UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, condemned the use of excessive and disproportionate force against protesters by the Nigerian Armed Forces in Lagos on Tuesday evening during the Lekki Toll Plaza shootings.
The Commissioner disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday evening, and called for steps to deal with the underlying problem of persistent violations committed by the security forces, and make a far stronger effort to bring to justice, the Police and Army personnel guilty of crimes against civilians.
“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” Bachelet said.
She added that reports of CCTV cameras and lighting being disabled before the shooting was “disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned, and coordinated.”
“Nigeria was already at boiling point before this shooting because of the revelations about years of unchecked violence, including alleged killings, rape, extortion, and other violations by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“There need to be immediate, independent, transparent, and thorough investigations, not just into last night’s killings, but also into all the previous violations committed by security forces.
“Those appointed to carry out such investigations must not only be independent and impartial but must be widely perceived as such. And, where sufficient evidence already exists to warrant charges, immediate suspension of officers – including senior officers suspected of committing serious crimes, should take place long before the conclusion of such investigations,” Bachelet added.
She said Nigerians have a fundamental right to peaceful protests and urged that the FG’s responsibility is to take positive measures to ensure the realization of this right, including deterring others who intend to prevent them from protesting peacefully.
“The world’s attention is now focused sharply on how Nigeria’s Government and security forces react over the coming days and weeks.”
She urged that reparations be paid to the victims and a panel be set up to address the issues young Nigerians face with police brutality.
“In a population with such a young median age, it is important to listen to the grievances of the younger generation and make an effort to address the multiple problems they face, which include – but are far from confined to – police brutality and violations.”