Nigerian police said a national crackdown has been launched on all criminal activities to make the country safe, after reports of suspected hoodlums hiding under the guise of protesters to loot and destroy public and private assets.
Frank Mba, national police spokesperson, in a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, said the police authority has ordered the immediate mobilization of all police operational assets and resources to bring to an end the violence in some parts of the country.
Mba warned the “criminals will face the mighty hand of the law.”
Since early this week, violence has been reported in cities across the country as suspected hoodlums reportedly took control of the peaceful protests by citizens calling for extensive reform of the police.
Economic activities were largely hindered, as well as public peace breached due to the violence and massive looting perpetrated by the hoodlums accused of hijacking the hitherto peaceful protests.
A total of 69 people were killed during protests aimed at ending police brutality in Nigeria, a presidency source confirmed to Xinhua on Friday.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari revealed the figure to former leaders of the country during a virtual meeting aimed at addressing the current security situation here, the source said.
However, the dead recorded during the protests which began on Oct. 7 included civilians, policemen and soldiers, according to an official statement released after the meeting.
“It is unfortunate that the initial genuine and well-intended protest of youths in parts of the country against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was hijacked and misdirected,” Buhari said while addressing the former Nigerian leaders.
Initial demands made by the protesting youths were met by the government, including the disbanding of the police unit notorious for extra-judicial killing, torture, maiming, and other misconducts, the president noted.
“Unfortunately, the protesters refused to call off the protest and engage the government to address their grievances. Instead, they became emboldened and gradually turned violent,” said Buhari, who on Thursday called on the young people to discontinue the demonstration and constructively engage the government in finding a solution.
Mba said the police want to close all “space” for criminals to thrive. He urged police personnel to use legitimate means to halt a further slide into lawlessness and brigandage.
In Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, the police told reporters on Saturday that so far 229 suspects have been arrested for various criminal offenses ranging from arson, murder, stealing, malicious damage of properties and assault before and after the state-wide curfew.
In the central state of Kwara, the Joint Security Agencies confirmed to the media on Saturday the arrest of “hoodlums” that allegedly looted private shops and destroyed public properties in Ilorin, the state capital, on Friday and Saturday.