Gunshots were fired, shops were looted and a prison was set ablaze as fresh violence rocked Nigeria’s biggest city Lagos on Thursday after the shooting of protesters that drew international outrage.
The economic hub of 20 million has descended into chaos since Tuesday when security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters calling for better governance and an end to police brutality.
Amnesty International said Nigerian soldiers and police gunned down 12 demonstrators, while 56 have died overall across the country since a wave of protests began on October 8.
Pictures and videos from the shooting on a crowd of around 1,000 protesters in Lagos by security forces were widely shared on social media, unleashing a wave of anger that a round-the-clock curfew has failed to halt.
President Muhammadu Buhari was set to address the nation at 7 pm (1800 GMT) on the crisis, his office said, after fierce criticism of his failure to comment.
National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno said Buhari would propose “solutions” to the current crisis in the “next few hours”.
“Mr. President has directed that government should do whatever is necessary in order to bring about an agreeable resolution to this crisis,” Monguno said after meeting with Buhari on Thursday.
The Nigerian government has faced international condemnation over the violence with the US slamming the “use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators”.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said his “heart goes out” to the victims of the recent violence and promised that there would be “justice for all”.
– Looting and arson –
Pockets of violence flared around Lagos on Thursday despite the lockdown order as supermarkets were looted and government buildings targeted.
An AFP journalist heard gunshots and saw thick smoke billowing from a prison in the upscale neighbourhood of Ikoyi.
The interior ministry later said the situation was brought under control at the Ikoyi Custodial Centre.
Soldiers patrolled the largely deserted streets of the city as the wreckage of burnt cars and gutted buildings testified to the scale of the unrest.
A witness who asked to remain anonymous told AFP that inmates tried to escape a second prison, Kirikiri, the largest prison in Lagos.
“Many detainees tried to escape. But the prison wardens and policemen had to shoot live rounds and tear gas and normalcy has been restored,” the witness said.
Elsewhere in the country the governor of oil-rich Delta state ordered a 48-hour curfew after incidents of arson, robberies and attacks on a prison and other public buildings.
The Delta state police public relations officer, Onome Onowakpoyeya, told AFP that perpetrators were “hoodlums” protesting under the guise of demonstrators.
– ‘Premeditated’ act –
Nigeria’s army has denied that its soldiers opened fire on demonstrators on Tuesday.
Police Minister Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi told the BBC that troops were not ordered to open fire on protesters.
“I cannot say who is involved in the shooting… definitely not the police. Soldiers have already spoken about this, they are denying their involvement,” he said.
But local authorities and rights groups said the attackers were members of the armed forces.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said reports that lights were turned off and surveillance cameras removed at the scene beforehand suggested it was “premeditated, planned and coordinated”.
Lagos governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said during a live programme on ARISE TV on Thursday that the security cameras were still available and would be used to investigate the shooting.
The International Criminal Court said it was “closely following the events around the current protests in Nigeria.”
“We have received information alleging crimes and are keeping a close eye on developments, in case violence escalates,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.
The US, United Nations, European Union, African Union and Britain have all called for those responsible for the killings to be held responsible.