Nearly 2,000 inmates escape in attacks on Nigeria prisons
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian authorities said Tuesday that nearly 2,000 inmates had broken out of jail after crowds attacked two prisons, while officials announced a 24-hour curfew in the megacity of Lagos in an attempt to quell the unrest stemming from two weeks of protests against police brutality.
The Inspector-General of Police deployed anti-riot police across Africa’s most populous nation and ordered forces to strengthen security around Nigerian correctional facilities.
“The force will henceforth exercise the full powers of the law to prevent any further attempt on lives and property of citizens,” a police statement read.
Lagos State Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu warned on Twitter that the protests against police brutality in Nigeria have “degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Manga said large, armed crowds had attacked two correctional facilities, subduing the guards on duty. At last count, 1,993 inmates were missing, he said Tuesday. It was unclear what the prisons' exact populations had been before the attack.
“Most of the inmates held at the centers are convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offenses, awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes,” he said in a statement.
The governor of Lagos state said the curfew would cover the entire city of some 14 million people and surrounding areas. The announcement came after a police station was burned down in the city and two people were shot dead by police.
“Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state,” the governor said.
Authorities also had imposed a curfew in Benin City on Monday after the prisons were attacked.
The protests began two weeks ago after a video circulated showing a man being beaten, apparently by police officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS.
Young protesters marched in cities across Nigeria, under the banner #EndSARS. In response, the government announced it would ban the anti-robbery squad, which for several years human rights groups have blamed for widespread abuses, including torture and killings.
The demonstrators have not been satisfied with the disbandment of the SARS unit and are demanding an end to abuses and respect for human rights in all parts of the police force. The protests have stopped traffic in Lagos, the capital Abuja and many other large cities in Nigeria, a country of 196 million people.
Lagos is the main center of the protests which have blocked access to the airport, the country’s largest, and protesters barricaded the roads leading to the country’s main ports.
Protests continued Tuesday in many cities including Abuja the capital, where troops have been deployed.
Associated Press writer Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria contributed.