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Nigerian Leader Vows to Improve Security, End Corruption - 2001-10-02

In a speech to the nation, Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has vowed to continue working to improve security and end corruption in Africa's most populous nation.

President Obasanjo made the pledge in a televised speech Monday marking the 41st anniversary of Nigeria's independence from Britain.

But the tone of the speech was far from celebratory. The Nigerian leader expressed his concern about outbreaks of ethnic and religious violence in the country and referred directly to the clashes between Muslims and Christians in central Plateau state last month that killed more than 500 people.

He announced the creation of a presidential security commission whose job will be to address ethnic fighting and crime.

The president said he would continue fighting corruption and, as part of that effort, called on government employees to change their attitudes and stop the practice of accepting bribes.

In keeping with the somber tone of Mr. Obasanjo's speech and his reflections on the challenges facing Nigeria, independence celebrations on Monday did not include the usual fanfare and street celebrations.

Violence and corruption have been the main issues facing Mr. Obasanjo's government since he took office in 1999.

His election marked the end of 16 years of military rule that were characterized by widespread corruption, violent crime, and a collapse of the country's economy and infrastructure.

President Obasanjo's message Monday night was intended to assure his nation that, unlike the country's former military rulers, he was determined to succeed in the fight against corruption and violence.