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End Sars Protesters demonstrate Nigeria High Commission PA Kirsty O'Connor.jpg header2.jpg
PA Kirsty O'Connor
PA Kirsty O'Connor
World News

Nigeria's protest killings: Here's how you can pray

by Kelly Valencia

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari spoke to the nation about the unrest that has gripped the country in recent days, but without making any mention of the shootings of peaceful protesters at Lekki toll plaza on Tuesday night that prompted international outrage.

The military opened fire without warning on thousands of peaceful protesters singing the national anthem on Tuesday night, killing at least 38 people, according to Amnesty International.

The shootings have been widely condemned but Mr Buhari did not speak of them at all during his Thursday address, instead urging protesters to stop their demonstrations.

"This government will not allow anybody or (any) groups to disrupt the peace of the nation," he warned in his televised address, urging protesters to "resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating our nascent democracy."

"For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and law and order," he said.

"Under no circumstances would this be tolerated."

He called on Nigeria's youths "to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage the government in finding solutions.

"Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding."

At least 56 people have been killed in demonstrations that started two weeks ago after a video showing a man being beaten by police officers of the Special-Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) went viral. 

Social media has been flooded with pictures and videos since protests began and most recently has shown police firing at crowds. Olamide Udoma-

Ejorh runs a Lagos-based charity that advocates for better governance. 

She told Premier: "I was hearing from my friends who were watching it: gunshots, the army is here, they opened fire. [There were] very shocking moments. I just didn't believe that this could happen in our society in this day and age."

Udoma-Ejorh also explained that many Christians in Nigeria have joined the protests in order to pray peacefully.

"Even during the protests, prayer walks took place. On Sunday, there were prayer walks all over the country and these are not prayer walks with five or ten people; these are hundreds of people praying, walking through the streets of different cities in Nigeria. It clearly shows that this wasn't something that was meant to be violent, it was something that was meant to be peaceful."

For some Christians in Nigeria, the rawness of the events is taking a toll. Gospel Nigerian artist Gill Joe explained to Premier Gospel that he has found it difficult to pray.

"I had been praying prior to now but last night, looking at what happened, I just couldn't pray.

"I know I'm supposed to pray for my leaders but this time, I feel like cursing people because they've refused to change… it is so heart-breaking because I'm thinking: wait, if my brother was shot in this protest…would I wake up and pray for my leaders?"

Earlier this week, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged the Nigerian government to take action.

"I am deeply concerned by the recent violence and continued clashes in Nigeria and am alarmed by widespread reports of civilian deaths," he said. 

"We call for an end to violence. The Nigerian government must urgently investigate reports of brutality at the hands of the security forces and hold those responsible to account."

However such statements alone are not enough for Khataza Gondwe, from persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide. She told Premier that international condemnation is needed.

"The government of the UK, in particular, hasn't spoken up more strongly and begun to initiate action to show that it's seriously displeased with what's going on," she said. 

The demonstrations have affected the Nigeria capital, Lagos, as well as other cities including Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Asaba, and Uyo.
Udoma-Ejorh remains hopeful that the demonstrations will bring lasting change in Nigeria.

"I feel there is going to be some light at the end of the tunnel... some victory at the end. But there has to be a bit of a struggle. It's just sad that people's lives had to be taken at this point…. that we had to get to this point before change could happen."
 

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