NIGERIA: Public buildings razed in political violence


[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



LAGOS, 12 Nov 2004 (IRIN) - More than a dozen public buildings have been razed in two days of political violence in southeast Nigeria’s Anambra State between rival factions of the country’s ruling party, government officials and residents said on Friday.

Anambra Governor Chris Ngige accused police of complicity in violence, in which his office, the state legislature as well as radio and television transmitting stations belonging to the state were burnt down on Thursday in the capital, Awka.

On Wednesday, armed thugs also torched buildings housing the radio and television studios of the Anambra Broadcasting Service and the electoral commission.

Ngige blamed the destruction on a faction of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by businessman Chris Uba.

“As for the police, they’re involved in the situation,” Ngige told IRIN, alleging that the police failed to heed repeated requests to provide security for the affected public buildings.

Felix Ogbaudu, head of the police in Anambra State, said on television on Thursday night his men had been “overwhelmed” by the numerous, heavily armed thugs. Appeals had been sent for police reinforcements from other states, he said.

The rival factions, one controlled by Ngige and the other by Uba, have been battling for supremacy in Anambra state since general elections in 2003.

Uba, who claims to have funded Ngige’s election, accused him of reneging on an agreement to give him a say in his government.

In July last year, Uba’s faction made an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Ngige using a resignation letter they had made him sign even before he took office.

The police, who are under the control of the federal government, later withdrew security details attached to the Anambra government, citing a court order obtained by Uba’s faction against Ngige’s continuation in office.

Ngige said he was forced by the action of the poli! ce to create a special vigilante service to take care of his personal security and the security of public buildings in the state.

“The police went and disbanded the vigilantes last week to pave the way for these thugs,” he told IRIN.

Kolapo Sofoluwe, Anambra police spokesman, declined to comment on the allegations.

On Friday, President Olusegun Obasanjo held a meeting in Abuja with security officials, Ngige and senior party officials. A statement from the presidency said the meeting decided to work for the reconciliation of the rival factions and bolster police and security presence in Anambra.

Renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, who is from Anambra, last month rejected a national award given him by Obasanjo, giving as his reason deteriorating security in Nigeria, especially in his home state.

"A small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom! ," Achebe said in the letter to Obasanjo rejecting the award.