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Hundreds stage Nigeria corruption protest as president extends absence

Hundreds of Nigerians are protesting against poverty and corruption as President Muhammadu Buhari's prolonged absence for medical tests abroad raises tensions in the country.

Prices of food and other goods have soared as Nigeria confronts low international prices for oil on which the government depends, as well as a devalued naira because of massive shortages of foreign currency.

Despite Mr Buhari's campaign promise to fight endemic corruption, his government has not achieved any successful high-profile prosecutions.

A spokesman said the president is extending his two-week holiday in London to complete unspecified medical tests.

Songhai Advisory risk analysis said the indefinite extension fuels suspicions about the 74-year-old leader's capacity to govern and increases political and economic uncertainty.

Turnout was small in Lagos, a city of 20 million, with just dozens turning out in Abuja, the capital.

The protest initially was proposed on social media by hip-hop musician 2Face Tubaba Idibia but he tried to call it off after police said they could not guarantee the safety of marchers.

Still, hundreds turned out, rallying around the hashtag #IStandWithNigeria. One protester shouted that Nigeria's expensive government system has turned democracy into "government by the rich, for the rich, to make laws so that poor people suffer".

Much of the hope engendered by Buhari's March 2015 election which overturned a sitting president by unifying the opposition has dissipated.

Africa's biggest economy has slumped into recession and analysts say the government has to reinvigorate economic growth.

Nigeria confronted months of political paralysis in 2009 when then-president Umaru Yar'Adua went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment and returned home to die.

Politicians from the mainly Muslim north tried to block a Christian vice president from the south from governing in his absence.

Already, Songhai Advisory notes, northern Muslims like Mr Buhari are rallying opposition to the possibility that the current Christian vice president would assume his powers.

AP

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