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Saturday, 9 November, 2002, 14:52 GMT
Nigeria vows to prevent stoning
Agbani Darego of Nigeria is crowned Miss World last year in South Africa.
The case theatens to overshadow next month's contest

Amid growing controversy over the staging of the Miss World beauty pageant in Nigeria, the government has made it clear that it will if necessary intervene to save the life of a woman sentenced to death by stoning under Islamic law.

A statement issued by junior foreign minister Dubem Onyia said that the country's constitution would be used to thwart any negative ruling in the case of Amina Lawal.

She lost her appeal against a conviction for adultery in August and is now taking her case to a higher court.


That the government has so far chosen not to directly challenge the sentence is a clear indication of the political sensitivities involved

But unless the government intervenes directly and actually quashes the conviction itself the controversy over her case will remain as strong as ever.

This latest statement is a clear sign of how apprehensive the Nigerian authorities have become to negative publicity over the staging of the Miss World contest.

They want the event to portray the country in a positive light, but the controversy over the stoning sentence threatens to overshadow the glitz and glamour of the occasion.

Election worries

The statement makes it clear that, although the government is strongly opposed to the sentence handed down by the Islamic court, it will not at this stage directly intervene.

Amina Lawal
Amina Lawal had a baby outside marriage
The Justice Minister, Kanu Agabi, has said that, under Nigerian law, it is not possible for central government to interfere with the Islamic justice system unless an appeal reaches the federal supreme court in Abuja.

But legal experts have questioned this opinion, saying that the constitution does allow for direct challenge by central government at any stage.

That the government has so far chosen not to do so is a clear indication of the political sensitivities involved.

With national elections just a few months away, President Obasanjo needs the support of the Muslim north to win a second term of office.

To challenge a judgement of an Islamic court would certainly not help his chances of a re-election.

Partial boycott

The beauty queens are due to arrive in the country on Monday amid the tightest possible security.

Some have already pulled out in protest at Amina Lawal's case, but most have not and it seems that the majority of the 110 beauty queens will be coming to take part.

The contest itself does not take place until 7 December - after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.


Miss World row

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06 Sep 02 | Africa
19 Aug 02 | Africa
26 Mar 02 | Africa
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