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Sunday, July 12, 1998 Published at 03:58 GMT 04:58 UK


World: Africa

Chaotic scenes as Abiola buried

Thousands of supporters arrived for the funeral


BBC correspondent Hilary Andersson: 'A scrum without the dignity of a funeral'
The Nigerian opposition leader, Chief Moshood Abiola, has been buried in the grounds of his home in Lagos.

The funeral was conducted according to Muslim rites, and described by a correspondent as noisy, but short, with the burial service lasting only 10 minutes.

Thousands of people gathered to pay their respects at the compound, which was surrounded by the security forces.


Large crowds of students pushed back police lines in a peaceful confrontation prior to the burial.

Police had barricaded surrounding roads, and were preventing a large crowd of mourners and anti-government demonstrators from getting near the burial site.


[ image: Chief Abiola's body is laid to rest]
Chief Abiola's body is laid to rest
Amid loud wailing from mourners, there were chaotic scenes as people tried to get a last glimpse of his body, which was lowered into the grave in a simple white shroud.

Much of the crowd poured into the Abiola compound in Lagos shortly before the burial took place, when the security forces withdrew at the request of the family.

But many other mourners were still kept away from the area by a security cordon.

The presence of armed riot police and soldiers had angered radical Abiola supporters, who considered it a provocation.

Plea for calm

Chief Abiola's eldest son, Kola, had appealed to the crowds not to allow violence during the funeral.

Some supporters tried to seize the casket containing Chief Abiola's body.


BBC correspondent Sola Odunfa: 'A noisy ceremony'
One young man in the crowd was reported as saying: "He is our president and we must give him a proper burial, that is why we tried to seize him. The family don't recognise that he is for all the people."

Chief Abiola died on Tuesday, just as it seemed he was about to be released after four years in detention.

He collapsed while meeting a US delegation in Nigeria to discuss the transition to civilian rule and died a short time later in hospital.

His body was released to the family for burial a few hours after the completion of a post-mortem examination by an international team of doctors.

They concluded he probably died of natural causes.

Chief Abiola was widely believed to have won a presidential election campaign in 1993, which was annulled by the military. He was jailed the following year when he declared himself president.





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