Nigeria purges senior officers

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NIGERIA'S NEW civilian president purged 29 senior officers from the military and seized hundreds of millions of dollars of stolen wealth from cronies of the late dictator General Sani Abacha, officials said yesterday.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose inauguration last month ended 15 years of military rule, forced each of the 29 officers ranging from brigadier- generals to majors into "compulsory retirement", the presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe told journalists.

Among those forced out is Mohammed Abdallah, the former military chief of staff under Abacha, whose strong-armed rule made Nigeria an international pariah and prevented democratic reforms until his death 12 months ago.

Political observers said those purged were mainly young, ambitious officers Mr Obasanjo views as potential threats to civilian rule.

The government also seized more than $420m (pounds 262m) in shares of Sierra Leone's state petroleum refinery as well as tens of millions of dollars in property, stocks and cash from Abacha's aides and family under a new law published in a special government gazette, state- controlled television reported.