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Nigerian Troops Deployed Following Assassination of Justice Minister - 2001-12-24

Nigeria's government is deploying troops to southwestern Osun state following the assassination Sunday of the country's Justice Minister, Bola Ige.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo decided to deploy troops after holding an emergency cabinet meeting Monday in the wake of Justice Minister Bola Ige's death. The decision was based on fear that violence may spread in Osun state after Mr. Ige was gunned down by unidentified assailants late Sunday at his home in the city of Ibadan.

The killing came amid a festering political crisis in Osun state.

The crisis has centered on a dispute between state governor Bisi Akande and deputy governor Iyiola Omisore. Clashes have broken out recently between supporters of the two men, who are both members of Bole Ige's Alliance for Democracy Party. Last week, a state lawmaker who was an outspoken supporter of the deputy governor was killed.

Bola Ige had taken the side of Governor Akande.

Mr. Ige was a veteran politician who was well respected among members of his Yoruba tribe who dominate southwestern Nigeria. He had spoken out against the imposition of Sharia, the strict Islamic code, in some northern states.

The late Justice Minister was a close political ally of President Olusegun Obasanjo, and was known for his strong criticism of the previous military government. After Nigeria's return to civilian rule in May of 1999, President Obasanjo named him Minister of Power and Steel before making him the Minister of Justice. He had served as governor of Oyo State in the late 1970's and early 80's, where he gained the reputation as a shrewd politician.

Bola Ige is the first high-ranking official to be assassinated since Nigeria's return to civilian rule in May of 1999.

In a statement released after Monday's cabinet meeting, President Obasanjo's office called for an end to what it said is a culture of violence in Nigerian politics.