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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Nigerian police 'brutalise' strikers
Riot police stand guard at a strike demonstration
Fully armed riot police used whips and guns to quell disquiet
Nigerian riot police fired into the air and beat union activists and journalists with whips and rifle butts on the second day of a general strike against massive fuel price rises.

At least three journalists and an unknown number of striking union workers were injured in the police attack on the 1,000- plus worker rally at a federal government complex in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Streets were largely empty in the major cities of Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and Port Harcourt, with residents staying home and shops remaining shuttered for fear of violence and looting.

However, many shops and business in Abuja were open.

Police have beaten up quite a number of our people, even myself I was tear gassed today
Adams Oshiomhole, Union leader

Negotiations between the unions and the government were twice delayed on Tuesday.

Adams Oshiomhole, leader of the umbrella Nigeria Labour Congress said the tough police action was unnecessary.

"We have sent a letter to the Inspector General of Police complaining about police brutalities," he told Reuters news agency.

"Police have beaten up quite a number of our people, even myself I was tear gassed today."

Photographer punished

The Associated Press (AP) news agency reported one of their own photographers, George Osodi, was among the injured.

Three heavily armed police in riot gear dragged Mr Osodi from the rally to join 10 other officers who struck him with rifles, whips, fists and boots, AP reports.

Injured journalists should file detailed complaints
Chris Olakpe, police spokesman

Police told the photographer they were beating him because of the pictures he was taking.

Mr Osodi suffered cuts and bruises on his body, arms and face. Police officers smashed his camera and took the rest of his equipment, reports AP.

He went to hospital to be treated for his injuries.

Police also beat two journalists with Nigeria's Vanguard daily - Rotimi Ajayi and Funmi Komolafe - as they tried to leave the rally.

Crippling strike

"Keep up the struggle," Mr Oshiomhole urged union members regrouping after police left the rally. "We shall win."

Police spokesman, Chris Olakpe, told injured journalists to file detailed complaints.

A man demonstrates against price hikes he can't afford

Mr Okakpe confirmed that police had arrested 88 strikers and rioters in Nigerian cities on Monday.

He at first confirmed and later denied reports that police had killed four people on Monday.

Nigerian unions launched the strike Monday in protest of a more than 50% government increase in the prices of petrol, kerosene and diesel on 20 June.

Officials say the hikes are necessary to end shortages and curb smuggling of cheaper Nigerian fuel to neighbouring countries.

With the increase, petrol costs the equivalent of US$1.18 a gallon.

In the northern city of Kaduna, government workers turned up at their offices but refused to work.

The government had earlier warned civil servants who did not show up faced possible dismissal.




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