Nigerian workers strike to demand democracy: Military leaders fight among themselves for power after Babangida resigns

NIGERIA'S oil workers planned to go ahead with an indefinite pro-democracy strike today as senior military commanders were locked in a power struggle over the appointment of new armed forces commanders.

The 50,000-strong oil workers' union, Nupeng, said it would attempt to shut down production in the world's fourth biggest oil producer to demand the installation of a constitutional government. The National Labour Congress also planned to strike. The oil workers said they rejected the non-elected interim government installed by the outgoing military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who left Abuja, the capital, yesterday for his mansion in his home state of Niger. Oil provides more than 80 per cent of Nigeria's export earnings.

In London yesterday Chief Moshood Abiola, winner of the cancelled 12 June presidential elections, announced that he would return to Nigeria by the end of next week and form 'a real government'. He fled from Nigeria earlier this month saying his life was in danger. But he said yesterday the moment of his return would be determined by discussions with his supporters in Nigeria and added that nothing was to be gained from 'false heroism'.

At a press conference in London Chief Abiola described the interim government as a 'non-event' and said: 'How the democratic world reacts to the so-called annulment of the 12 June elections, will forever decide the fate of democracy in Africa.'

The democratic world yesterday did not seem to be rallying to him. The Foreign Office issued a statement saying it 'wished to consider carefully the implications of the creation of the new Interim National Government when we have seen full details'. It made no mention of the 12 June election or of the sanctions imposed on Nigeria when the election was annulled. The EC is likely to follow Britain's lead while Washington, which has been more vocal in its demands for democracy in Africa, is unlikely to give Chief Abiola absolute support.

The announcement of Chief Abiola's return drew a sharp reaction from the Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Clement Akpamgbo, who said such a move would be considered 'an act of rebellion attracting the necessary sanctions'.

Gen Babangida stepped down as commander-in-chief yesterday and announced the retirement of the three service chiefs - army, navy and air force - as well as the deputy defence chief of staff and the inspector-general of police. The move unleashed a power struggle between senior commanders who support Gen Babangida and those backing his long-time deputy, the Minister of Defence, General Sanni Abacha.

Gen Abacha, who was named as the deputy head of the interim government, was a key organiser behind the 1985 coup which brought Gen Babangida to power. In recent months, however, the two soldiers have clashed over Gen Abacha's pressure on Gen Babangida to relinquish power to a civilian government. Gen Babangida's retirement indicated that Gen Abacha had won the day, military analysts said. But a faction loyal to Gen Babangida was demanding yesterday that Lieutenant-General Joshua Dogonyaro be named chief of the defence staff and that Brigadier- General John Shagaya, the ambitious and highly regarded commander of the First Division in Kaduna, be appointed army chief.

The appointments are the key to the military's future role in ruling Nigeria. The new interim government, headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan, a businessman, was expected to establish two advisory bodies, the National Defence Council and the National Security Council, as provided by the 1989 constitution. The service chiefs would be a dominant force on the defence council, which many observers believe would be the power behind the scenes of the unelected interim administration.

The oil workers' strike, combined with planned walkouts by the transport workers' union, could severely disrupt fuel supplies and commerce, especially in south-western Nigeria where three days of pro-democracy stayaways have already left the city of Lagos, the commercial hub, with grave petrol shortages.

Reaction to the new interim government has been slow, with many questions about who would command the armed forces and the future of the National Security Co-ordinator, Brigadier-General Halilu Akilu, and the Security Adviser, Lieutenant-General Aliyu Mohammed, left unanswered.

'There is no substitute for an elected government, but in the sense that we want to get rid of a dictator, this is one road for that,' a former head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo, said yesterday. 'To gain credibility it must move immediately to release the human rights activists and journalists in detention and send a message to the National Assembly to repeal the laws banning newspapers.'

But the confusion about who is Nigeria's head of state was illustrated in the London High Commission yesterday where a picture of Gen Babangida still hangs in reception.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game