Nigerian police shoot at protesters, one dead

Nigerian police killed one man on Friday when they fired into a crowd of supporters of the governor of the central state of Plateau, who were protesting against an attempt to impeach him for corruption.

Plateau is one of more than a dozen states in Africa’s top oil producer where a battle for political supremacy between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is being played out, six months before landmark elections.

Eight lawmakers—all in the custody of federal authorities on corruption charges—were bussed into the Plateau state capital, Jos, on Friday under armed guard to carry out an impeachment investigation against governor Joshua Dariye.

They had begun their probe in a session closed to the public when about 150 of Dariye’s supporters charged into the area, hurling stones.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the mob while the lawmakers departed, but the protesters held their ground. Police then fired into the crowd.

This correspondent saw the corpse of one man shot through the eye.
Another man was taken to hospital with bullet wounds in his leg and abdomen.

Political analysts see the crisis in Plateau and several other states as evidence of a proxy war between Obasanjo and Abubakar ahead of April elections, which should mark the first democratic handover of power in Nigerian history.

Obasanjo must step down after the poll, but is determined to keep control of the ruling People’s Democratic Party and stop his deputy from succeeding him. Nigeria’s 36 states are a battleground because governors control nominations to the party primaries and can also influence voting on election day.

Dariye is one of at least a dozen state governors who are allied to Abubakar and face impeachment over corruption allegations. He is already wanted by British police on charges of money laundering.

Dariye has called the impeachment attempt illegal, citing the 1999 Constitution, which says that at least two-thirds of the 24-person state house of assembly must vote in favour to begin the process.

Dariye’s opponents argue that many members lost their seats when they left the ruling party, so the assembly can achieve a quorum with as few as eight members. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the graft-busting agency set up by Obasanjo, which escorted the indicted lawmakers to Jos, issued a statement earlier this week denying it had incited or aided the impeachment process.—Reuters

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