Omoyele Sowore wants those responsible for Shootings s indicted by ICC. Photo: Twitter
Nigeria’s leading activist and former presidential candidate has called for the officials responsible for the shootings of scores of unarmed protestors by the military today to face charges at the International Criminal Court.
An undetermined number of Nigerian peaceful protesters were shot today when police in Lagos the commercial capital opened fire with live rounds into unarmed demonstrators. A protest movement against police brutality, under the hashtag #EndSARS, has grown into a national demonstration. The protests were initially focused on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which has been blamed for abuses, including summary killings, beatings, and robberies. The government disbanded SARS as the protests escalated.
This evening at around 7PM in Lagos, a city of over 15 million residents, soldiers arrived at the main protest scene with several pickup trucks. They quickly began firing teargas and within a short time live bullets were ripping into the unarmed demonstrators, sending people running for their lives in different directions, witnesses said. The number of people either killed or wounded by the show of force is still unknown.
One of the epicenters of the protests is the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, a busy part of the sprawling city. Tens of thousands of people had appeared during the protests on Monday.
“The whole world just watched the premeditated mass murder of peaceful protesters at a toll gate in Lagos,” Omoyele Sowore, the former presidential candidate and founder of the popular Sahara Reporters media outlet told Black Star News, via WhatsApp. “It is not enough to do the routine condemnation of the Nigerian rulers who ordered these killings but they must be brought to book at the International Criminal Court.” Sowore had been detained by the regime and he’s currently on trial on what his lawyers have called trumped up charges of alleged treason. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Sowore’s incarceration, beginning on August 3, 2019 for 144 days “arbitrary under international law.” He is also a leader of the “RevolutionNow” peaceful protests—a campaign to take back government— which had been going on for months long before the #EndSARS campaign.
The protests have gained wide international attention and coverage, coming at a time when the United States has also been on the global media attention, following a series of brutal police killings of people of African descent, including George Floyd on May 25.
The #EndSARS campaign, now into its third week, spread around the country as Nigerians aired additional grievances—including attacks against corruption, economic retrogression, and high levels of unemployment. Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator, is seen as a weak and ineffective leader who also suffers from various ailments.
The shootings in Lagos tonight occurred after the governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, declared a 24-hour curfew. Earlier he had said, on twitter: “I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society. Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella…of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state. As a government that is alive to its responsibility and has shown a commitment to the movement ENDSARS, new will not watch and allow anarchy in our dear state.”
Some demonstrators accuse the government of infiltrating protests around the country with agents who instigate violence, in an attempt to discredit the protests, in order to create the pretext for the kind of violent crackdown witnessed in Lagos today.
(The article has been edited from an earlier version)