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Sunday, May 30, 1999 Published at 04:26 GMT 05:26 UK

World: Africa

Obasanjo names key figures

Civilian President Olusegun Obasanjo is handed the constitution

The President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has made a number of key military and political appointments just hours after being sworn in.

Nigeria elections
They include a new army chief of staff, General Victor Malu, who made his name with the West African peacekeeping force, Ecomog, in Liberia, and a new head of the central bank, Joseph Sanusi.

Barnaby Phillips in Abuja: President Obasanjo wasted no time in asserting his authority
General Malu is regarded as one of Nigeria's best respected and loyal soldiers. He will be expected to oversee restructuring of the army, to return it to a purely military role and prevent further coups.

Mr Sanusi comes to the central bank from the private sector. During the years of military rule, billions of dollars of state funds are thought to have been embezzled by the corrupt leadership.

[ image:  ]
President Obasanjo also named the Secretary General of Opec, Rilwanu Lukman, as a special adviser on the petroleum and energy sectors, which have been plagued by corruption.

The BBC correspondent in Nigeria, Barnaby Phillips, says that by making such an appointment, President Obasanjo has signalled his intention to keep key parts of the economy closely under control.

Drive to end corruption

Earlier, numerous African heads of state, as well as other foreign dignitaries, attended President Obasanjo's swearing-in ceremony which marked the end of more than 15-years of military rule.

Barnaby Phillips watched the handover cermony in Abuja
In his inaugural speech, President Obasanjo said that the kind of corruption which has plagued Nigeria for decades would no longer be tolerated.

"Corruption will be tackled head on," he said.

[ image: Nigerians gathered in Abuja's Eagle Square to watch the historic moment]
Nigerians gathered in Abuja's Eagle Square to watch the historic moment
"No society can achieve its full potential if it allows corruption to become the full-blown cancer it has in Nigeria."

Officials said Obasanjo would name the rest of his government next week. Both houses of the national assembly are also expected to be opened early next week, the next step towards returning Nigeria fully to civilian rule.

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.

Challenges ahead

Nigeria's new president faces a series of tough challenges as he takes office.

[ image: Fireworks heralded the change of power]
Fireworks heralded the change of power
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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