The Nigerian military has issued a warning as protests sweep across the West African country over years of recurring police brutality.
Over the past days, thousands of mainly young Nigerians have staged demonstrations to call on the government to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a policing unit accused of extrajudicial killings, extortion and torture.
At least 10 people have died and dozens injured in the street protests, which have been met with force, according to Amnesty International. Police in some states fired live ammunition, teargas and used water cannons to disperse protesters.
The demonstrators have been using the hashtag #EndSars to push for their cause, which has sparked solidarity protests around the world.
Earlier this week, the authorities dissolved the SARS and replaced it with a new tactical team, known as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).
However, protests have continued to escalate, with many participants demanding the government commit to prosecuting SARS officers and compensating victims. Some of the demonstrators are also calling for the Inspector General of Police to resign.
In a statement released on Thursday, the army warned it could step in against “all subversive elements and troublemakers.”
It also expressed its readiness “to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively”.
“All officers and men are directed never to be distracted by anti-democratic forces and agents of disunity,” it added.
Nigerian police has also maintained a heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful protests by the country’s Shia Muslims.
The demonstrators have been calling for the release of top cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigerian forces, during which he was beaten and lost vision in his left eye.
During the brutal arrest, three of his sons were also killed, his wife sustained serious wounds, and more than 300 of his followers lost their lives.