Port Harcourt - The Joint Task Force (JTF) fired tear gas on Wednesday to prevent hundreds of youths loyal to President Goodluck Jonathan and to his bitter rival, Rivers state governor Rotimi Amaechi, clashing in the main oil hub of Port Harcourt.
A Reuters witness saw around 2 000 youths from the two factions arrive in some 30 commercial buses at the Rivers state parliament in Port Harcourt, the main hub of Africa's biggest energy industry in the swampy Niger Delta and historically a flashpoint for political violence.
Police struggled to keep them apart until the JTF stepped in, firing tear gas canisters and chasing away the crowds. One man was arrested.
Last month, police banned demonstrations in the hub of Nigeria's two million barrel a day industry to prevent clashes.
"The ban on rallies and protests is still on. Anyone caught holding protests will be dealt with," Rivers state police spokeswoman Angela Agabe said.
Representatives of Jonathan and Amaechi were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
Violence between specially bussed-in youths, sometimes armed, has been a feature of Nigerian electoral cycles since its return to democracy in 1999, but the spat over Jonathan's future plans risks triggering violence way ahead of time, analysts say.