Nigeria: Police must stop using live ammunition on unarmed fuel protesters

The Nigerian authorities must immediately end excessive use of force against protesters, Amnesty International said today after at least one person was killed in Kwara state on Tuesday 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 that an investigation into the killing has been launched.

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.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Director Paule Rigaud said:

“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.
“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.
“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 This regulation goes against international standards and should be repealed immediately.”

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.  An indefinite strike has been announced by the main trade unions in the country, along with mass demonstrations from Monday, unless the removal of a fuel subsidy is reversed.

Paule Rigaud said: “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.”

Amnesty International has documented numerous incidents of excessive and unlawful use of force by police and other security forces in Nigeria, especially during demonstrations.

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