Billionaire philanthropist Mo Ibrahim has questioned the Nigerian government over the crackdown on unarmed civilians at a protest against a questionable police unit that spilled into wider calls for better governance.

Human rights monitor Amnesty International has said security forces shot and killed 12 people during the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, on October 20.

But the military last week denied shooting live rounds, insisting that soldiers only fired blanks at the crowds who had gathered in defiance of a curfew.

“I really don’t understand why the government needed to attack peaceful demonstrators,” Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British businessman who made his fortune in telecoms, told AFP.

“This is what bothers me, this closing of space, of civil society. The right of people to stand up and say their views is a sacred right, and that was totally unacceptable.”