The Nigerian Joint Task Force operating in the troubled Niger Delta region opened fires on protesters without provocation, reports have claimed. The demonstrators were protesting slum house demolition in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
According to the reports, officers in armored personnel carriers opened fire at a crowd of protesters, many of which were women. At least 12 people were seriously wounded from gunshots and the number of dead remains unknown.
“Police and JTF (Joint Task Force) came shooting, and everybody scattered and … they followed the persons down the water front and everybody fled … swimming across the creek and they were still shooting,” AFP quoted an eyewitness as saying.
And whilst the Rivers State government insists no shooting took place, London-based rights group Amnesty International and a Nigerian body, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), on Monday demanded an independent investigation into the occurrence.
“Excessive use of force, including the use of firearms, must be investigated. The excessive use of force seen in the Bundu shooting is just one of many examples of the brutality with which the police and army operate throughout Nigeria. Yet few officers are held accountable. There must be an end to the impunity enjoyed by Nigeria’s security forces,” Amnesty International researcher Lucy Freeman was quoted.
The Nigerian government had planned to demolish houses in Bundu, an unplanned waterfront settlement of Port Harcourt, but met with protest from Bundu residents last year. On Monday, a similar protest was allegedly broken by excessive police force.
SERAP, however, has vowed to take the state government to the regional Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) court for rights violations by deploying the armed forces to put down a protest.