24-hour curfew imposed on Lagos amid anti-police brutality protests in Nigeria

CNN  — 

The governor of Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos imposed a state-wide curfew and deployed riot police on Tuesday in response to growing protests over police brutality in the country.

“Dear Lagosians, I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society,” Babajide Sanwo-Olu wrote in a tweet as he announced the 4 p.m. (local time) curfew for 24 hours.

Demonstrators have taken part in daily protests across the country for nearly two weeks over widespread claims of kidnapping, harassment and extortion by a police unit know as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Only essential service providers and first responders will be allowed on the streets of Lagos, which has an estimated population of more than 20 million people.

The Inspector-General of Nigeria’s Police later ordered the immediate nationwide deployment of anti-riot police officers “to protect lives and property of all Nigerians and secure critical national infrastructure across the country,” according to a tweet from the Nigerian Police Force on Tuesday evening.

On Monday, the state’s government said in a tweet that it was closing all Lagos schools, urging students to learn using radio, television and online media similar to how studies took place during the Covid-19 lockdown.

SARS was disbanded on October 11 and a new police unit to replace it will be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Reuters reported Monday. Protesters are demanding further protections against the police, including independent oversight and psychological evaluation of officers.

People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday Oct. 17, 2020.

Amnesty International said in a tweet on Tuesday that “thugs and sponsored hoodlums” are attacking peaceful protestors across Nigeria. The current death toll is not known, but death and severe injuries have been reported since the weekend.

A 17-year-old died in police custody on Monday in Kano, a city in the north of the country, after allegedly being tortured, said the human rights group. Many protestors and journalists were assaulted by police and thugs in the capital Abuja on the same day. Videos on social media show dozens of cars belonging to protestors burning and Amnesty International said three people died.

Other videos show a mass breakout of hundreds of prisoners from the Benin Correctional Center in Edo state in southern Nigeria. It is uncertain who is to blame for the breakout, with protestors claiming it was staged by police. The Nigeria Police Force said in a tweet that protestors carted away arms and ammunition from the armory before freeing suspects in custody and setting the facilities alight.

Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki imposed a curfew on Monday, tweeting about “disturbing incidents of vandalism and attacks on private individuals and institutions by hoodlums in the guise of #EndSARS protesters.”

CNN’s Anita Patrick and Stephanie Busari contributed to this report