Sense of calm slowly returns in Lagos as curfew relaxed after deadly protests

A sense of calm was restored in Nigerian cities after more than two weeks of deadly protests against police brutality and widespread anger over the shooting of peaceful demonstrators.

In Lagos, the country’s commercial hub and the epicentre of the protests, authorities on Saturday eased a 24-hour curfew, while the streets of the capital, Abuja, gradually returned to normal.

With Lagos’s residents allowed to leave their homes between 8am and 6pm local time, some decided to go out and help government workers clean up the streets and buildings damaged by arsonists.

Demonstrators against police violence have long expressed fears that agitators might be used to disrupt the peaceful character of their movement and create the conditions that would justify a security crackdown against them.

On Tuesday, hours after Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had announced the round-the-clock curfew, citing what he described as the degeneration of demonstrations “into a monster”, peaceful protesters who had gathered at a toll gate in Lagos’s Lekki district in defiance of the measures were shot at.

Witnesses and rights group said soldiers opened fire on the protesters. The military maintains its men were not involved. Amnesty International said at least 12 protesters were killed by the army and police in Lekki and Alausa, another area of Lagos, on Tuesday.

As tensions rose, gangs on Wednesday vandalised public buildings, burned private businesses, police stations, media houses and courthouses.

In Abuja, attacks by gangs on Monday and Tuesday left at least eight people dead, according to police. Vehicles were also burned in the unrest, which forced many business owners to close shop.

On Saturday, a growing number of shops opened their doors.