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Friday, June 12, 1998 Published at 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK

World: Africa

Nigerian military sticks to its guns

Protesters say the new government is illegal

The Nigerian security forces have fired shots in the air and used teargas to disperse crowds of demonstrators who had gathered in a market area in Lagos.

BBC Correspondent Hilary Andersson reports of the aftermath of the police operation
Several hundred opposition activists joined the rally, carrying anti-government placards, in a protest to mark the fifth anniversary of the annulled elections of 1993.

They want the government to release the presumed winner of those elections, Chief Mashood Abiola, from detention.

[ image: Opposition says at least ten people were arrested]
Opposition says at least ten people were arrested
Several people were injured and opposition groups say at least ten people were arrested.

Police took away one leading opposition leader, Gani Fawehinmi, after he collapsed. One of Chief Abiola's wives, Dupe Abiola, was also arrested.

The BBC Lagos correspondent says there were scenes of panic as people fled the gunfire.

Several hours after the demonstration was dispersed the police continued to patrol the area, firing into the air out of moving cars and letting off fresh rounds of tear gas.

Opposition determination

Protesters sang rowdy songs calling for release of Chief Abiola, who they believe to be Nigeria's rightfully-elected President.

The issue of Chief Abiola's four-year detention revived when the military leader, General Sani Abacha, died earlier this week.

When the new military leader, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, took over, his appointment was condemned by the opposition as illegal.

General Abubakar, in his first speech to the nation, raised hopes in the international community, and at home, that he was interested in reconciliation between the military and its opponents.

But the BBC correspondent says the events of Friday have cast a dark cloud over that prospect, as the new government has made it clear that it will not tolerate open expressions of opposition.

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