On Friday, October 23, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced that at least 51 civilians and 18 members of security forces had been killed during the course of protests nationwide against police brutality in recent days. A further 37 civilians have reportedly been injured. The president blamed the violence on "hooliganism" and asserted that security forces had acted with restraint. Buhari stated that rioters had killed 11 police officers and seven soldiers, as authorities claimed that the protest's initial aim of police reform had been hijacked by violent thugs.
The president's announcement came after Amnesty International reported that soldiers had opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators at the Lekki toll plaza as they sang the national anthem on Tuesday, October 20, killing 12 people. A speech given by President Buhari on Thursday increased public discontent as it failed to mention the shooting and instead criticized the protest movement.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the violence has continued into Saturday, October 24, with social media sources reporting incidents of looting and gunshots in urban centers nationwide.
Continued protests are likely throughout Nigeria over the near term. A heightened security presence and associated transport and business disruptions are to be expected near protest sites.
A series of protests organized through the #EndSARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) social media campaign have been held across Nigeria over the past few months and intensified in recent days, with demonstrations having led to fatal clashes between protesters and security forces. Unrest has continued despite an announcement by President Muhammadu Buhari that the controversial SARS police unit would be disbanded and replaced by a new agency called SWAT, a move which protesters have rejected.
Those in Nigeria are advised to monitor the situation, adjust travel itineraries and avoid unnecessary overland movement in the immediate term, avoid the vicinity of any demonstrations, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
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