Central prison burned down, gunfire, deserted streets: the situation remained precarious Thursday in Lagos under curfew, two days after the bloody crackdown on peaceful protests in the Nigerian megalopolis.
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Since the Nigerian youth protest began two weeks ago against police violence, at least 56 people have died in the protests, according to Amnesty International.
On Tuesday evening, the army and police fired live ammunition at peaceful protesters, killing at least 12 and injuring hundreds in two separate rallies in Lagos, the organization said. These shootings angered many Nigerians, and indignation abroad.
After these killings, violence and clashes between young people and the police broke out on Wednesday in several neighborhoods of Lagos, despite a curfew imposed since Tuesday in the city of 20 million inhabitants.
On Thursday noon, swirls of black smoke rose above Lagos central prison in Ikoyi, a well-to-do district of the capital, AFP journalists noted. Several gunshots were also heard.
“The prison is being attacked,” police officers stationed near the detention center told AFP. By mid-afternoon, “the situation had calmed down and seemed under control”, according to a witness living near the prison.
Deserted streets and looting
In total, around twenty public buildings, several police stations, the headquarters of a television station and the port authority or even a bus terminal have been set on fire in recent days.
On Thursday the streets were mostly deserted; many food stores had been looted or shops destroyed.
Since the repression of the demonstrations, President Muhammadu Buhari has not spoken. He was holding a national defense council on Thursday afternoon with his defense minister and the police chief, according to a statement.
The day before, the vice-president of the country had reacted: “The pain caused by these terrible events is palpable in our villages and towns. These disappearances are irreplaceable, but justice will be done to them, ”Yemi Osinbajo said.
Questioned by witnesses and NGOs, the police and the army deny any responsibility.
“I can not say who is involved in this shooting, certainly not the police,” Police Minister Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi told BBC radio on Wednesday morning.
“The soldiers have already spoken, they deny being responsible,” he added.
Videos of the shooting showing soldiers firing live ammunition above a crowd waving flags and singing the national anthem at the Lekk tollbooth were widely shared on social media, sparking outrage.
Washington condemned Thursday “the excessive use of force” by the military. “Those involved must be held accountable under Nigerian laws,” said US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo.
Before the United States, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations had already condemned this violence, and demanded that those responsible for these killings be brought to justice.
“It seems pretty clear that the Nigerian forces used excessive force, shooting and killing with live ammunition,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
“If reports of the lighting and surveillance cameras being turned off before the shooting were to be confirmed, this could suggest that this attack on peaceful protesters was premeditated, planned and coordinated,” he said. she adds.