The African Union has denounced deadly violence in Nigeria’s biggest city of Lagos, urging all parties to “privilege dialog.”
In a statement on Thursday, the office of African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said that he “strongly condemns the violence that erupted on October 20, 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.
A growing wave of protests has rocked the African country since two weeks ago, when angry Nigerians first took to the streets over abuses and brutality by police’s loathed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Mahamat’s statement came as demonstrations escalated in Lagos after security forces earlier this week shot peaceful protesters who had also staged rallies against deep-rooted social grievances.
According to Amnesty International, at least 12 people were shot dead by the Nigerian troops and police in just two locations in Lagos on Tuesday. The rights organization also said that at least 56 people had lost their lives across Nigeria since the protests began on October 8. Some 38 people were killed nationwide on Tuesday alone.
“Evidence gathered from eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports confirm that between 6:45 p.m. (1745 GMT) and 9:00 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Tuesday October 20, the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people,” Amnesty said in a statement on Wednesday.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), for its part, corroborated reports that the Nigerian army had opened fire on the crowd in “a shooting spree.”
Anietie Ewang, an HRW Nigeria researcher, said that “the authorities should immediately withdraw the military from the streets.”
The Nigerian police also maintain a heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful protests by the country’s Shia Muslims. The demonstrators have been calling for the release of top cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigerian forces.