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Date: Thu, 28 Mar 96 06:06:46 0500
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From: <q>peter a. rogers<q> <peter.a.rogers@Dartmouth.EDU>
To: <q>NUAFRICA: Program of African Studies Mailing List<q> <nuafrica@listserv.acns.nwu.edu>
Subject: Nigerian Democratic Movt. Report (LONG)

Nigerian Democratic Movt. Report

PANA, 23 March 1996

LAGOS, Nigeria (PANA) - Nigerians return to the polls Saturday to elect councillors for the country's 593 councils under a new government decree which stiputates that court proceedings cannot undermine the electoral process.

Scores of candidates disqualified from the first round of balloting March 16 have taken their petitions to different civil courts across the country.

But Justice Minister and Federal Attoney-General Michael Agbamuche explained Thursday that under the local government elections decree of 1996, no court proceedings can prejudice the conduct of the polls.

The decree provides for the setting up of special tribunals to hear election petitions in Nigeria's 30 states.

It also vests in the military head of state, the power to remove an elected chairman or dissolve a council, for a breach of the law.

Critics have slammed the sweeping powers as unconsitutional.

The electoral college of some 200,000 delegates elected March 16 are to choose the councillors from among themselves Saturday.

The councillors will then elect chairpersons for the councils Monday.

The military government has meanwhile, announced restriction for four hours of public movement during the non-party polls across the country of some 100 million people.

An official statement said inter-council and inter-state movements are banned from 8 a.m. to 12 noon local time. The elections March 1996 Local Government Elections in Nigeriaare the first in a series under the Gen. Sani Abacha regime's 36-month transition to demcoracy programme.

The general says he plans to hand over to elected civilians on October 1, 1998, brushing aside criticism by opponents, who want a shorter timetable.

Nigeria, under international pressure to democratise, has been ruled by the military for almost 26 years since its independence from Britain in October 1960.

The last military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida cancelled a June 1993 presidential election, in which millionaire-politician Moshood Abiola claimed victory.

Abiola is in detention, awaiting trial for treasonable felony after he declared himself president of Nigeria in June 1994.