Nigerian Ports Authority HQ Burned in Lagos Protests

omoeko media, nigerian ports aurhtority
Nigerian Ports Authority headquarters, 2019 (Omoeko Media / CC SA 4.0)

Published Oct 22, 2020 6:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

The headquarters of the Nigeria Ports Authority on Lagos Island has been affected by a fire amidst ongoing anti-police-brutality protests, according to local accounts. Two videos from the scene show a large blaze adjacent to the building's rear facade, followed by an expansion of the fire into the upper stories. 

The incident was part of a wave of unrest and violence following an attack by Nigerian security services on a crowd of civilians at the Lekki Bridge tollgate on Tuesday night. Amnesty International reports that at least 12 were killed that night, including victims at a second incident at Alausa. 56 have died nationwide since protests broke out October 8. 

Other damaged properties in Lagos include the Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge toll plaza, the Ikoyi prison complex, the headquarters of Television Continental and the offices of Nigerian newspaper The Nation.

The protests began early this month as a popular uprising against alleged abuses by the Nigerian Police Force's Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which has been accused of kidnapping, extortion, torture and other criminal activity for decades. On October 11, in response to the protests, the Nigerian government promised that it will disband the unit - the fourth time that it has suggested that SARS will be reformed. However, the protests have continued with calls for an investigation and the prosecution of individual SARS officers. The list of popular demands has also expanded to include a general reduction in police brutality.

In a statement Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the use of lethal force against unarmed protesters. 

“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces," Bachelet said. “Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned and coordinated."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attack in a statement Wednesday, and he said that the United States would "welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces." 

The Nigerian Police Force has denied any involvement in the attacks, and the Nigerian Army has said that there were no soldiers present. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Thursday that he is "deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost," but he emphasized the need to restore security and did not call for an investigation. 

The U.S. embassy in Lagos has closed as a precautionary measure, and it has warned American citizens in Nigeria to stay away from the protests. 

“U.S. citizens in Lagos State are advised to respect the ongoing 24-hour, round the clock curfew.  We urge all U.S. citizens to avoid areas around demonstrations and to check local media for updates and traffic advisories," the embassy recommended. “As a result of Lagos State’s ongoing 24-hour curfew, the Consulate General in Lagos, including the consular section, remains closed to the public."