Reuters International

By Abraham Terngu

ABUJA (Reuters) - More than 700 people took to the streets in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday to protest against the government's economic policy in a sign of mounting public anger in the oil producer grappling with recession.

Africa's largest economy is mired in its first recession for 25 years as low oil prices have hammered public finances and foreign reserves while driving up annual inflation to almost 20 percent.

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on pledges to diversify the economy and fight corruption. But critics say he has made little progress, with Nigeria still heavily dependent on crude exports whose price has halved since 2014.

The 74-year-old former military ruler is currently on medical leave in Britain.

"The Buhari administration came to power on the promise of change," said Ayuba Wabba, a labour union and protest leader.

"We are yet to feel the impact of change. We are rather feeling the pain of lack of good governance, we are feeling the pain of corruption, we are feeling the pain of joblessness," he said.

The protesters marched to the presidential villa to try to see Vice President Yemi Osinbajo but it was not immediately clear whether a meeting took place. There was also a smaller demonstration in the commercial capital Lagos.

Buhari has been in Britain since mid-January for treatment for an unspecified medical condition and, with no indication of when he might return, many Nigerians suspect his health is worse than officials admit.

Hundreds of people had already staged a similar protest on Monday in Abuja and other cities.

(Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Reuters

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