The Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III and Emir of Kazaure Najib Hussaini Adamu (R) visit the family of late Emir of Kano Ado Bayero in Kano. The Emir of Kano, Nigeria's second-highest Islamic authority and a revered figure in the largely Muslim north, died on Friday, June 06, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Abuja - Clashes broke out in Nigeria's second-biggest city on Monday as hundreds of supporters of the newly appointed emir of Kano battled with backers of his main rival for the key post.

An AFP reporter in the ancient city said people turned out in force wearing white robes and red caps in solidarity with the new emir, the ousted former central bank chief Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

But as they headed to the state government headquarters, they came under attack from a rival crowd out in support of Sanusi's rival for the role, the late emir's eldest son, Aminu Ado Bayero.

The reporter said he saw Sanusi supporters covered in blood and Bayero's backers armed with machetes, sticks and clubs.

No soldiers were seen in the area, and unarmed traffic police and the city's so-called “morality police”, the Hisbah, were trying to restore order, he added.

The post of emir of Kano -- the second-most senior Muslim leader in Nigeria -- holds major influence across the north.

Sanusi's appointment, announced by the Kano state government on Sunday, came after emir Ado Abdullahi Bayero died on Friday aged 83 after a long battle with cancer.

Even though the position is a religious appointment, local and national politics were seen in the decision, since Sanusi is a leading government critic and Kano state Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso is a member of the main opposition party.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of President Goodluck Jonathan allegedly backed Bayero's eldest son for the position while the APC lobbied for Sanusi, who was suspended as Central Bank of Nigeria governor in February.

Sanusi was stood down on government charges of “financial recklessness” and misconduct soon after he alleged that Nigeria's state-run oil company had embezzled $20 billion (15 billion euros) in public funds.

His outspoken comments and effective dismissal led to claims that the suspension was politically motivated by powerful enemies.

Kwankwaso and a number of other influential governors in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria switched sides from the PDP last year, eroding Jonathan's political power base.

Jonathan has yet to offer his congratulations to the new emir on the appointment.