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US considers visa restriction on officials culpable in the shooting of #EndSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Plaza

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The United States Government may impose a visa restriction on persons found culpable in the shooting of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos on Tuesday.

Soldiers deployed to quell the protests had opened fire on protesters while they sang to the Nigerian National anthem and waved the flags – Nigerians who weren’t in Lekki in hundreds followed the events on livestreams across Social media.

While the Defence headquarters denied deploying soldiers in the Lekki Toll Plaza, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu insisted the military carried out the shooting on the peaceful protesters at the toll plaza.

In its response, the US embassy stated, “We stand by Secretary Pompeo’s statement of October 8, 2020: Adherence to these democratic norms and to the rule of law allows all citizens to engage in political dialogue and support their choice of candidates, parties, and platforms.

“We will watch closely the actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process and will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions.”

The spokesperson for the State Department, Morgan Ortagus, said in a statement that the officials were led by the Counsellor of the US State Department, Ulrich Brechbühl.

Others at the meeting include Assistant Secretary Robert Destro and Assistant Secretary Denise Natali.

The officials, according to the statement, raised concerns over the ongoing violence in Nigeria as well as human rights violations and human trafficking.

The statement read in part, “Counsellor T. Ulrich Brechbühl met with Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo today in Abuja, Nigeria as part of a previously scheduled delegation, which included Assistant Secretary Robert Destro and Assistant Secretary Denise Natali, to raise US concerns about ongoing violence in Nigeria, human rights, religious freedom, and trafficking in persons, and to hear from senior Nigerian government officials how they are addressing those issues.

“The counsellor expressed the US condemnation of the use of excessive force by military forces that fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos. He expressed condolences to the victims of these shootings and urged the government of Nigeria to abide by its commitment to hold those responsible accountable under the law.”

According to the statement, Osinbajo, as well as the counsellor, noted that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles.

“Counsellor Brechbühl and Vice-President Osinbajo emphasised the importance of US and Nigerian collaboration on common goals of improving security cooperation and strengthening economic partnership to foster mutual prosperity,” the statement read.

The Nigerian Army had on Wednesday denied that soldiers were at the toll plaza despite eyewitnesses’ accounts and video evidence showing soldiers shooting. International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, had also acknowledged receipts of complaints over the incident.

She tweeted, “My office has been closely following the events around the current protests in Nigeria and the reaction of Nigeria’s law enforcement and security agencies.

“Any loss of life or injury is concerning. We have received information alleging crimes and are keeping a close eye on developments, in case violence escalates and any indications arise on that Rome Statute crimes may have been committed.”

Thousands of Nigerians continue to march in cities within and outside Nigeria demanding an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, a police unit accused of extrajudicial killings and abuses.

The government announced the unit had been disbanded, but many Nigerians are skeptical, as officials have promised an end to the unit and its alleged abuses before.

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