Nigeria: US, African Union Urge End to Nigeria Violence

22 October 2020

The United States and the African Union have called for an end to the violence in Nigeria, as fresh unrest rocked the capital Lagos. Protests against police brutality have become deadly in recent weeks.

The US State Department on Thursday condemned "excessive force" by Nigerian military forces on unarmed civilians and called for restraint.

The appeal from Washington comes two days after security forces opened fire on protesters demonstrating against police brutality in the city of Lagos. Some 12 people were killed during Tuesday's crackdown, according to Amnesty International.

"We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Pompeo's calls echoed a statement from the African Union (AU), urging an end to the violence in Nigeria after weeks of deadly protests.

AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat urged "all political and social actors to reject the use of violence and respect human rights and the rule of law."

The AU statement also welcomed the Nigerian government's move to disband the highly controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Anger over abuses committed by the unit sparked widespread protests some two weeks that drew thousands to the streets.

Fresh unrest in Lagos

Renewed unrest rocked Lagos later on Thursday, with reports of gunfire at a detention facility in Nigeria's biggest city.

One witness told Reuters news agency they heard gunshots ring out in the affluent Ikoyi neighborhood of Lagos.

A journalist with news agency AFP also reported gunfire, as well as smoke rising from a correctional facility in the area.

The city of 20 million is under a round-the-clock curfew imposed after nearly two weeks of protests against police brutality -- the West African nation's biggest wave of unrest since the end of military rule in 1999.

Several other states are also under curfew, with officials in the oil-producing Delta state saying they would enact a a 48-hour curfew from 6 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Thursday.

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 International.

'Shooting spree'

Human Rights Watch also corroborated reports that the Nigerian army had opened fire on protesters on Tuesday in what the NGOs described as "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 it could have been premeditated.

The Nigerian army took to Twitter repeatedly on Wednesday, labeling various reports about Tuesday's alleged incident as "fake news."

Human rights group Amnesty International released a damning report in June this year in which it said it had documented 82 cases of police brutality in Nigeria between 2017 and 2020.

"Detainees in SARS custody have been subjected to a variety of methods of torture including hanging, mock execution, beating, punching and kicking, burning with cigarettes, waterboarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic bags, forcing detainees to assume stressful bodily positions and sexual violence," the report said.

jf/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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