AMERICAN government officials have told Nigeria that the soldiers behind the recent shooting of innocent and harmless protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State must be brought to book.
On Tuesday evening, the men of the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army opened fire on unarmed protesters at the toll gate, in what is being referred to as Nigeria’s Sharpeville Massacre. Over the last fortnight, the young and peaceful protesters had been demonstrating against police brutality and had been calling for the dissolution of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) police unit.
Early this week, however, the nationwide protests descended into violence as government-sponsored thugs attacked protesters. In response, hoodlums attacked police stations and officers of the force, sending the whole nation up in flames, to which Governor Sanwoolu responded with a curfew due to start at 4pm in Tuesday.
As dusk approached, workers at the toll gate began removing the CCTV cameras at the facility, so what was being planned would not be recorded. Then, under the cover of darkness, the Nigerian Army attacked shooting at unarmed civilians, killing dozens and injuring scores.
These shootings have fuelled anger at home and abroad with the Nigerian government now seen as an international pariah over the incident. Yesterday, senior officials of the US government met with vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo and expressed displeasure over the incident, demanding that the soldiers behind the shootings must be brought to book.
State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus, said that the officials were led by Counsellor Ulrich Brechbühl, while others at the meeting included assistant secretary Robert Destro and assistant secretary Denise Natali. They raised concerns over the ongoing violence in Nigeria as well as human rights violations and human trafficking.
Mr Ortagus said: “Counsellor Ulrich Brechbühl met with Nigerian vice president Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, Nigeria as part of a previously scheduled delegation, which included assistant secretary Robert Destro and assistant secretary Denise Natali, to raise US concerns about ongoing violence in Nigeria, human rights, religious freedom, and trafficking in persons and to hear from senior Nigerian government officials how they are addressing those issues.
“The counsellor expressed the US condemnation of the use of excessive force by military forces that fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos. He expressed condolences to the victims of these shootings and urged the government of Nigeria to abide by its commitment to hold those responsible accountable under the law.”
At the meeting, Professor Osinbajo noted that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles. Counsellor Brechbühl and Professor Osinbajo emphasised the importance of US and Nigerian collaboration on common goals of improving security cooperation and strengthening economic partnership to foster mutual prosperity.