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Nigeria Places Security Forces on High Alert


Nigeria has placed its security forces on a heightened state of alert following an official announcement Friday that the administration's political opponents are plotting widespread violence. The opposition has rejected the allegation and charge that President Olusegun Obasanjo is undermining national security.

Opposition figures accuse the federal authorities of setting the stage for a crack down on its opponents.

The government on Friday night declared that it had intelligence reports that its detractors were planning to foment trouble across the country in a manner that could seriously threaten national security.

Information Minister Frank Nweke, in a televised address, said security forces have been directed to deal decisively with those responsible for the plot.

"These selfish, unpatriotic, unprogressive and criminally minded persons and associations are doing their best to heat up the polity unnecessarily by making highly provocative statements and unwarranted allegations against the government," he said. "The federal government wishes to warn, once again, that it will not sit idly and allow thoughtless and reckless persons who seek power for only their own good to truncate its ongoing efforts to place Nigeria firmly on the path to rapid and sustainable development."

The government also blamed opponents for the recent mayhem involving religious clashes, kidnapping of foreign workers and bombings of pipelines.

Analysts have warned that, with elections coming next year, there could be instability in Africa's most populous nation.

Rumors that Mr.Obasanjo may seek a third term are also aggravating tensions.

A spokesman for an opposition group, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, Osita Okechukwu, says the plot to extend Obasanjo's tenure represents the most serious challenge to national security.

"The way Obasanjo is going, we don't know actually whether he wants Nigeria to be one," he said. "Our greatest fear is that President Obasanjo has remained the greatest threat to Nigeria's security. To me and the group I represent, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, we see President Obasanjo as the greatest threat to Nigeria's security."

More than 14,000 people have died as a result of violence in Nigeria since 1999, when civil democracy was restored. Concerns about the stability of oil-rich Nigeria are helping to push international oil prices to record levels.

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