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Nigerian army killed unarmed protesters last year: Leaked judicial report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Nigerian protesters are seen at the Lekki tollgate, in Lagos, Nigeria, in October last year. (Photo by AFP)

A leaked judicial report in Nigeria says the country's army shot and "killed unarmed" protesters last year in a crackdown that could be considered a "massacre."

The report was prepared by the independent judicial commission, which was set up by Lagos' state government to investigate the shooting and killing of unarmed citizens protesting against police brutality in the commercial capital in October last year.

The military repeatedly denied that troops opened fire with live rounds during the protests. Rights watchdog Amnesty International said at the time though that at least 10 people had been killed.

"The panel finds that the firing of live bullets by the army at genuine protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020 resulted in grievous injuries and the loss of lives of the protesters," the report said.

According to the 300-page report, "officers of the Nigerian Army shot, injured, and killed unarmed helpless and defenseless protesters, without provocation or justification."

"The manner of assault and killing could in context be described as a massacre," said the report, which was leaked to the media only hours after it was submitted to the Lagos state government on Monday.

It said 11 people were killed and a further 21 were wounded by gunshots at the site of the protests.

The commission also said police officers tried to cover up their actions by picking up empty bullet shells.

"The panel also found that the conduct of the Nigerian Army was exacerbated by its refusal to allow ambulances render medical assistance to victims," it said.

Officers involved in the atrocities should be prosecuted and state authorities should provide a public apology, the report said.

Last month, Nigeria's Information Minister Lai Mohammed dismissed claims that troops had shot and killed peaceful protesters, saying "there was no massacre" at the tollgate.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has promised a proper response to the panel's recommendations, saying that its decision would be published within the next two weeks.

The report was supposed to be confidential until the state government releases it.

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