Death toll climbs as Nigeria protests spiral
Crowds took to the streets again in Nigeria’s largest cities on Monday as the death toll rose in snowballing protests sparked by police brutality.
Amnesty International said five people had died since the start of the weekend, taking the overall number of fatalities to 15 since demonstrations against abuses erupted this month.
In Lagos, home to 20 million people, thousands of people took to the streets again on Monday, bringing the economic hub to a standstill.
The huge outpouring of anger over brutality by Nigeria police’s notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) forced the government to scrap the unit a week ago and promise reforms.
But the crowds of mainly young protesters have continued to swell, in the streets and online, as long-standing frustrations over bad governance in Africa’s largest economy have burst to the surface.
Amnesty International’s Nigeria spokesman Isa Sanusi told AFP that one person died in the northern city of Kano on Monday while four others died in Benin City, Abuja and Osogbo over the weekend.
Amnesty last Thursday reported 10 dead, including two policeman, a week after the protests began.
An AFP journalist in the capital Abuja said security forces fired tear gas at protesters on Monday.
Around 50 youths in civilian clothes armed with machetes were seen chasing away demonstrators on a road leading the presidential compound.
Protesters around the country have repeatedly complained that “thugs” believed to have been paid by local officials have violently broken up rallies.
Amnesty said that a similar attack in Abuja on Sunday had left dozens of people injured.
Meanwhile, police said one of their facilities was attacked on Monday by “persons posing as #EndSARS protestors” in Benin City in southern Edo state.
“The extent of damage cannot be ascertained at the moment,” the Nigerian police said on Twitter.
“Reports indicates that the protesters carted away arms and ammunition from the armoury and freed the suspects in custody before setting some of the facilities ablaze,” it said.