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Nigeria’s army says it is ready to maintain order as police protests continue

By Reuters 15 October 2020

epa08745732 A protester holds a banner during a protest against the Nigeria rogue police, otherwise known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Lekki district of Lagos, Nigeria, 14 October 2020. During the week of 05 October, the Nigerian federal government yielded to a call by the Nigerian youth calling for the disbandment of SARS, for its public harassments, innocent killings of citizens, and other unethical conducts. But an announcement of a new police squad--Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), by Nigeria's police chief has sparked a new wave of protests across Nigeria. EPA-EFE/AKINTUNDE AKINLEYE

LAGOS, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Nigeria's army says it is ready to maintain law and order and deal decisively with any situation created by "trouble makers", while demonstrators calling for an end to police brutality promise to keep up nationwide protests.

Protesters have staged daily marches for a week, calling for an overhaul of police forces. Police have responded to the demonstrations with beatings, tear gas and gunfire, which human rights group Amnesty International said had killed at least 10 people.

Police agreed on Tuesday to stop using force against protesters.

The military, which in recent years has repeatedly been accused of human rights abuses that it has denied, issued a statement late on Wednesday titled “Nigerian Army warns subversive elements and trouble makers”.

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“The NA (Nigerian Army) is ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively,” it said in the statement, which did not mention the anti-police protests.

In response to the protests, the head of Nigeria’s police force on Sunday dissolved the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit that demonstrators have long accused of beatings, killings and extortion.

Demonstrators have called for more meaningful reforms. Protesters say they fear a new unit, whose creation to “fill the gaps” left by SARS was announced on Tuesday, was just a rebranding of the controversial squad. (Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Additional reporting by Paul Carsten in Abuja and Libby George in Lagos; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram Editing by Frances Kerry)

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