Nigeria's police have ordered the immediate mobilization of all resources to reclaim the streets, which have become the scene of unprecedented violence and looting, after police shot peaceful protesters in Lagos earlier this week.
The Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu told the police force that "enough is enough" and ordered officers to "use all legitimate means to halt a further slide into lawlessness,” the police force said in a tweet on Saturday.
Adamu "warns troublemakers not to test the collective will of the nation by coming out to cause any further breakdown of law and order,” it said.
Adamu also called on people to “join forces with the police and other members of the law enforcement community to protect their communities from the criminal elements,” the force said.
The demonstrations dominated by young people began earlier this month against police brutality, but turned violent after police opened fire on unarmed protesters during a round-clock curfew in the country's biggest city, Lagos, on Tuesday, .
Protesters had called for a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars), to be disbanded.
The unit, accused of harassment, extortion, torture and extra-judicial killings, was dissolved by President Muhammadu Buhari days later, but the protests have continued following reports that some members from the disbanded unit were hired for other roles.
Security forces killed at least 12 people on Tuesday, said Rights group Amnesty International, but Nigeria's army has denied any involvement in the killings.
On Wednesday, authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew on millions of people in Lagos and several states.
This prompted protest organizers to call on people on Friday to stay at home.
President Buhari said on Friday that officials had recorded 69 fatalities and 37 injuries — mainly civilians, but also officers and soldiers — as a result of “hooliganism” in recent weeks.
Buhari had sparked harsh criticism for not mentioning Tuesday’s killings in a national address Thursday, when he instead warned citizens against “undermining national security.”
He further escalated the violence by saying security forces had exercised “extreme restraint” in handling the situation.
His government insisted that the peaceful protests have been hijacked by thugs.
US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said this week that Washington “must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy.”
“I urge President Buhari and the Nigerian military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths,” Biden said Thursday.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also reacted to the violence in Nigeria, saying that the US “strongly condemns the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos.”
The Tuesday violence in Lagos has been the worst since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999.
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