Nigerian officials have issued a 24-hour curfew in the nation's largest city, Lagos. Local officials have restricted travel through the city to first responders and essential service providers. Schools have also been closed and students will be limited to virtual learning.
"Imposing this curfew was difficult, especially as we have just returned from a COVID-19 required lockdown. This curfew will allow security officials to immediately restore order to the state, arrest thugs and miscreants that have disrupted the peace," Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu tweeted.
"Peaceful protesters and residents of Lagos should obey the curfew and stay in their homes to allow our security forces [to] take immediate action to de-escalate all the issues of violence occurring at this time."
The political move comes in response to prolonged protests against local officials and the brutality many citizens have faced at the hands of the nation's Special Anti-Robbery Squad. SARS was disbanded on October 11 after members of the unit allegedly shot and killed a young man in Delta State. The disbanded unit will be replaced by a police force trained by the the International Committee of the Red Cross. However, citizens say that is not enough.
"There are many demands, but the main one is to scrap SARS, not to reform it but to completely end it. Another demand is compensation for victims of SARS brutality, both alive and dead. We also want a committee that will investigate and look into the present and past grievances around SARS brutality," Nigerian activist Feyikemi Abudu said.
Adding on, citizens have asked for independent oversight and psychological evaluation of officers. However, their calls for reform have been met with physical force. On Tuesday, Amnesty International said that protesters were being attacked by "thugs and sponsored hoodlums." On Monday, reports of a teenager being tortured and killed while in police custody emerged. Other reports show instances in which protesters and journalists were attacked by police and outside agitators.
"Police officers ambushed my friend and I, grabbed my phone and smashed it on the floor. I was not aggressive, but it did not stop them from beating me up, from ganging up on me and hitting me. I was saying my last prayers. I really thought my life was going to end," Nigerian writer and political analyst Gimba Kakanda said about her experience protesting.
Despite the inherent risk, Nigerian demonstrators are committed to doing what it takes to create positive change across the country.
"We were happy that our dream is coming to reality. We worked hard for this. We will not stop the fight. We lost innocent lives to the hands of brutal men. Justice will be served. We keep the change alive," local organizers tweeted.
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