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Nigerian Parliament Debates Changes to Charter

There have been some rowdy scenes in both houses of the Nigerian parliament in recent days, as lawmakers review a bill to change the constitution and allow President Olusegun Obasanjo to run in elections next year.

Already, strong signs are emerging that the proposal to rewrite the constitution to allow President Obasanjo to run for a third term may not receive the required two-thirds in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.

Wunmi Bewaji, a member of parliament and a leading critic of the bill says opponents are being threatened.

"We receive anonymous calls from people warning us to desist from opposing the perpetuation of President Obasanjo in office. It's a common occurence, it's a daily occurrence," said Bewaji.

Nigeria's constitution allows two terms of four years for the president and state governors, but powerful allies of Mr. Obasanjo are campaigning to extend it to three terms.

Cletus Upaa, a House of Representatives member, who belongs to the so-called pro-third term group, says Mr. Obasanjo has achieved tremendous results, and deserves another term.

"I think President Obasanjo has done a good job, and I personally think that he has done a good job in the area of the fight against corruption. Whether selective or not, I support his fight against corruption. ... the people he assembled to help him in administering this country, they are producing results," said Upaa. "We are seeing changes. So, I believe he has done a very good job."

Mr. Obasanjo's election in 1999 marked the end of 15 years of military rule in Africa's most populous nation. Next year's vote should mark the first time in Nigeria's history that one civilian president hands over to another through elections.

Local newspapers have published allegations of bribes by Mr. Obasanjo's supporters to win support for the third-term amendment. Government officials have denied such allegations.