1 of 2
Sunday Alamba, Associated Press
Police watch as people protest after the government suddenly removing subsidies on gasoline prices in Abeokuta ,Nigeria, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012. Police fired tear gas to break up a sleep-in protest at a traffic roundabout in northern Nigeria early Thursday, as tensions mounted over spiraling gasoline prices in this oil-rich nation.

ABEOKUTA, Nigeria — In Nigeria, which earns billions of dollars yearly from oil production, the only drinking water for many comes from inside plastic bags.

"Pure water" as its called on the street typically costs about three cents here in Abeokuta, a small city in Nigeria's southwest. But after the government removed fuel subsidies on Sunday, and gasoline prices more than doubled, the cost for the water then doubled. Residents say other costs are also rising, including vegetables, fruits and bus rides, in a nation where citizens earn less than $2 a day.

"The poor are suffering and we are wallowing in abject poverty," said Mutiu Agboke, a local lawyer. "Enough is enough."

The government's decision to remove the fuel subsidies has sparked protests in the streets that have seen tires burned and peaceful protesters pelted with tear gas. A nationwide strike has been called for on Monday.

"This is the sacrifice the president is asking Nigerians to make for the overall interest of the country," an editorial in Thursday's edition of The Punch newspaper read. "But while it is calling on Nigerians to sacrifice for a better future, the government itself is not willing to curb its own extravagance and waste."

Lawmakers in Nigeria receive salaries and benefits of more than $1 million, while government officials also control largely opaque budgets in a nation where graft rules.

That disconnect has seen protesters burn tires and shout in Lagos, while in the northern city of Kano, people laid mattresses down in a traffic roundabout to "occupy" it until the government restores the fuel subsidies. Early Thursday, protesters say police moved into the roundabout, firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.

One protester, Audu Bulama Bukarti, wrote a text message from inside a police station to The Associated Press, saying that police had threatened "to kill us inside the cell." He said other protesters had been taken to a local hospital after suffering injuries as police moved in.

He said he was released Thursday morning by police.

Local police spokesman Magaji Musa Majiya acknowledged police broke up the protest, but denied that any protester had been detained.

"It was late in the night drugs addicts and hoodlums took advantage ... to burn tires," Majiya told the AP.

The spokesman said people could continue to protest if they coordinate their activities with police. However, on Thursday, security forces had increased their presence around Kano. Authorities also aired public announcements against the continuing protest on local radio stations, saying that officers would combat any illegal gathering or rally not permitted by the state police commissioner.

At least one protester has died in the country since the subsidy was removed. Amnesty International called Thursday on Nigeria's government to "immediately end excessive use of force against protesters."

In Abeokuta, a city of a half million people 50 miles (81 kilometers) from Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, about 150 people protested in the streets Thursday. However, they received an escort from police and said they met with Ogun state Gov. Ibikunle Amosun — something highly unusual in a country where access to politicians remains tightly scripted.

In nearby Ibadan, the charred remains of bonfires lit on the street could be seen Thursday afternoon. Those stood as signs of an anger that could be unleashed Monday when the National Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress, two major labor groups in the country, plan begin a nationwide, indefinite strike over the fuel subsidies.

The labor movements received a vote of support Thursday from the Nigerian Bar Association, which called on lawmakers to push President Goodluck Jonathan to restore the subsidy. If he doesn't, the lawyers' group suggested the leader should be impeached.

The "government clearly does not understand the seriousness of the situation," the bar association said. "It has failed to understand that all governments, be they dictatorial or otherwise, enjoy power because the people allow it to remain in power. No government can outlast the will of the people."

Nigeria's government announced Sunday that it would stop paying a gas subsidy to gas importers effective immediately and invest part of the $8 billion in savings for much-needed infrastructure upgrades and social programs to improve the quality of life of Nigerians.

Few, though, have seen any benefit from the country's vast oil wealth over decades of production, and a culture of distrust of government permeates Nigerian society. Most residents subsist on less than $2 a day and the subsidy removal saw gas prices rise from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter).

Nigeria, an OPEC member nation, produces about 2.4 million barrels of crude oil a day, and is a top supplier to the United States, but virtually all of its petroleum products are imported after years of graft, mismanagement and violence at its refineries.

Associated Press writers Ibrahim Garba in Kano, Nigeria and Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria contributed to this report.

Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.