ABUJA — The Nigerian government on Tuesday said it is still deeply concerned about the recent gunfire on protesters campaigning against police brutality in the country.
A shooting incident during a government-imposed curfew on Oct. 20 at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos, the economic hub of Nigeria and where the protesters gathered, was alleged to have been carried out by men in military uniforms. The incident remains a “mystery” and an investigation is underway to find people culpable in the shooting, said the country’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami.
Malami, joined by other top government officials including the ministers of defense and finance, told reporters in Abuja that the government considers the incident as a “subject of investigation” for now, as hoodlums wearing military uniforms may have carried out the shooting.The ongoing investigation would clear who was responsible for the incident and whether they were part of the military, the official said.”You cannot rule out the possibility of, perhaps, hoodlums that set in to create a scene … could equally partake in the process,” Malami said.
Defense Minister Bashir Magashi told the media there was never an operational order to the military or police to shoot at the peaceful protesters in Lagos or anywhere else. “President Muhammadu Buhari gave a clear order that no armed forces or the police should shoot at protesters at the time,” Magashi said.
The army earlier denied its involvement in the shooting.It was called upon by the Lagos government to intervene in as the situation was fast degenerating into anarchy, adding that its ensuing intervention laid down procedures and all soldiers involved acted “within the confines of the rules of engagement for internal security operations,” said the Nigerian army in a statement last Wednesday.
The authorities in Lagos had imposed that curfew on Oct. 20 as a result of the violence, which led to several police stations being burnt, policemen killed, suspects in police custody released and weapons and uniforms of security agents carted away.On Oct. 21, Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the massive shooting was carried out by “forces beyond our direct control” after he visited victims in hospitals.
Sanwo-Olu said 28 persons were injured in the incident, which had drawn concerns from international communities including the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.The governor vowed a full investigation by the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on what happened and people suspected of misconduct would be held accountable.
Violence has been reported in several cities in the country as suspected “hoodlums” reportedly took control of the peaceful protests by citizens calling for extensive reform of the police since early October. Economic activities were largely hindered and public peace was breached due to the violence and massive looting perpetrated by the hoodlums accused of hijacking the hitherto peaceful protests.
In a nationwide broadcast seeking to halt the protests on Oct. 22, Buhari reiterated that the government was responding to the demands of the protesting youths as their voice had been heard “loud and clear.”In addition, the Nigerian leader said the government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women, and vulnerable groups in the society, which included a plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years and creating funds to provide opportunities for young people and small enterprises.