LAGOS, Nigeria – Police in Nigeria's largest city used tear gas Friday to try to disperse a crowd of several hundred university students angry at the president's decision to change the name of their school.
The protest began peacefully at the University of Lagos. But students then surrounded an armored police truck and beat on it. Police fired tear gas and students responded with a barrage of thrown stones.
They were protesting a decision Tuesday by President Goodluck Jonathan to change the name of the city's flagship university. Jonathan said the University of Lagos -- known as UNILAG -- would be renamed Moshood Abiola University in honor of a political prisoner who died in jail over a decade ago.
Abiola was a businessman widely believed to be the winner of a 1993 presidential poll annulled by military ruler Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Babangida's successor, Gen. Sani Abacha, then jailed Abiola. The businessman died in custody.
Jonathan said Tuesday that the name change would honor Abiola's "martyrdom."
He also announced that the government would establish an institute to study democracy and governance in the renamed university. For many students, however, this is an unfair trade-off. They argue that the government has perennially neglected the university which has overcrowded classrooms and ill-equipped laboratories.
The anger over the name comes amid terrorist attacks by a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram that have killed more than 530 people this year alone. The nation's electrical grid is in a shambles and power cuts remain common even at the university, considered one of the nation's top schools. Meanwhile, billions of dollars in oil money get funneled to politicians and the country's business elite.
The university declared a sudden two-week holiday Wednesday but many students remain in the university's dormitories, from where they continue to organize protests.