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I am heartbroken, along with millions of Nigerian mothers, grandmothers, and women, to have borne witness to the killing of a still uncounted number of our nation’s children, protesting peacefully, holding the flag of our nation, behind a barrier, at the Lekki Tollgate, on 20 October 2020.

I am heartbroken, along with millions of Nigerian mothers, grandmothers, and women, to have borne witness to the killing of a still uncounted number of our nation’s children, protesting peacefully, holding the flag of our nation, behind a barrier, at the Lekki Tollgate, on 20 October 2020.

Our nation’s children were shot in cold blood as many of them sat on the ground singing our national anthem. They were shot by their own army, by soldiers whose job it is to protect them. And they were shot in the complete absence of members of Nigeria’s Police Force, whose job it likewise is to protect the lives and property of civilians, and who have sadly proven themselves to be under-trained, under-equipped and thus over-strained in times of crisis, incapable and unwilling to exercise the standard stewardship of crowd control.

The brutality of police and military is a public safety emergency

It is no secret that the peaceful protests concern the glaring impunity and militarization of the Nigeria Police Force’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad’s brutality towards young Nigerians, which had reached the fever pitch of a public safety emergency, culminating in widespread reports of intimidation, harassment and extrajudicial killings – and that young people had organically risen, together, yet leaderless, to peacefully oppose this constant threat to their normal lives.

In the last 24 hours, these protests were visibly disrupted in several cities by armed thugs. While the latter appeared to have the backing of the organs of state, in some instances they even killed innocent policemen.

At the Lekki Toll Gate – on a bridge linking two of Lagos’s most exclusive residential communities, the Nigerian Army came out of its expansive barracks to ‘control’ a group of protesters. The young people had gathered peacefully behind a barrier, as can be seen from all manner of media footage. The army fired live rounds not into the air but into the crowd, at close range, killing several and injuring an indeterminate number – in a flagrant contravention of the protocols of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Moreover, in so doing, the commanding officer ignored the human rights of freedom of speech and assembly, and the right to protest peacefully, despite Nigeria being a signatory to the ICCPR.

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