Nigerian judicial commission found “unmitigated killings and inhuman treatment” of people protesting the 2019 toll gate project in Lagos state, which was followed by an attack on protesters that saw more than 30 people killed in the latest violence in the continent’s largest oil-producing country.
A statement released late Thursday by the the Commission of Enquiry, a panel established by the National Assembly to investigate the incident, described the incident as a “massacre, murder and other crimes against humanity.” The shooting erupted about a week ago after demonstrators blocked construction of the highway.
“The acts by the security agencies on September 28, 2019, are revolting, uncalled for and constitute serious breaches of the Criminal Code,” the statement said. “I hereby declare this shooting a massacre, murder and other crimes against humanity. I have no hesitation in this regard.”
Nigeria’s police, on Friday, said 32 people died in the shooting, as did a more recent report from the Lagos state Emergency Management Agency.
The commission also found that military personnel stationed on the affected road opened fire on the protesters without provocation, as well as on unarmed civilians watching the protest. The panel’s investigators interviewed survivors who gave detailed accounts of security forces shooting at people from both sides of the bridge.
After the shooting, security forces severely beat journalists covering the protest and other acts of violence, the commission found.
Amnesty International describes at least seven shootings and 60 acts of violence that resulted in death since the tollgate project became a major political flashpoint. The tollgate-associated violence has drawn the ire of both the opposition and the ruling party as the political temperature in the presidential race increases.
Nigeria’s lawmakers passed the tollgate legislation this year, following years of delays. While opposition parties accused former President Muhammadu Buhari of being soft on corruption by pushing through the project, Buhari said the project would ease congestion and bring new investment to the city.