Nigerian Banks Shut, Flights Canceled, Stocks Fall on Protests

By Bashir Olanrewaju and Sahabi Abdul

Banks closed in several cities across Nigeria, flights were canceled and the stock market fell as protests against police brutality culminated in an army massacre of peaceful demonstrators in the commercial capital, Lagos.

At least 56 people have died in the past two weeks alone,  38 of them on Tuesday, when security forces across Nigeria opened fire on protesters, according to the human rights group,  Amnesty International.

Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters,” Amnesty’s Nigeria spokesman, Isa Sanusi, said in an emailed statement. “In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.”

Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed.

A number of bank branches and government buildings were set on fire in Lagos on Wednesday as outraged rioters defied a curfew,  blockaded major roads and visited their anger on government terminal. Police stations, a bus terminal in Lagos, the offices of the Nigerian Ports Authority were among buildings set alight.

A growing number of states have declared 24-hour curfews to stop the protests by keeping people at home. Banks, offices, businesses and schools are being forced to shutter down in those places.

“All our branches in Lagos and Port Harcourt will  with be closed tomorrow until further notice,” Standard Chartered Bank told its customers in an emailed notice late on Wednesdsy. Most businesses in the financial industry were similarly affected..

All domestic  and international flights either bound for or leaving from the Lagos Airport were canceled on Wednesday. A Delta Airline flight bound for Lagos from New York,  turned round in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, and returned to the U.S. due to disturbances at the Lagos Airport.

Banks shuttered in Lagos.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries published estimates on Monday showing Nigeria lost 770 billion naira of productivity in the preceding two weeks to the protests. The losses can only jump with the carnage that subsequently followed.