Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

Nigeria’s police order massive mobilisation after unrest

Peaceful unrest turned violent leaving at least 69 dead after soldiers opened fire on protesters last Tuesday

Nigeria’s top police official on Saturday ordered the immediate mobilisation of all officers to “reclaim the public space from criminal elements masquerading as protesters” after days of peaceful demonstrations over police abuses and then violent unrest that left at least 69 people dead.

The police order could further heighten tensions in Africa’s most populous country after its worst turmoil in years. Nigeria’s inspector general of police, M A Adamu, ordered colleagues to “dominate the public space” while announcing that enough is enough, a statement said.

The unrest, unprecedented since the 1999 return to civilian rule, is the most serious political crisis confronting President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler elected in 2015. Curfews have been imposed on millions of people in recent days in response to violence and looting in parts of the country.

Nigerians on Tuesday evening watched in horror as soldiers fired on a peaceful crowd of mostly youthful demonstrators singing the national anthem in the country’s largest city, Lagos, with Amnesty International reporting at least 12 killed.

Some dismayed Nigerians then criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for not mentioning the killings and instead warning citizens against “undermining national security.” The government has insisted that the protests, while well-intentioned, were hijacked by thugs who looted and burned vehicles and businesses in the two days after the soldiers opened fire.

Mr Buhari has said 51 civilians were killed, along with 11 police officers and seven soldiers.

The new police order came even as a 24-hour curfew loosened for the first time on Saturday in Lagos, a city of some 20 million where glittering wealth and grinding poverty are in sharp contrast, inflaming grievances over inequality and corruption.

As pockets of unrest flared again on Saturday in parts of the country, a spokesman for southern Cross River state said several buildings had been vandalised over the last two days including a shopping mall, a bank and electoral offices.

A round-the-clock curfew was reimposed on parts of the central city of Jos, just a day after it was relaxed on Friday, following the looting of emergency food supplies stored there by the disasters ministry, authorities said.

"This looting has spread to other facilities and is gradually degenerating thereby threatening the peace and security of the state," the governor of Plateau state, Simon Lalong, said in a statement.

Updated: October 25, 2020 03:19 PM

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