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Sports stars take to social media to condemn police brutality in Nigeria

Nigerian activist Aisha Yesufu tells CNN's Becky Anderson she's horrified by Nigerian forces opening fire on peaceful protesters in Lagos.

Posted: Oct 22, 2020 2:31 PM
Updated: Oct 22, 2020 2:31 PM

Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo and heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua took to social media to condemn police brutality in Nigeria, following eyewitness reports that soldiers opened fire on protesters in Lagos on Tuesday.

Demonstrators have taken part in daily protests across the country for nearly two weeks over widespread claims of kidnapping, harassment, and extortion by a police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Tuesday saw the state governor impose a 24-hour curfew and the deployment of anti-riot police to the city.

One witness at the protests, Akinbosola Ogunsanya, told CNN the shooting began after the lights were turned off at the Nigerian city's Lekki tollgate.

CNN has not yet been able to confirm casualties and the state governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said there were no fatalities.

Following Manchester United's 2-1 win against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, Nigerian forward Ighalo posted a video message on Twitter, pleading for intervention from world leaders as well as the United Nations.

"I'm sad and I don't know where to start from," Ighalo said from inside PSG's home stadium.

"The Nigerian government, you guys are a shame to the world for killing your own citizens, sending military to the streets to kill unarmed protesters because they are protesting for their rights. It's uncalled for."

He added: "I am ashamed of this government. We are tired of you guys and we can't take this anymore.

"I want to call my brothers and sisters back home to remain safe. Be indoors, please don't come [outside]. Because this government are killers and they will keep killing if the world does not talk about this."

Britain's world heavyweight boxing champion Joshua also tweeted a video on Tuesday with a message of support for the protestors.

Born in Watford, north west of London, to Nigerian parents, Joshua is proud of his connection to the African country.

The fighter has a tattoo of Africa etched on his right shoulder, with Nigeria visibly outlined.

"In my prayers at night, I'm praying for peace and positivity because I know the people on the ground aren't trying to be heard for their own benefit. It's of benefit for the next generation," he said.

Joshua later posted a succession of tweets: "The situation has escalated, the violence and killings are horrendous. All because of people saying they want to live in peace?

"I pray God opens the gates for the heroes of Nigeria! This was never a trend for me! It's real life and I want to learn how to make lasting change.

"I'm looking at hospitals to support, along with food and care packages in the time being."

READ: Odion Ighalo -- The footballer turning Nigerians into Manchester United fans

Former Nigeria international soccer star and two-time African Player of the Year Kanu Nwankwo also reacted to unconfirmed reports that protesters were killed during Tuesday's demonstrations.

"Pray for Nigeria [...] stop the killing and no more death #EndSARS #ReformTheNigeriaPolice," he tweeted.

"Why why why [...] stop killing our people #EndSARS #ReformPoliceNG #UnitedNationsHelpNigeria #UnitedNations #UnitedKingdom #UnitedStatesofAmerica."

The controversial police unit was disbanded on October 11 and a replacement force will be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Reuters reported Monday, but protesters in Nigeria have demanded further police reforms.

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