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Nigerians stage fresh protests over police brutality

Demonstrations organised on social media erupted earlier this month calling for the abolition of a notorious police unit accused of unlawful arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu (2nd R) speaks to protesters campaigning against abuses by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) at the Lekki toll Plaza in Lagos, on 12 October 2020. Picture: AFP

LAGOS - Nigerians took to the streets once again Tuesday in several cities for fresh protests against police brutality, bringing key roads to a standstill in economic hub Lagos.

Demonstrations organised on social media erupted earlier this month calling for the abolition of a notorious police unit accused of unlawful arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings.

The government gave in to the demand on Sunday, announcing that the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was being disbanded in a rare concession to people power in Africa's most populous nation.

But many greeted the move with scepticism after previous vows to reform Nigeria's notorious police went unfulfilled, and protesters are in the streets to keep up the pressure.

The demonstrations have largely been peaceful but violence has flared in the face of heavy-handed police tactics.

Authorities said a police officer and civilian were killed during the protests in Lagos on Monday, bringing the overall nationwide death toll to at least five since last week.

Some of Nigeria's most celebrated stars have thrown their weight - and considerable followings - behind the protests.

Afropop duo P-Square and rapper Falz were leading the movement on Tuesday in Lekki, a neighbourhood of Lagos, where several thousand people were gathering.

Thousands of commuters were trapped in traffic for several hours on Monday evening because of the protests combined with construction work in the city of 20 million people.

More demonstrators were set for Tuesday in the capital Abuja, in Oyo and Ondo states, as well as in Port Harcourt, despite a ban imposed by local authorities the southern Rivers state.

Protestors want an independent body to investigate police abuse, according to a list of demands widely spread on social media.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday insisted that the "disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms".

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