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Nigeria hits back at US warning


BBC News OnLine:

Nigeria's government has told the United States to mind its own business over speculation that the president may stand for a third term.

US State Department officials have warned that any constitutional amendment to allow this would undermine Nigeria's democratic advances.

But Nigerian presidential spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode said Nigeria did not need lessons in democracy from abroad.

He said President Olusegun Obasanjo believed in constitutional rule.

"At no point in time has President Obasanjo said that he has any intention of not only staying on but also violating the constitution of Nigeria and neither would he do so," Mr Fani-Kayode told the BBC's Network Africa programme.


Mr Fani-Kayode was responding to comments by US State Department officials that Mr Obasanjo should not seek a third term.

Herman Cohen, former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said Mr Obasanjo had improved human rights and freedom of speech.

"I say he should take that credit and retire and leave it to a new generation of leaders who can take Nigeria a step further and start using those resources for the people - which he has not done," Mr Cohen told the BBC's World Today programme.

Mr Fani-Kayode said the US was responding to a hypothetical situation.

"We in our country, and certainly our president, does not need lessons in democracy, or in constitutional rule, or indeed in interpreting constitutional rule from anybody, least of all people from outside our shores," he said.

Nigeria's parliament is currently discussing proposed constitutional amendments which, if approved, could allow presidential third terms.

"If there is an amendment in regard to tenure of office, we will cross that bridge when we come to it," Mr Fani-Kayode said.

Correspondents say the issue has been the subject of heated debate in Nigeria since the amendments were tabled in the National Assembly.

Last month, the leaders of two major ethnic groups - the Yoruba and Igbo - come out strongly against President Obasanjo running in polls in 2007 saying it would cause instability.

Any constitutional amendment needs to be approved by parliamentarians and two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states.

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