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Ugly scenes in Lagos as security operatives shoot peaceful #EndSARS protesters

The peaceful protesters who have shut down the toll gate for over one week were attacked late on Tuesday.

Eyewitnesses have reported Nigerian soldiers fired at peaceful #EndSARS protesters who waved the nation's flag and sang the national anthem at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos on Tuesday evening

As part of nationwide demonstrations, hundreds of protesters had shut down the lucrative toll gate for over one week demanding comprehensive police reform.

State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, imposed a 24-hour curfew on Tuesday afternoon after an uptick of violence from thugs who tried to hijack the peaceful demonstrations.

Scores of protesters refused to leave the toll gate despite the curfew which was originally set to commence at 4 pm, but has now been extended to 9 pm.

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Eyewitnesses at the toll gate, who streamed live videos on Instagram, reported numerous deaths and gunshot injuries sustained by peaceful protesters.

Gunshots could also be heard going off non-stop in the livestreamed videos.

One of the protesters on the scene reported that he had seen the corpses of seven people in the chaos that ensued on Tuesday night.

Many of the protesters were trapped at one of Lagos' busiest intersections after security forces blocked both exits according to Obianuju Udeh, a disc jockey popularly called DJ Switch, whose Instagram livestream of Tuesday night's shooting was watched by over 130,000 people.

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"There are soldiers everywhere and they came in guns blazing," she said.

DJ Switch and others on the scene were filmed trying desperately to give first aid treatment to those injured, including trying unsuccessfully to remove a bullet from a man's thigh.

Ambulances and medical personnel dispatched to the toll gate by private individuals to help injured protesters were denied access by security forces, according to eyewitness accounts also posted online.

DJ Switch's livestream was filmed mostly in the dark with dozens of protesters huddled together at the usually well-lit toll gate, managed by the Lekki Concession Company (LCC).

A couple of men who claimed to be government officials had been pictured earlier on Tuesday reportedly removing security cameras at the toll gate.

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The LED screens of the advertising billboards that illuminated the area were also switched off, a move that raised suspicions on Tuesday that the violent crackdown was planned by the government.

The Army has called reports that its soldiers were responsible for Tuesday night's bloodletting "Fake News" but has refused to issue a comprehensive statement.

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Tuesday night's escalation was a sad turn for two weeks of largely peaceful demonstrations against police brutality that kicked off after a video emerged online alleging that police officers shot a young man who was in their custody.

Protests that started in Delta, where the incident in the video happened, soon spread to other parts of the country with Lagos and Abuja attracting the most attention.

The protesters demanded the scrapping of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force owing to the well-documented history of extra-judicial activities of the unit's officers.

The government's dissolution of SARS one week into the protests failed to end the demonstrations as protesters doubted the Force's commitment to the dissolution, especially in light of failed promises to reform the unit in the past.

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The hasty creation of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit to replace SARS also added to the public's distrust as the unit was regarded as merely a changing of name, despite the Force's promise that former SARS officers won't be recruited to SWAT.

Many state governments have also set up judicial panels to investigate allegations against SARS officers, but the protesters have insisted that enough has not been done.

The Federal Government, state governments, and lawmakers in the National Assembly have appealed to protesters to leave the streets and give room for dialogue, but the lack of a central leadership for the demonstrations has frustrated the government's efforts.

The violent crackdown by police officers in the early days of the demonstrations led to the death of at least 10 protesters in some states across the country, including Lagos.

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At least two police officers were also killed in Delta and Lagos.

Thugs have also been allowed free rein to attack protesters across the country, leading to the death of peaceful protesters in Edo, and more recently in Abuja where four were killed by thugs over the weekend.

Two prisons were attacked in Edo State on Monday, October 19, 2020, with nearly 2,000 inmates freed, while three police stations were also burnt down, leading Governor Godwin Obaseki to impose a 24-hour curfew.

The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, earlier on Tuesday directed the deployment of anti-riot police unit, the Police Mobile Force (PMF), to quell the spate of violence.

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