Babangida retires but army still holds reins: Nigeria's unelected interim government may provoke protest strikes and is unlikely to satisfy Western demands for democracy

AFTER eight years as Nigeria's military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida retired from the army and stepped down as commander-in-chief of the armed forces yesterday, relinquishing office to a hand-picked interim government headed by the businessman Ernest Shonekan.

The Defence Chief, General Sani Abacha, who with Gen Babangida led coups d'etat in 1983 and 1985, was named as deputy head of government, while the remainder of the 32-member 'interim federal executive council' were civilians, including several former secretaries of the outgoing eight-month-old 'transitional council' chaired by Mr Shonekan.

The announcement left unanswered key questions, such as the duration of the new administration, the fate of the ruling National Defence and Security Council, who would be Nigeria's head of state and who would head the armed forces. A government committee recommended this month that the 'interim federal executive council' would answer to an 'interim governing council', to include the service chiefs, the Chief of Defence Staff, and the national security adviser. But there was no word yesterday about the governing council.

The new government appeared to fall short of Western demands that a civilian government unhindered by the military be installed before they consider lifting mild sanctions imposed after the cancellation of the 12 June presidential elections won by Chief Moshood Abiola.

State radio reported that Gen Babangida would return to his mansion in his home state of Niger today. In a farewell speech, he said: 'I believe the time has come for me, my service chiefs, deputy chief of Defence Staff and Inspector-General of Police to give way to a new set of leadership to propel our march towards lasting civilian democratic governance at all levels of our country.'

Mr Shonekan, 57, a British-educated former chairman of Nigeria's biggest conglomerate, the United African Company, served for the past eight months as chairman of the largely powerless civilian 'transitional council' set up in January when Gen Babangida delayed his departure for the third time.

The announcement of the new government was repeatedly delayed amid reports of strong opposition among senior officers. Nigerians did not know who the members of the government were until they were sworn in.

Pro-democracy groups, which organised strikes in south-western Nigeria this week, rejected the interim government as a perpetuation of military rule. 'It is not acceptable,' said Olisa Agbakoba, head of the Civil Liberties Organisation. 'It is clear that the guy had a hidden agenda to retire and then re-emerge as a civilian to begin a campaign for the presidency.'

Nigeria's commercial centre, Lagos, was largely shut down yesterday as a stayaway called by the Campaign for Democracy entered its second day. Most private shops and banks were closed, and traffic on the normally congested streets was light.

Leaders of the 3.5 million-strong National Labour Congress meet today to decide whether to start a national strike tomorrow to press the military to hand over either to Chief Abiola or the Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu. Workers in the nation's strategic oil industry planned to walk out tomorrow. 'This is civil society waging an independent struggle to weaken the military autocracy and its interim government,' said Chima Ubani, general secretary of the Campaign for Democracy. 'We have to go from passive resistance to bring people out in a more active form of struggle.'

The new administration takes power amid the worst crisis since the 1967-70 Biafra civil war. Human rights leaders and lawyers, including Beko Ransome-Kuti, chairman of the Campaign for Democracy, are in jail without trial. The robust press is fighting a sustained attack of arrests and outright bannings.

Leading article, page 27

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice