Nigeria's megacity Lagos reopens as curfew relaxed after protest shootings unrest

LAGOS (Reuters) – Workers began a clean up of the streets of Lagos on Saturday after the relaxation of a round-the-clock curfew after days of unrest sparked by the shooting of protesters demonstrating against police brutality in Nigeria.

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Groups of men armed with knives and sticks blocked major roads and burned buildings and street signs in recent days as the city became the main flashpoint of the worst street violence since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999 and the most serious political crisis confronting President Muhammadu Buhari.

Violence in the sprawling commercial hub of Africa’s largest economy, a city of 20 million, escalated after protesters in the Lekki district on Tuesday night were shot by what witnesses said were soldiers, hours after the curfew was announced.

Amnesty International said soldiers and police killed at least 12 protesters on Tuesday in Lekki and Alausa, two Lagos districts. The army has denied soldiers were at the site of the shooting.

Lagos state said on Friday the restrictions on movement would be eased from Saturday, with the curfew in place from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Workers took to streets to sweep away broken glass. Meanwhile, cars filled the roads.

“We need to sweep it so that the road can be free for the cars and motors to be going so that they cannot have accidents,” said cleaner Ajala Eyiwunmi.

Disruption has not been limited to Lagos. Several states in southern Nigeria have imposed curfews after two weeks of confrontations between security services and protesters.

On a call between Buhari and former Nigerian presidents, including his immediate predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, the head of state said 51 civilian fatalities and 37 injuries had been recorded as a result of “hooliganism” in recent weeks.

Many businesses, already hit hard by restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, had been affected by the protests.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce said Nigeria’s economy had suffered an estimated loss of 700 billion naira ($1.84 billion) due to lockdowns, before the violence.

“I thank God that today Lagos is good. We are happy at least I can go for my business now,” said shopkeeper James Odudo.

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