Nigeria’s army says it is ready to maintain law and order and deal decisively with any situation created by “trouble makers”, while demonstrators calling for an end to police brutality promise to keep up nationwide protests.
(African Stand) — Nigeria’s army has warned it could step in against “subversive elements and troublemakers” as the protests against police brutality that have erupted throughout the country over the past week continue.
Thousands of mainly young people have taken to the streets to protest against the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad, commonly known as Sars, long accused of unlawful killings and abuse, and against wider police brutality.
At least 10 people have died and dozens injured in the demonstrations, which have been met with force by police units.
In response to what has become the most significant protest movement in Nigeria in decades, the authorities this week announced that Sars would be dissolved. A new unit, the Special Weapons, and Tactics (Swat) team was announced. But protests have continued to escalate, with many demanding the government commit to prosecuting Sars officers and compensating victims.
As the violence intensified, the army warned on Thursday morning that it was “ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively”.
“All officers and men are directed never to be distracted by anti-democratic forces and agents of disunity,” a statement said.
Public fury over police brutality in Nigeria and the government’s response to allegations of human rights abuses by security forces have driven the protests, in a country where experiences of abuse by officers are widespread.
This week videos of groups s wielding machetes and clubs attacking protesters have been posted online.
One group attacked protesters outside the Lagos state government building on Thursday, prompting outrage that the attackers could seemingly move freely against protesters in what is normally a well-policed area.
More than £100,000 has been raised to send food, water, and first aid supplies to protestors, and to cover medical fees for the injured. Hundreds of lawyers have volunteered to represent those arrested. Public figures around the world have spoken out in support of the protests, including Marcus Rashford, John Boyega, and P Diddy.