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Lekki Massacre: US reaffirms visa ban policy for anti-democratic forces

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.

WITHIN NIGERIA recalls that Soldiers deployed to quell the protests on Tuesday at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos opened fire on peaceful protesters.

While the Defence headquarters has 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.

The governor said, “For clarity, it is imperative to explain that no sitting governor controls the rules of engagement of the military. I have, nonetheless, ordered an investigation into the rules of engagement adopted by men of the Nigerian Army that were deployed to the Lekki tollgate last night.”

Although the casualty figure remains a subject of controversy, global rights group, Amnesty International, says 12 persons were killed in the incident.

Also, President Muhammadu Buhari says 69 people have been killed in protests against police brutality that have rocked the country.

Meanwhile, in an email inquiry by PUNCH to the US Foreign Mission to Nigeria on whether those found wanting in the shootings would be banned from visiting the US.

The email enquiry read, “With regard to the shootings at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos and attack on protesters in various parts of the country, will the United States Government be considering a visa ban on persons found wanting in the last few weeks?”

In its response, the 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.”

Earlier, senior officials of the United States Government on Thursday met with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and expressed displeasure over the shootings.

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.

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