Nigeria Dictator Ousts Officers Loyal to Ex-Ruler

From Associated Press

This country's new dictator ousted 17 top officers loyal to the previous military ruler Saturday as he consolidated his grip on Africa's most populous nation.

Earlier, Gen. Sani Abacha, who seized power from a military-installed civilian government Nov. 17, swore in a new Cabinet that includes some pro-democracy activists.

But the general, a key figure in three military coups in 10 years, remains in full control of the country, as evidenced by his latest military purge.

Spokesman Brig. Gen. Fred Chijuka said the officers were being "retired."

All 17 officers were loyal to Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who plunged the nation into turmoil after voiding the results of the June 12 presidential election that was to end a decade of military rule.

The "retired" officers included Maj. Gen. John Shagaya, commander of the multinational West African intervention force that has been trying to put down a rebellion in Liberia.

They also include Babangida's former security chief.

Many had served as military governors during Babangida's eight years in power and were among the wealthiest of military men. Their wealth was often resented by other soldiers.

The ousters were a reprise of a similar purge that Abacha carried out after Babangida stepped down Aug. 26, reportedly at the urging of Abacha. Babangida appointed a civilian supporter, Ernest Shonekan, as interim leader. Abacha ousted him Nov. 17.

Abacha's new Cabinet and a so-called ruling council include some prominent pro-democracy activists, most notably the man who apparently won the vice presidency in the June election, Baba Gana Kingibe. He is now foreign minister.

Donald Obot Etiebet will run the petroleum industry that provides 90% of government revenue. Etiebet held the same powerful post under the interim civilian administration that the general ousted. And the finance portfolio goes to Kalu Idika Kalu, a former World Bank economist whose appointment was seen as a bid to placate international lending institutions that have suspended aid to Nigeria.

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