A road block with graffiti is seen at the Lekki toll gate, site of protests that turned deadly when security forces opened fire on demonstrators earlier this week, in Lagos, Nigeria, Oct. 24, 2020.
A road block with graffiti is seen at the Lekki toll gate, site of protests that turned deadly when security forces opened fire on demonstrators earlier this week, in Lagos, Nigeria, Oct. 24, 2020.

Workers began cleaning Lagos' streets Saturday as businesses reopened after a 24-hour curfew was relaxed. The curfew had been imposed following days of violence triggered by the police killing of peaceful protesters demanding an end to police brutality.

After initially acknowledging Friday that “many lives have been lost” and failing to denounce the killings of the protesters, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement saying 51 civilians, 11 police officers and seven soldiers had been killed during the confrontations.

Buhari’s initial comment was made in a meeting with former heads of state on how to address some of the country’s most intense violence in years.

The government “will not fold its arms and allow miscreants and criminals to continue to perpetrate these acts of hooliganism," Buhari added.

Soldiers and police were seen patrolling streets in parts of Lagos on Saturday as workers swept away broken glass and other debris from streets filled with vehicles.

In this photo released by the Nigeria State House, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari addresses the nation in a live televised broadcast, Oct. 22, 2020.

Major roads in Lagos, a major city and former capital of Nigeria, were blocked Friday by groups of people armed with knives and sticks, with many of them demanding more widespread reforms of the police and an end to corruption.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that Nigerian authorities must “not abuse force when dealing with demonstrations” and added that he had received assurances from Buhari.

“I heard from the president his strong commitment to do everything possible to avoid these kinds of incidents and I hope it will be the case in the future,” Guterres said.

US calls for probe

On Thursday, the United States condemned the police brutality in Lagos, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for an investigation.

“We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Congressional Black Caucus members Sheila Jackson Lee, Barbara Lee and Frederica Wilson sent a letter to the Nigerian president demanding an end to the violence, the release of those arrested and an investigation into the shootings at the toll plaza.

Jackson Lee told VOA she and her colleagues also wrote to the U.N. Security Council “to ask for an investigation because this is a violation of human rights, and the violation of human rights should not be tolerated by the United Nations.”

People are required to walk with their hands up as they pass security checkpoints, held by security forces holding machetes and sticks to control the crowd, at Obalende Market, Lagos, Nigeria, Oct. 23, 2020.

Democratic members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee's subcommittee on Africa also condemned the police brutality and called for “an immediate end to the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.”

“That security forces have used live ammunition against peaceful protesters demonstrating against police brutality is especially alarming. We urge security forces to act with restraint and for Nigerian authorities to de-escalate the situation and hold perpetrators of violence to account,” Senators Chris Coons, Cory Booker, Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy said in a statement.

Amnesty report

Amnesty International on Wednesday reported that 38 people died in protest-related incidents on Tuesday. Amnesty also said at least 56 people have been killed over the past two weeks in protests directed at the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS, which the international rights group accused of torture and murders. The government disbanded SARS last week, but that has not tempered the outrage.

Lagos authorities were not able to fully enforce a curfew as anger continued to escalate. They said on Friday that the curfew would be eased on Saturday, remaining in effect from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. local time.