The Nigerian military issued a warning dismissing protestors as “subversive elements and trouble makers” following a week of demonstrations against police brutality.
The warning was prompted by reports that unidentified men attacked protesters with machetes in the capital, Abuja.
The Nigerian government agreed to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) days ago, but activists say they want legitimate reform and will not stop until they get it.
Abayomi Akinbo, who joined in protests in Abuja, said that “It is not enough to end that unit and redeploy them to other places,” he told CNN. “What we want is for the unit to end, and an investigation into the conduct of the SARS unit to be conducted.”
On Tuesday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the public’s “genuine concerns and agitations by Nigerians about the excessive use of force, and in some cases extrajudicial killings and wrongful conduct, by men of the Nigerian police force.”
He claimed the disbanding of SARS is “only the first step” in widespread police reform. “We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice,” said Buhari, adding that “the vast majority of men and women of the police force are hard-working and diligent in performing their duties.”
But as demonstrations advance, authorities grow agitated.
On Thursday, the government declared a ban on all protests in Abuja, citing public safety measure violations due to the pandemic.
“The NA [Nigerian army] hereby warns all subversive elements and trouble makers to desist from such acts as it remains highly committed to defend the country and her democracy at all cost,” Army spokesman Col Sagir Musa wrote via Facebook. He also stated that the military seeks to “support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively.”