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Nigeria Lawmakers Expected to Abandon Obasanjo Impeachment - 2002-08-26


Members of Nigeria's House of Representatives are expected to call off efforts to impeach President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Nigerian leader appeared on national television Sunday, saying he is confident he has weathered another political crisis.

The attempt by Nigerian lawmakers to remove President Obasanjo was seen by observers as another effort by opponents, including those inside his own party, to damage him politically as he bids for re-election next year.

Two weeks ago, the lower chamber of the National Assembly passed a motion calling for Mr. Obasanjo to resign, saying his three-year-old administration has been plagued with corruption and incompetence.

The chamber's call on August 13 followed an Obasanjo administration announcement it would launch a corruption investigation of various government entities, including the National Assembly. The administration has since called off the probe.

Political opponents in the House of Representatives then said the president should resign within two weeks or face impeachment. Mr. Obasanjo rejected the ultimatum, which would have been due Monday.

Observers in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, say negotiations have been under way in recent days between members of the Obasanjo administration and his opponents in parliament. Last week, several lawmakers who had supported the resolution announced they had backed away from it.

Lawmakers are expected to call off the impeachment effort when they meet at their regular session Tuesday.

House lawmaker Farouk Lawan of President Obasanjo's People's Democratic Party, was among those leading the impeachment effort. He told VOA he hopes the impeachment threat will persuade Mr. Obasanjo to make changes in his government.

"I think the president has to take a very deep look at himself and find out how he has fared," said Mr. Lawan. "So my message is that he has to understand that one man, alone, cannot run a democracy. The president has to realize that most of the aides around him are not helping him to run a very successful program for the country."

On Sunday, the president appeared on national television, and said he is confident that the political crisis that was sparked by the parliament's motion two weeks ago has passed.

Mr. Obasanjo said he believes Nigerian democracy has been put to the test and emerged dynamic.

It was not the first time President Obasanjo has been threatened with impeachment. In June, members of the Senate moved to remove the president. But lawmakers abandoned their motion after reaching an agreement with him.

The move in the lower house this month raised international concern about the stability of democracy in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation. Ethnic and religious tensions remain high between people in the mostly Muslim north and those in the Christian south. Mr. Obasanjo, a Christian southerner, was elected in 1999, ending more than 15 years of military rule.

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