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Nigeria’s crisis deepening, ICG warns

The political and security situations in Nigeria could deteriorate rapidly in the near future, unless the country speedily returns to a clear constitutional track, the International Crisis Group, ICG, a global conflict prevention think-tank, has warned.

In a commentary jointly authored by ICG President, Louise Arbour and its Nigerian board member, Ayo Obe, titled “Leaderless Nigeria could spin out of control”, the organisation observes that President Umaru Yar’Adua’s long hospitalisation abroad, his failure to hand over power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, and the government’s deception of the public on the true state of his health, are creating serious threats to security and peace in Nigeria and West Africa.

These threats, the Brussels-based ICG argues, include the deepening rivalry between the northern and southern political elite over Yar’Adua’s succession, the unraveling of the Niger Delta peace process, and diminishing accountability in the federal cabinet which could be increasing corruption.

The organisation also observes that “the lack of Nigerian leadership of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, which Yar’Adua currently chairs, “has slowed efforts at resolving the problems in Guinea and Niger”.

Crisis Group, consistently ranked as one of the world’s top ten conflict research organisations, warns that failure to sustain those efforts could lead to a deterioration of the political and security situations in both countries.

Most ominously, the group warns that if the present constitutional confusion deepens, it could hand ambitious military officers a pretext to stage a coup, erasing the country’s democratic gains.

In order to avert these threats, the group urges President Yar’Adua to comply with the constitutional provision that requires him to inform the National Assembly when he is “proceeding on vacation or otherwise incapable of discharging the functions of his office”.

ICG also urges members of bodies such as the National Council of State, which includes all the country’s former leaders, civilian and military, to prevail on Yar’Adua to comply with the spirit of the constitution.

Furthermore, it urges Nigeria’s friends abroad to insist that all parties, including the military, respect the constitution and its provisions for managing this kind of crisis.

In a related development, the latest edition of the ICG’s global monitoring bulletin, Crisis Watch, published yesterday, lists Nigeria along with earthquake-devastated Haiti, as the two countries where political and security situations deteriorated most significantly in January 2010.

It observes that the country is experiencing “a deepening political crisis at the centre”, fears of reprisal violence in some northern states following the recent violence in Jos, and “risks of a serious deterioration in security in the Niger Delta region over February”.


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