Protests were called across the country over misgovernment, insecurity and a recent ban on Twitter, among other issues.
Nigerian police have fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters in Lagos and the capital, Abuja, with reports of arrests and injuries.
Nigerian activists had called for protests across the country on Saturday over what they criticized as poor governance and insecurity, as well as the recent Twitter ban by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
There were also pockets of protests in Ibadan, Osogbo, Abeokuta and Akure, all in southwestern Nigeria.
The protests were the first to take place simultaneously in several cities since the #EndSARS movement against police brutality in October it became the largest anti-government rallies in modern Nigerian history.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Saturday in Lagos, a vast megalopolis of more than 20 million people, and police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Protesters carried placards and banners saying “Buhari Must Go,” calling for reforms.
In Abuja, a similar scenario occurred when protesters gathered as early as 7am (06:00 GMT).
A police and army detachment smashed people with tear gas, reporters from the AFP news agency reported, adding that some journalists were harassed by security forces.
Police said the protests were not authorized and AFP reporters said they saw several people detained.
“We can’t go on like this … all the bad government has to stop,” protester Samson Okafor said in Lagos, where tear gas canisters were bewitched in the street as police called on protesters to leave the site .
Officers were also seen breaking mobile phones confiscated from protesters, some of whom criticized the government’s decision to suspend access to Twitter after the social media platform withdrew a post from President Buhari.
Buhari, a former general first elected president in 2015, has been pressured by growing insecurity in Africa’s most populous nation, home to more than 200 million people.
Security forces are fighting an armed uprising in the northeast, an increase in mass kidnappings and attacks by criminal gangs in the northwest and an increase in separatist tensions in the southeast.
The government also provoked a cry a week ago when it suspended Twitter indefinitely in the country, saying the platform was used for activities aimed at destabilizing Nigeria.
Saturday’s demonstrations coincided with “Democracy Day”, on the occasion of the anniversary of the election of Moshood Kashimawo Abiola as Nigerian president in 1993.
Abiola’s victory was overturned by the then military government, which plunged Nigeria into months of civil unrest.
Nigeria returned to civilian rule in May 1999, but Buhari chose June 12 as Democracy Day after becoming president to honor Abiola and other heroes of the struggle.