NIGERIA— On Friday, October 23, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced that at least 51 civilians and 18 security forces were killed in unrest amid protests over police brutality. He faulted “hooliganism” for the violence and insisted that security forces used “extreme restraint.”
Buhari said that 11 policemen and 7 soldiers had been killed by “rioters” and “the mayhem has not stopped.” He said that 37 additional civilians were injured.
In Lagos, Nigeria, Nigerians have for weeks protested to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Young Nigerians criticized the rogue police unit for preying on them. The unit was officially dissolved in early October, but protests persisted after reports that certain members from the disbanded unit were hired for other roles.
On October 20, men in military uniforms reportedly fired live ammunition at protesters signing the national anthem. Eyewitnesses claimed security cameras and an electronic billboard that gave light to the streets were disconnected before shots rang out, which would suggest a premeditated move by the government to conceal evidence.
In addressing the nation on Thursday, October 22, Buhari ignored the shootings and warned protesters against “undermining national security and law and order.”
On Friday, October 23, he reiterated that the Nigerian government “will not fold its arms and allow miscreants and criminals continue to perpetrate acts of hooliganism”.
The attacks and ongoing protests have gained international attention. United States Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the U.S. “must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy.”