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Nigeria Gets Ready to Inaugurate New President


Nigeria is going ahead with preparations for the inauguration of a new government in May, despite strong criticisms of recent elections. The organizing committee for the handover held its first meeting in Abuja. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports that the opposition has vowed to make the transition very turbulent.

The 29-member committee for the handover was appointed by outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo, who relinquishes power on May 29 after eight years in office.

Mr. Obasanjo will hand over civilian rule to his anointed successor, Umaru Yar'Adua.

Elections on April 14 and 21 ensured a landslide win for the governing People's Democratic Party, which has ruled Nigeria for eight years.

But independent election monitors say fraud was so widespread the polls lack credibility.

The Nigerian opposition, which includes the two main opposition parties, has rejected the elections and called for supporters to stage mass protests on Tuesday, when the country celebrates Workers Day.

The opposition will join labor unions and social groups for rallies across the country, with the biggest rally billed for Abuja.

The police in Abuja met with union leaders and issued a ban on political protests during Tuesday's May Day rally in the capital city.

Abuja Police chief Lawrence Alobi told VOA the ban aims to pre-empt widespread violence.

"It is criminal, it is uncivilized and it is barbaric, so we would not allow it," he said. "Some of these people who call people to the streets, by the time they call them, they cannot control them."

"And by the time it may have metamorphosed into a violent situation that will be completely devastating, they begin to regret. So, we will not allow that to happen at all because from past experience, such mass protests have always led to destruction and threats to public peace and security," he continued.

The government says the opposition could precipitate a military takeover by sponsoring what could become violent street protests.

The military ruled Africa's most populous country and biggest oil exporter for nearly three decades before handing over power in 1999.