The Nigerian authorities must immediately end excessive use of force against protesters, Amnesty International says, after at least one person was killed in Kwara state during protests over fuel price rises.
Witnesses say a student, 23-year-old Muyideen Mustapha, was shot by police attempting to disperse protesters in the state capital of Ilorin on Tuesday. Police officials claim he was stabbed to death by other protesters and say an investigation into the killing has been launched.
Police reportedly fired tear gas and beat protesters as demonstrations continued over the weekend.
“The police have a duty to protect lives and property and uphold the rule of law. It is therefore completely unacceptable for them to use live ammunition against protesters,” said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.
“The Nigerian authorities should respect and protect peoples’ rights to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution, and should instruct the police force to refrain from shooting at protesters,” she said.
Under a controversial regulation, known as “Police Force Order 237”, police officers can shoot at rioters or protesters whether or not they pose a threat to life. The regulation directs officers to fire “at the knees of the rioters” and explicitly prohibits firing in the air.
“Force Order 237 is being abused by police officers to commit, justify and cover up illegal killings at every given opportunity. This regulation goes against international standards and should be repealed immediately,” said Paule Rigaud.
Thousands of Nigerians in cities across the country have taken part in marches protesting against the removal of a state fuel subsidy, which has seen fuel prices and transport fares double.
Civil society groups and labour unions have announced further protests on 9 and 11 January 2012.
“With more protests coming up, it’s essential that the Nigerian police publicly announce that the use of lethal force is only allowed when strictly unavoidable to protect life. This simple step could make a big difference to the number of unlawful police killings we are seeing in Nigeria,” said Paule Rigaud.
Amnesty International has documented numerous incidents of excessive and unlawful use of force by police and other security forces, especially during demonstrations.