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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK

World: Africa

Nigeria's politicians want soldiers moved

Nigeria's politicians do not like having the army too close at hand

Nigeria's lower chamber of parliament has overwhelmingly passed a motion urging the government to immediately re-locate military barracks situated close to the presidential villa and the parliament in the capital Abuja.

They say they are unhappy with a situation where a group of over-ambitious soldiers need only walk across from their barracks to State House or the Parliament Building in order to sack the democratically-elected government.

The legislators say that in a coup-prone country like Nigeria, it is not possible for them to concentrate on their work while the soldiers are, as they put it, too close for comfort.

[ image: President Obasanjo: Taking the potential threat seriously]
President Obasanjo: Taking the potential threat seriously
Some members even argue that no military barracks should be close to any city centre in Nigeria, or that all barracks should be moved away to locations close to the country's borders.

Nigeria only returned to civilian rule in May when the military stood down after more than 15 years in power.

Since the country gained independence from Britain in 1960, there have been six successful coup d'etats in Nigeria as well as several unsuccessful coup attempts.

The new civilian President Olusegun Obasanjo has not yet responded to the legislators' demands but in just one month in power he has already shown how seriously he takes the potential threat from the army by dismissing about 150 senior officers.

Another motive

However, the House of Representatives has another reason for wanting to see soldiers moved out from the centre of the capital, Abuja.

The presence of so many senior army officers has made it impossible for legislators to find accommodation of their own in the city.

Most have spent the past few weeks living in hotels where they complain they are unable to lodge their families or entertain guests.

The departure of the soldiers would go a long way to solving Abuja's accommodation crisis - and freeing up more room for the politicians.

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