, KANO, Jan 5 – Police fired tear gas and beat protesters on Thursday to force them out of a square they had occupied in Nigeria’s main northern city as part of demonstrations over soaring fuel prices, an organiser said.
“Around 1:15 this morning, the policemen assisted by local vigilantes fired tear gas on us, and when we refused to budge they used gun butts and cudgels to beat us while police vans ran into the crowd,” Audu Bulama, one of the protest organisers, told AFP.
Bulama claimed some 300 people were wounded in the incident in the city of Kano and 19 protesters were arrested and later released.
Police were not immediately available for comment, but a spokesman had told local radio that the protest was illegal as it did not have police approval.
“There are procedures to be followed by any group that wants to hold any kind of protests,” Kano police spokesman Magaji Majia said.
“The organisers of the protest must inform the police in writing, stating the date, time and venue of the protest, and secure police approval. Anything short of this is illegal.”
Nigeria has seen increasingly volatile demonstrations since the government announced the end of fuel subsidies on Sunday, causing petrol prices to instantly double in a country where most people live on less than $2 per day.
On Wednesday in Kano, hundreds of protesters shut down petrol stations and a mob threatened to burn a newspaper office.
Placard-waving protesters headed toward the state governor’s office when dozens of armed police and soldiers blocked them using trucks and vans.
The protesters then occupied the city centre’s main square, known as the Silver Jubilee Square, which protesters renamed “Liberation Square.”
Protests in Kwara state led to the death of at least one person on Tuesday, with a union claiming police shot dead a protester while authorities said a mob killed him.
In Lagos on Tuesday, one man claimed he was shot by police who also fired tear gas at mobs setting bonfires along a main highway. Some 200 people also marched on the highway and forced petrol stations to close.
Nigeria’s main labour unions on Wednesday threatened to shut down the country next week if the government does not backtrack on the move.