LAGOS: Nigerian authorities struggled to halt looting across the country on Sunday as crowds defied curfew orders to ransack government warehouses in the latest in a wave of unrest sweeping Africa’s most populous nation.
The country’s police chief has ordered the immediate mobilization of all “operational assets” as he sought to curb turmoil sparked by widespread protests.
Governors have slapped round-the-clock curfews on a string of states as residents have pillaged stocks that were meant for distribution during coronavirus lockdowns.
Locals raided agricultural supplied in the central city of Jos on Sunday a day after thousands had emptied a vast government warehouse.
Fresh looting of food supplies was also reported in Taraba and Adamawa states.
Peaceful demonstrations against police brutality erupted in Nigeria on Oct. 8 and quickly snowballed into one of the biggest challenges to the ruling elite in decades.
Chaos spiraled after security forces on Tuesday opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in the center of Lagos, unleashing days of rioting across Africa’s biggest city.
Official buildings were torched, supermarkets looted and vehicles destroyed as officials accused “hoodlums” of taking advantage of the mayhem.
The situation has calmed in the economic hub and a stringent stay-at-home order was eased on Saturday.
Amnesty International has said at least 12 protesters were shot dead by the army and police in Lagos on Tuesday, and a total of 56 people have died since the demonstrations began.
President Muhammadu Buhari has called for an end to the protests and warned demonstrators not to “undermine national security.”
He has not directly addressed the shooting of protesters in Lagos and sought to shrug off international outrage over the use of excessive force by his security agencies.
Nigeria is a tinderbox of deep social and economic grievances with around half of the estimated 200 million population living in extreme poverty.
Frustration runs deep among younger generations furious with the country’s graft-riddled leadership over a lack of opportunities.