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Saturday, May 29, 1999 Published at 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK

World: Africa

Nigeria embraces civilian rule

Civilian President Olusegun Obasanjo is handed the constitution

Nigeria's new civilian president, Olusegun Obasanjo has been sworn into office, promising to stamp out the corruption which became a feature of the years of military rule.

Nigeria elections
President Obasanjo said he would show that integrity in government and civilian life was the way forward.

On the eve of his inauguration, a giant firework display passed on a message from his people

He promised to tackle many of Nigeria's problems including crime, unemployment and poverty.

As he completed the oath of office the crowd of dignitaries and ordinary Nigerians burst into applause.

The BBC's Jon Leyne: "Obasanjo is determined to make significant changes"
His first act as president was to receive the constitution and Nigerian flag from his predecessor.

Some 40 heads of state and foreign dignataries from across the world were in the capital, Abuja, to watch the handover of power.

President Obasanjo takes over from General Abdulsalam Abubakar, who paved the way for elections.

The new president arrived in Eagle Square for the handover dressed in a traditional costume in the national colours of green and white.

'Cancer of corruption'

Mr Obasanjo, in his inaugural speech, vowed to clean up Nigerian politics.

Olusegun Obasanjo is sworn in as Nigerian President
He said: "I am determined to make significant changes within a year.

"All the impacts of bad government that are immediately removeable will be removed, while working for medium and long term solutions.

"Corruption will be tackled head on. No society can achieve its full potential if it allows corruption to become the full-blown cancer it has in Nigeria."

[ image:  ]
He added: "With God as my guide and 120 million Nigerians working with me, we shall not fail."

African heads of state attending the inauguration included Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania.

The ceremony also brought together a number of political adversaries including President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo and his regional rival President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

Prince Charles represented the United Kingdom and American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson was also there.

Miltary farewell

[ image: The new president must get Nigeria back on its feet]
The new president must get Nigeria back on its feet
Before President Obasanjo officially took office at 1000 GMT his predecessor, in military uniform, addressed the crowds.

He said: "After 15 years of military rule today is a day of promise for a great future.

"This day must rank second only to 1 October 1960 - the day of our national independence.

"We hope and pray that this presidency ushers in a new, united, strong and democratic Nigeria that is the pride of us all."

[ image: General Abubakar relinquished power]
General Abubakar relinquished power
In a farewell speech on Friday, the outgoing military leader, General Abubakar, defended his government's record, but urged the army to resist any temptation to take power again in the future.

His last move, before handing over power, was to abolish the decree allowing the detention without trial.

The BBC's correspondent in Abuja, Barnaby Phillips, says Mr Obasanjo inherits a country with staggering problems left by a succession of corrupt and repressive military administrations.

But, he says, for now at least the mood is one of celebration.

Challenges ahead

Nigeria Correspondent Barnaby Philips: "An extraordinary transformation in a very short time"
Nigeria's new president faces a series of tough challenges as he takes office.

The country has vast reserves of oil and the potential to be one of Africa's richest nations.

But the economy has been steadily withering after years of waste, corruption and mismanagement.

Meanwhile, unemployment is soaring and much of the population lives in poverty with no access to electricity, roads or education.

Mr Obasanjo, himself a former military ruler, insists he will bring Nigeria back from economic collapse. Now millions of Nigerians will be watching to see him prove his worth.

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