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Nigeria: Curfew in Lagos amid anti-police brutality protests

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Governor of Lagos state declares a 24-hour curfew across Nigeria’s biggest city in the wake of growing protests.

A 24-hour curfew has come into force in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, following almost two weeks of mass protests against police brutality.

Declaring the measure on Tuesday, Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu wrote on Twitter the protests had “degenerated into a monster”.

“Nobody except essential service providers and first responders must be found on the streets” would be allowed on the street from 4pm local time (15:00 GMT), he said.

“Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state.

“We will not watch and allow anarchy in our dear state,” the governor added, a day after the southern state of Edo imposed a similar curfew after a jailbreak by prisoners during protests.

Tensions running high

Thousands of people have taken to the streets every day for nearly two weeks across Nigeria to demand an end to police violence, as well as sweeping reforms in the country.

Lagos, a city of some 20 million people, has been paralysed as crowds have blocked key roads and access to the international airport.

On Tuesday, a police station in the Orile Iganmu area of Lagos was set ablaze, TV news station Channels reported, prompting Nigeria’s police chief to order the immediate nationwide deployment of the country’s anti-riot unit.

A police spokesman said in a statement that the anti-riot officers were being dispatched “to protect lives and property of all Nigerians and secure critical national infrastructure across the country”.

Some demonstrators in Lagos have accused authorities of using agitators to create the conditions for a security crackdown, a charge the authorities deny.

Meanwhile in the capital, Abuja, crowds were violently dispersed by security forces on Tuesday and thick black smoke could be seen over the city, according to reports.

The peaceful and largely leaderless protests, organised under the #EndSARS hashtag, began with calls to scrap a notorious police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which was long been accused of extortion, torture and extrajudicial killings.After days of widespread demonstrations, the authorities announced the dissolution of SARS and later ordered all personnel to report to the police headquarters in the capital, Abuja, for debriefing and psychological and medical examination. Meanwhile, the forming of a new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team was announced to replace SARS.

However, the announcements did not satisfy protesters, who viewed them as just another renaming exercise and pledged to stay on the streets until promises are delivered and their demands – including the release of those arrested – are met.

Officials have called for protesters to suspend the demonstrations to give the government time to make good on its pledges.

Early in the protests, police fired on protesters in the Surulere area of Lagos and elsewhere. Armed gangs have attacked protesters in Lagos and Abuja, where demonstrators besieged the headquarters of SARS.

On Monday, Amnesty International said at least 15 people had been killed since the protests began. The rights group said two police officers were among the victims while hundreds of people have been wounded.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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