At least 56 people have died across Nigeria since the #EndSARS protests began on October 8, with 38 killed across the country on Tuesday alone, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
Unrest continued on Thursday when gunshots rang out in the affluent Ikoyi neighborhood of Lagos, an eyewitness told CNN. Adukeo Ogundiya, a 22-year-old staying at a hotel opposite the Ikoyi correctional facility, said she saw fire and smoke coming out of the prison.
“I saw people jumping out and the fire is getting really crazy, everywhere the clouds were dark,” she told CNN. “Then for [sic] next 30 minutes there were [sic] shooting, they opened fire, just shooting.”
Ogundiya said she wasn’t sure who was shooting, and saw people in plain clothes jumping over fences.
Military personnel were deployed and all roads leading to the prison are blocked. A police officer at one road block confirmed to CNN that the fire may have been started by someone inside the prison.
A witness living near the prison, Foluke Dede, told CNN a crowd had gathered at the prison and set offices ablaze before the police and army arrived. “We saw some of the prisoners try to break through a wall to the right side of the prison,” she said.
There are also reports of a warehouse containing food and medical supplies in Lagos being ransacked. Videos showed hundreds of people inside the warehouse, which held coronavirus relief supplies, carrying away whatever they could.
Multiple eyewitnesses and Amnesty International told CNN that at least 12 demonstrators had been shot dead at Lekki toll gate and another site on Tuesday by Army soldiers, who then took the bodies away.
In a televised address on Thursday evening, President Muhammadu Buhari urged protestors to take advantage of the reforms that the government was implementing, and “resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos.”
The president called on Nigerian “youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.”
Nigerians had called on President Muhammadu Buhari to apologize for the onslaught. Before Thursday’s address, he had only asked for “understanding and calm” in a statement issued on Wednesday and signed by his special adviser Femi Adesina, which did not mention the attacks.
“I don’t even know how I feel, I want the president to say sorry,” Wofai Fada, a Nigerian actor, told CNN. “He must tell us something, ask for time or something, you’ll make it up to us.”
Fada said she would go out to protest again, even though she is scared, because “this is more than police brutality, this is about transformation.”
“We don’t have jobs, university graduates are bus conductors. We need reform but please don’t kill us.”
Eyewitnesses say the army barricaded the protesters at Lekki and refused to allow ambulances through.
Darlington, a 23-year-old who spoke to CNN on condition that only his first name was used, said he saw many victims being shot.
“I was not injured but I was stained in blood, stained in the victims’ blood,” he told CNN. “Then some kind-hearted Nigerians sent down some paramedics and ambulances but the army barricaded them and stopped them getting through the toll gate.”
Idea Chukwuma Innocent was at the protest when shooting started. He told CNN that when ambulances weren’t allowed through he transported 12 people to two different hospitals in his car and donated blood with his brother.
“I couldn’t help the dead people, but I could help the injured,” he said. “I saw some bodies on the floor, I’m not going to lie about that. I saw some people who were dead and I saw some people who were still alive but struggling.”
He said the protests were calm and peaceful before the attack, with young Nigerians waving flags and singing songs.
Multiple witnesses told CNN they saw the army take the bodies away.
The Nigerian army claimed on Twitter that these reports were “fake news.” The Nigerian Army and police did not return requests for comment.
Several witnesses and Amnesty said CCTV camera were removed by government officials and the electricity was cut, which Amnesty said was “a clear attempt to hide evidence.”
The governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said nobody ordered the removal of cameras at the Lekki tollgate.
“The managing director of the Lekki Conservation Centre said because of the curfew, they made the decision to take out installations,” he told Arise TV in an interview on Thursday. “The cameras you saw are not security or motion cameras, they are laser cameras for vehicles.”
Violence was also reported by eyewitnesses and Amnesty in other parts of the city.
Raheem Olanrewaju spoke to CNN from his home at Herbert Macauley Way, in Ebute Metta, about 14km (9 miles) from the Lekki toll gate and woke up to gunshots on Wednesday.
“A fight broke out in my area between police and thugs,” he told CNN. “This led to direct shootings at the thugs.”
Amnesty said the killings took place in Lekki and Alausa, a district further north and which is the seat of power in Lagos. Eyewitnesses at the Alausa protest ground told the human rights group they were attacked by a team of soldiers and policemen from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) Unit at about 8 p.m. local time, leaving at least two people dead and one critically injured.
“Soldiers clearly had one intention – to kill without consequences,” said the country director of Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho, in a statement on Wednesday.
Protests against police brutality following the attacks on Tuesday took place across the world.
In London a couple of hundred people gathered outside the Nigerian High Commission building on Wednesday, waving placards saying EndSARS and leading chants of “Buhari must go.”
“He [Buhari] has created the greatest atrocity,” said Oyedoyin Olajide, a 34-year-old from Camberwell, south London, who works in education. “No one has massacred the youth of Nigeria like this.”
In the United States, between 150 and 200 people walked peacefully from the Consulate General of Nigeria in Midtown Manhattan toward the United Nations building, said Shola Tijani, a student in New York who was at the protest.
“It’s paramount for Nigerians to raise awareness as the government have failed its people and turned [sic] murderers,” he said.
Videos on social media show demonstrations taking place in other African countries like South Africa, Kenya and Ghana.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, called for an end to the brutality and abuse on Wednesday.
“The Secretary-General urges the security forces to act at all times with maximum restraint while calling on protestors to demonstrate peacefully and to refrain from violence,” said his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, in a statement.
He joined a chorus of international voices which included US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this country strongly condemns the use of excessive force by military forces and welcomes an immediate investigation.
“We call on the security services to show maximum restraint and respect fundamental rights and for demonstrators to remain peaceful.,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
CNN’s Eleni Giokos and Fridah Okutoyi contributed to this report.