Nigerian security forces fired on demonstrators protesting slum house demolition, including by shooting those fleeing in swampy Niger Delta waters, a report published Monday said.
One of the victims of the shooting, Fubara Samuel, said the security forces came in military vehicles and charged at a crowd of protestors, many of them women.
“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,” he told AFP.
Residents of Bundu, an unplanned waterfront settlement of Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil hub, had on October 12 last year protested government’s plans to demolish their houses.
London-based rights group Amnesty International and a Nigerian body, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), on Monday launched a report demanding an independent investigation into the incident.
Witnesses claimed that, without provocation, security forces in armoured personnel carriers opened fire, initially with warning shots before aiming at the crowd.
The Rivers State government denies that any shooting took place.
“Those allegations are not factual,” state commissioner for information Ibim Semenitari told AFP, adding “there were no incidents of any shooting or killing on that day.”
Belinda Joy Williams, 18, said she was wounded in the leg by a stray bullet from across the creek as she tried to shut a gate to her family house.
“We want development, not bullets; we want clean water, not blood,” she told reporters at the launch of the report.
Amnesty International wants Nigeria to set up an independent inquiry into the shootings.
“Excessive use of force, including the use of firearms, must be investigated,” Amnesty International researcher Lucy Freeman said.
“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,” she added.
“Yet few officers are held accountable. There must be an end to the impunity enjoyed by Nigeria’s security forces.”
SERAP director Adetokunbo Mumuni described the security forces’ action as “executive lawlessness”.
“This lawlessness must be taken up,” he said, adding that SERAP is taking 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.
At least 12 people were seriously wounded from gunshots and the number of dead is not known, said the report. But eyewitnesses told Amnesty International they saw six bodies piled in the back of a police pick-up truck.