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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Obasanjo admits 'enormous' problems
President Olusegun Obasanjo
Nigeria had virtually collapsed, says Obasanjo
Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo has admitted his administration has so far failed to solve the country's huge challenges but said that things were getting better.

In a speech to mark independence day on 1 October, Mr Obasanjo said he would continue his fight against corruption and insecurity.

Everything, it seemed, had nearly collapsed

President Obasanjo
He told civil servants that unless they "changed their attitude" regarding corruption, the dividend of democracy would elude Nigeria.

Mr Obasanjo took office in May 1999, ending 16 years of military rule which saw widespread human rights abuses and international isolation.

'No carnivals'

A BBC correspondent in Nigeria says in place of the usual carnivals, Nigerians are expected to spend independence day reflecting on the country's problems.

The president said that, "far too many of our citizens still remain poor" in one of the world's biggest oil-producing countries.

Mr Obasanjo blamed the lack of progress on the "dismal reality" of the country he took over.

"Everything, it seemed, had nearly collapsed: the economy, our physical infrastructure, the system of our social organisation together with our values and morals. Cynicism and corruption were the order of the day. Violent crime had reached unprecedented levels and nothing seemed to work," he said.

Since taking office, Mr Obasanjo has repeatedly pledged to tackle corruption, recently setting up anti-corruption units in all ministries but he noted with "profound sadness" that graft was still prevalent among Nigeria's public officers.

All citizens

He also pledged to make Nigeria a safer place, saying that repeated outbreaks of communal violence were making his job harder.

Last month, more than 500 people were killed in fighting between Christians and Muslims in the central city of Jos.

In July, more than 100 were killed in Nasarawa state in ethnic clashes.

"We owe it to ourselves and to the future of this great nation ... not to think of or see any fellow Nigerian as a 'settler' in our country where he or she is a citizen by birth," he said.

Mr Obasanjo, in his second stint as head of state, said he would set up a Presidential Commission on Security to fight ethnic strife and banditry.

He also warned of an "unrelenting war" on illegal arms trafficking.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos
"The national day broadcast was a strong indictment of public officers for corruption"
See also:

11 Sep 00 | Africa
Nigeria's bishops confront Sharia
17 Jul 01 | Africa
Nigeria clashes leave 100 dead
01 Aug 01 | Business
Nigeria explores new oil contracts
21 Jun 00 | Africa
Analysis: Sharia takes hold
01 Aug 01 | Africa
Timeline: Nigeria
07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
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