At least 51 civilians have been killed in unrest in Nigeria with the president blaming "hooliganism" for the violence and asserting that security forces have used "extreme restraint."
President Muhammadu Buhari's comments could further inflame tensions in Africa's most populous country after Amnesty International reported that soldiers shot and killed at least 12 demonstrators on Tuesday.
In a statement, Buhari said 11 policemen and seven soldiers had been killed by "rioters" as of Thursday, and "the mayhem has not stopped." He said another 37 civilians were injured in some of Nigeria's worst turmoil in years.
The president said the well-intentioned protests were hijacked by thugs.
But many Nigerians are upset by what the president hasn't said. Buhari in a national address on Thursday night Buhari didn't mention the shootings, instead warning protesters against "undermining national security and law and order." On Friday he said the government "will not fold its arms and allow miscreants and criminals continue to perpetrate acts of hooliganism."
Resentment lingered with the smell of charred tyres Friday in Nigeria's relatively calm streets. Soldiers remained in parts of Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, as a 24-hour curfew remained in place.
The president's comments, "devoid of sympathy," were worrying, said Okechukwu Nwanguma with the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre. Shielding those behind the shootings will only lead to abuses by the police and military, he said: "If those who carried out the killings did so and nothing happens, it will encourage them and others to do the same thing next time."
This week's scenes have touched a chord with Black Lives Matter supporters in the United States, while the US government has strongly condemned the "use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos, causing death and injury."
The demonstrations began early this month with calls for Nigeria's government to shut down the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police unit known as SARS. The squad was launched to fight crime, but it carried out torture and killings, according to Amnesty International.
The EndSARS campaign spread across the country and Buhari's government announced that it would disband the SARS unit. The protest persisted with demonstrators calling for more widespread reforms of the police and an end to corruption.
Opulence and grinding poverty are in close contact in Lagos, a city of some 20 million, and the inequality sharpens Nigerians' grievances.
Australian Associated Press