LAGOS — Nigerian police said here Tuesday they have arrested over 1,500 people in a major nationwide operation against those suspected of looting government warehouses storing palliative items and raiding private homes to cart away valuables amid recent protests.
A total of 1,590 suspects were arrested across the country due to the protests against police brutality, harassment and extra-judicial killings by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police unit for anti-robbery purposes, which later turned violent after being hijacked by government-designated “hoodlums,” Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu told reporters.
Violence has been reported in several cities across the country as suspected “hoodlums” reportedly took control of the peaceful protests by citizens calling for an extensive reform of the police since early October. A police statement released on Oct. 24 said a national crackdown has been launched on all criminal activities to make the country safe after “hoodlums hiding under the guise of protesters” looted and destroyed public and private assets.
Adamu said 22 police personnel were extra-judicially killed by some rampaging protesters and scores of others were injured during the protests. “Many of the injured personnel are in a life-threatening condition,” he said, noting that 205 police stations and some critical private and public infrastructure were also damaged by some protesters.
Adamu, who was in Lagos on a courtesy visit to police stations that had been burnt and injured police officers, commended his officers for showing professionalism during the protests by maintaining restraint and not using excessive force in managing the situation. The police chief said 14 states in the country were badly affected as a result of the protests, among which Lagos State was the worst hit.The federal government has decided to introduce reform initiatives that will enable police officers to continue to undertake their constitutional responsibilities across the country, he said.