Iron fist still rules in Lagos

PRO-DEMOCRACY activists called for an end to military rule in demonstrations in Lagos yesterday, but troops firing into the air and riot police unleashing tear gas sent a clear signal to the opponents of General Abdulsalam Abubakar, Nigeria's new military boss: Muscle still rules in Nigeria.

Faced with his first major test Gen Abubakar responded with enough force to quell any hopes of a meaningful anti-government demonstration.

Police arrested Gani Fawehinmi, a lawyer and leading dissident who organised the protests. They also arrested Dupe Abiola, one of the wives of the imprisoned businessman Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of cancelled 1993 elections.

Mr Fawehinmi, arriving at the scene of one of protests, was lifted on to the shoulders of his supporters, but police were so enraged when the crowd began to cheer that Fawehinmi was then arrested along with the men carrying him.

Pro-democracy activists in Africa's most populous nation had promised a day of action to protest against the new military regime, installed last Tuesday following the sudden death of Gen Abubakar's predecessor, General Sani Abacha.

On the anniversary of presidential elections annulled by the army five years ago, they called for the release of political prisoners, focusing on Chief Abiola, who was detained in 1994 on treason charges for declaring himself the victor.

"The only acceptable option for the military is the immediate termination of military rule, installation of a government of national unity to be headed by Chief Abiola and the convocation of a sovereign national conference," said a spokesman for the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), one of a plethora of south-western groups opposed to military rule.

The armed forces had seemed anxious. Schools and universities were closed in several parts of the country. General Muhammad Marwa, the military administrator of Lagos state, formerly the seat of government but much marginalised by General Abacha and the main centre of resistance to his rule, had appealed for calm and patience. His police chief, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, was more direct. "Anyone who engages in any public act capable of breaking the law will be seriously dealt with," he warned.

For the most part Lagos was quiet, with many workers choosing to protest by staying away from work. "I want democracy but I don't want trouble," said one street vendor. "Maybe we should give this new guy a chance." At another small rally in the northern town of Kaduna, protesters carried banners that read, "No fuel, no water, no work, no medicine, military must go now." The demonstration was reported to have passed off peacefully.

Gen Abubakar has still to establish his position four days after finding himself the compromise choice of a divided military. "The next days are crucial" said a western diplomat in the capital, Abuja, "at the moment things could still go either way." Amidst a swirl of speculation in diplomatic circles, Defence Headquarters took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement denying that anything untoward was taking place. "The rumour that some people are under arrest and there is insurrection in Abuja is a lie pedalled by a few disgruntled elements to cause problems for the new administration," said army spokesman, Colonel Godwin Ugbo.

In a brief address to the nation earlier this week, the new head of state committed himself to General Abacha's programme to restore civilian government, but did not say whether this would happen by 1 October, as planned. He said nothing about the fate of more than 100 political prisoners, fuelling speculation about the continuing strength and influence within government of those officers loyal to General Abacha.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
media
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Manager, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

Sales Executive, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

Retail Business Analyst

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Ecommerce/Retail/E...

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz