LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ The federal military government will prosecute policemen who shot and killed student protesters at Ahmadu Bello University last month, a government report said.

In the report released Friday, the government responded to recommendations made by an independent panel of inquiry set up by President Ibrahim Babangida to look into the causes of the May 23 disturbances at the university in the northern city of Zaria.

Riot police called in by Vice Chancellor Ango Abdullahi to quell a student demonstration opened fire on the students. The government says four students died in the shootings, although other reports said the death toll may have been as high as 19.

The incident provoked widespread student unrest and led to the closing of most of Nigeria's universities.

The government agreed with the panel that Abdullahi was without blame in the affair, but said that ''in the interest of peace'' he was to reliquish his post immediately and go on leave.

Abdullahi was widely criticized by student and labor leaders and the press for calling in riot police.

The inquiry panel, chaired by retired Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Abisoye, was critical of police handling of the Zaria incident, and sharply criticized the government for failing to implement suggestions by panels set up to investigate previous student disturbances.

The panel's endorsement of previous commissions' recommendations to end the use of live ammunition by police in quelling student riots was rejected by the government, which noted in its report that ''police are nearly always restrained, even under extreme provocation.''

However police in the future will be directed ''to exercise even more restraint,'' said the report.

Nigerian newspapers reported last week that the government had issued an order to police to use only rubber bullets against students.

The government also rejected suggestions to disband or reorganise various brances of the Nigerian Police Force, but instructed senior police officials to examine police anti-riot preceedures.

A second panel has been commissioned and has been given eight weeks to investigate the incidents which occurred at other schools following the Zaria shootings.

The report also called for the reopening of all closed schools except the University of Ife and Kaduna Polytecnic, pending further investigations due to the ''intolerable lawlessness that accompanied protests in these institutions.''