Nigeria: End of emergency rule in Plateau State

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

ABUJA, 17 November (IRIN) - The Nigerian government said this week that emergency rule imposed six months ago in central Nigeria's Plateau State would not be renewed when it expired on Thursday.

However, in a statement issued on Tuesday by the office of President Olusegun Obasanjo, the government cast doubts on the return of suspended governor Joshua Dariye, who is now being probed for money laundering in Britain.

Plateau's government and legislature were suspended on 18 May when Obasanjo declared emergency rule in the state in the wake of weeks of fighting between Christians and Muslims that also spread to the northern state of Kano.

The government expressed fear at the time that the violence could spread to other parts of the multi-ethnic country of more than 126 million people, roughly half of whom are Muslims while the rest are Christians and followers of indigenous religions.

Obasanjo had accused Dariye of doing nothing to quell the violent unrest, in which hundreds of people were killed. He appointed a retired military chief of staff, Maj-Gen Chris Alli to administer the state for a renewable six months.

Since then relative peace has returned to Plateau, convincing Obasanjo that it was time to end the state of emergency. However, the return of the state governor will take longer.

Obasanjo's office said his government was "aware of the grave allegations of wrong-doing against ... Dariye in the United Kingdom and Nigeria". But, the statement added, the people of Plateau, their legislature and the ruling People's Democratic Party would decide whether he "is fit and proper to govern the state" after the investigation.

The London Metropolitan Police had arrested Dariye in September on suspicions of money laundering. The police later said more than 90,000 pounds in cash was recovered from his home in London. He was freed on bail, but is still facing investigations in Britain and Nigeria.

Ahead of the end of emergency rule on Thursday, Minister of Justice Akinlolu Olujinmi, wrote the Plateau legislature, detailing the allegations against Dariye, and thus fuelling speculation that grounds for his impeachment were being prepared.

Under Nigeria's constitution, unless a governor resigns, he can only be removed from office by the vote of at least two-thirds of the state legislature.


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