".
This is the toughest night of our lives as forces beyond our direct control have moved to make dark notes in our history, but we will face it and come out stronger.— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) October 21, 2020
I've just concluded visits to hospitals with victims of this unfortunate shooting incident at Lekki . pic.twitter.com/r5idAn9Pxw
Sanwo-Olu specified the number of victims, and vowed to give a state broadcast on the incident in the morning.
As the Governor of our state, I recognize the buck stops at my table and I will work with the FG to get to the root of this unfortunate incident and stabilise all security operations to protect the lives of our residents.— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) October 21, 2020
I will give a state broadcast in the morning.
The governor's statements follow multiple media reports citing eyewitness testimonies claiming that shots were fired against anti-police brutality protesters gathered at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos on Tuesday evening. Some reports suggested, citing eyewitnesses, that the gunmen were Nigerian soldiers, while others could not identify who had fired the shots.
According to Reuters, citing three witnesses, at least two protesters in Lekki were shot by soldiers.
"They started firing ammunition toward the crowd. They were firing into the crowd," security officer Alfred Ononugbo said, cited by Reuters. "I saw the bullet hit one or two persons".
Another witness, photographer Inyene Akpan, said, cited by Reuters, that over 20 soldiers arrived at the scene, opened fire and hit two people.
According to AFP, citing four witnesses, unidentified armed men opened fire on a crowd of a "thousand people" on Tuesday evening. Despite the fact that the demonstration was held in defiance of the curfew, it was peaceful, with protesters singing the national anthem, AFP reported.
The curfew was imposed earlier by the governor, who argued that "what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society".
I, therefore, hereby impose a 24-hour curfew on all parts of the State as from 4pm today, 20th October,2020. Nobody, except essential service providers and first responders must be found on the streets.— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) October 20, 2020
Following initial reports about the shooting, Amnesty International Nigeria tweeted that they had "received credible but disturbing evidence of excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters at Lekki toll gate in Lagos".
While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury.— Amnesty International Nigeria (@AmnestyNigeria) October 20, 2020
A series of tweets with screenshots of media headlines about the Nigerian army killing protesters emerged on the official Twitter account of the Nigerian Army that labelled the many reports as "FAKE NEWS".
Nationwide protests in Nigeria ignited after numerous reports accused the country's Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) police unit of killings, torture and blackmail. The unit was disbanded by authorities on 11 October and replaced by a Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) squad. The demonstrations have continued against police brutality.