‘I pretended I was dead’: Chaos and violence grip Lagos as End Sars protesters continue to defy curfew

Timileyin Omilana
·3-min read
 (via REUTERS)

As Nigeria reeled from what has been described as “among the darkest hours” of its history, widespread looting and rioting were reported in Lagos amid continuing protests against police brutality.

The Nigerian military said on Thursday that it was ready to deploy troops to the commercial capital, with the police appearing unable to stop people taking to the street in large numbers.

Smoke billowed in parts of the city as rioters targeted government-owned facilities, as well as shops and banks, local media reported.

There were also reports of an attempted prison revolt in Lagos’s Ikoyi prison that ended in several inmates being shot.

Anger reached boiling point after security forces gunned down civilians on Tuesday night following weeks of rallies demanding an end to police brutality and the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) – a police unit that rights groups have long accused of extortion, harassment, torture and murder.

Martin*, a bouncer, said he was attacked by police during Tuesday’s protests at Lekki t­oll gate. Footage shared widely on social media showed protesters fleeing to the sound of crackling gunfire.

“They killed lots of protesters. They were chasing them, shooting at them continuously,” he said.

"Around eight policemen gathered around me and were hitting me with their guns and shoes until I pretended I was dead, before they left me.”

He said he was left with swollen hands, sprained wrists, and bruised legs and shoulders.

At least seven people were killed according to DJ Switch, a popular disc jockey who broadcast live from the scene on Instagram. In the video, protesters were seen struggling to remove bullets from injured protesters.

In other footage, protesters carrying bloodied Nigerian flags were seen begging security officials to allow medics to treat victims.

Rights group Amnesty International said at least 12 people were killed by soldiers and police in Lagos.

Nigeria’s vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, said on Wednesday night that his “heart goes out” to the victims of the shooting.

The president, Muhammadu Buhari, said he would make a national broadcast on Thursday evening, following the escalation of violence.

Questions are still being raised over who ordered the shooting, given that the state governor of Lagos, who has already blamed “forces beyond our direct control”, does not have constitutional rights to order the army.

Governor Sanwo-Olu said in an interview with AriseTV on Thursday morning that he had not spoken with the president directly about the Lekki shooting.

Burnt vehicles outside the TVC television station in LagosReuters TV
Burnt vehicles outside the TVC television station in LagosReuters TV

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said on Thursday that her office is keeping a close eye on developments in Africa's most populous country.

The protests erupted two weeks ago after a video circulated online showing Sars operatives allegedly throwing Joshua Ambrose out of a moving car in Ughelli, a town in Delta State.

The video enraged viewers and the hashtag #EndSars started trending again with people’s experiences flooding the internet.

Young Nigerians shared their stories of alleged abuse, extortion, torture, and extrajudicial killings at the hands of the Sars unit.

President Buhari last week pledged to dissolve the police unit and to enforce reforms, but given the deep distrust young Nigerians have for the government, thousands of young people have continued to demonstrate.

* Names have been changed

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