Authorities on Tuesday imposed a 24-hour curfew in Nigeria's economic hub Lagos as the police ordered out anti-riot units nationwide to face protests officials claimed had been hijacked by criminals.
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"Are you afraid?" a man shouted to the flag-waving crowd from a stage at a tollgate in the city centre that has become the epicentre of the demonstrations.
"We will stay here peacefully," 32-year-old demonstrator Akin told AFP. "This is our new home."
Protests that began 12 days ago over abuses by the police's loathed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) have spiralled dramatically with violence being reported in several cities.
Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered the shutdown after he said the protests had "degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society".
"Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem," he wrote on Twitter, insisting that only essential workers should stay out on the streets.
"We will not watch and allow anarchy in our dear state."
I, therefore, hereby impose a 24-hour curfew on all parts of the State as from 4pm today, 20th October,2020. Nobody, except essential service providers and first responders must be found on the streets.
— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) October 20, 2020
As the tone hardened from the authorities, Nigeria's police chief ordered anti-riot units deployed around the country.
"The force will henceforth exercise the full powers of the law to prevent any further attempt on lives and property of citizens," a statement said.
Some 18 people have died in the demonstrations as clashes have been reported between protesters and assailants wearing civilian clothes.
Rights groups and protesters have accused "thugs and sponsored hoodlums" of attacking the peaceful demonstrations and seeking to discredit the movement.
Lagos, a city of 20 million, has been paralysed as crowds have blocked key roads and access to the international airport.
An AFP journalist saw young men manning makeshift checkpoints and stopping cars on routes across the city early Tuesday.
Witnesses told AFP that a police station was set ablaze in the Orile Iganmu district of the city on Tuesday. They said police opened fire on protesters, wounding several.
In the capital Abuja, security forces violently dispersed crowds and thick black smoke could be seen over the city, an AFP photographer said.
Tensions were high after police reported that three people had been killed in clashes in the city on Monday.
Violence spread as well to the largest northern city of Kano as hundreds of people went on a rampage on Tuesday, burning vehicles and looting businesses according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
"The mob came near the school and began assaulting parents who had come to pick up their children," 35-year-old auto mechanic Sadiq MohammedRead More – Source