Nigerian police deploy units to tackle lockdown crimewave

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigerian police will immediately deploy additional units to Lagos and Ogun states to combat an upsurge of crime committed during a lockdown to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

Police spokesman Frank Mba said on Monday that the intelligence, operational and tactical units would respond to activity by “hoodlums and street urchins” on the border between the two states.

Police have arrested 191 suspects in Lagos and Ogun, which along with the capital territory of Abuja are under a federally ordered lockdown that began on March 30. They also netted 15 locally-made guns, 52 live cartridges and 42 cutlasses and axes.

Other states in the nation of some 200 million people have imposed their own containment measures, including lockdowns.

While health experts have said curtailing social and economic activity is crucial for stemming the spread of the novel virus, the restrictions have sparked some unrest as many in Nigeria live on daily wages with no savings.

President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to address the nation on Monday evening and announce whether the initial 14-day lockdown period will be extended.

Mba said the inspector general of police had ordered police commissioners nationwide to take steps “to effectively tackle all emerging crimes associated with the COVID-19 lockdown”.

“They are also to intensify patrols around residential areas, markets, shopping malls and all critical national infrastructures in their jurisdictions,” he said.

Nigeria has confirmed 323 coronavirus cases, 179 of them in Lagos state, and 10 people have died.

Reporting By Libby George; Editing by Catherine Evans