Nigeria: Lawyers argue over soldiers ending protest

Nigeria: Lawyers argue over soldiers ending protest Lagos: Lawyers argued on Wednesday whether Nigeria's President had the power to use heavily armed soldiers and armoured tanks to stop a massive protest this January in the nation's largest city over spiralling gasoline prices.

The lawsuit brought by the Save Nigeria Group could be the strongest judicial test to presidential power in a nation long run by iron-fisted military rulers.

The group said the government quashed the freedom of speech constitutionally guaranteed in this young democracy.

"No matter how deep they are into despotism, they still have a modicum of respect for the courts," said Tope Adebayo, the head lawyer in the suit challenging the military deployment. "They don't have a defence. Everybody in the whole world knows what happened."

In its lawsuit, the Save Nigeria Group asks for USD 625,000 in damages and an injunction stopping President Goodluck Jonathan from using the military to halt future peaceful protests.

At a court hearing today in Lagos, Adebayo told Justice Steven Adah that ruling in favour of the suit would "strengthen our democracy."

Protests began in Nigeria after Jonathan's administration announced January 1 the removal of popular subsidies on gasoline that keep prices low in the oil-rich nation.