The governor of Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos, has announced an indefinite 24-hour curfew in the state saying that protests against police brutality have “degenerated” into violence.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu said that criminals had hijacked the demonstrations “to unleash mayhem on our state”.
Lagos has seen some of the largest of the recent wave of protests in Nigeria spearheaded by young people.
They began with a call for the disbandment of a notorious police unit.
President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars), accused of illegal detentions, assaults and shootings, on 11 October.
But the demonstrators have called for wider reforms in the security forces as well as changes in the way that the country is run.
In a series of tweets, Mr Sanwo-Olu said that he had “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”.
“Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state… we will not watch and allow anarchy in our dear state.”
… of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state. As a government that is alive to its responsibility and has shown a commitment to the movement #ENDSARS, we will not watch and allow anarchy in our dear state.
— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) October 20, 2020
The curfew will come into force at 16:00 local time and will affect millions of people. Only essential workers will be allowed out.
The announcement by the Lagos governor follows reports that people set fire to a police station in the Orile part of Lagos state.
Videos posted on social media show the police station burning, with people standing outside cheering.
It is not clear if there were officers inside the building at the time or how the perpetrators managed to set the building aflame.
‘The authorities’ old trick’
By Nduka Orjinmo, BBC News, Abuja
Some would say it was inevitable that as the protests continued the authorities would turn to an old trick – looking away when the first sparks of violence appeared, only to use it as an excuse to quash peaceful protests.
Security operatives have been largely indifferent as thugs attacked peaceful protesters across the state from last Thursday. To be fair to the police, they too have not been spared, getting attacked on Monday and having a police station burnt on Tuesday.
Many will feel this gives the police a free reign to brutalise commuters, who could be caught in traffic when the curfew kicks in.
In his defence, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has acquiesced to the demands of the protesters and is one of few governors to have established a judicial panel of inquiry to look into cases of police brutality.
On Monday, he urged the protesters to leave the streets for more dialogue.
This will be a test for the demonstrators who have been peaceful but it is hard to see how they can go on.
If they defy the curfew, they would be giving the authorities an excuse to use force and they can easily be blamed for escalating violence in other parts of the state.
The police in Lagos has said that “all security agencies have deployed adequate personnel to take charge and enforce the curfew across the state”.
A statement added that the protests have been taken over “by hoodlums who want to run down the state and the police command will resist such state of anarchy, unrest and brouhaha with all powers within the ambit of the law”.
On Monday, people attacked police in the Yaba area of Lagos, destroying police vehicles and chasing officers away.
In some other areas, people have been seen erecting roadblocks and charging motorists a fee.
Violence has also been reported in other parts of the country.
In southern Edo state on Monday, officials said two police stations were targeted with attackers burning cars and stealing police equipment.
There were also jailbreaks at two prisons in Edo, leading the state government to declare a curfew there.
On Monday, rights group Amnesty International said that police violence against protesters had continued and that at least 15 people had been killed since the protests began a fortnight ago.