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The BBC's Barnaby Phillips in Lagos
"Punishments such as amputation and flogging"
 real 28k

Monday, 29 May, 2000, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Nigerian state adopts Sharia
Girls at a Muslim school
Muslims form the majority in northern Nigeria
The northern Nigerian state of Sokoto begins implementing the Islamic legal code, or Sharia, on Monday.

The bloodletting has to stop

President Obasanjo
The decision came as the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo called for an end to ethnic, communal and religious violence, on the occasion of the first anniversary of Nigeria's return to civilian rule.

"The bloodletting has to stop. We are going to make sure it stops," President Obasanjo said in a radio and television address to Nigerians.

Sokoto is the second Nigerian state to formally adopt Sharia, after neighbouring Zamfara did so in January this year.

But the authorities in Sokoto have decided against the sort of highly-publicised ceremony that marked the event in Zamfara.


President Olusegun Obasanjo
President Obasanjo promised to being corruption 'to a standstill'
Sharia law includes punishments such as the amputation of the limbs of those convicted of theft or robbery and the stoning of women caught in adultery.

As in Zamfara, Christians will not be affected by Sharia but the BBC Nigeria correspondent, Barnaby Phillips, says many Christians are bound to perceive the implementation of Sharia as a threat to their way of life.

Plans to introduce Sharia in Kaduna, another northern state, resulted in violent clashes in the state capital between Christian and Muslima in February this year.

Hundreds of people were killed and many homes, churches, mosques and other buildings were destroyed.

We can now proudly claim to have been accepted by the international community

President Obasanjo
The fighting erupted again last Monday and hundreds more people were killed.

Governors of the mainly-Muslim northern states had agreed with the federal government in February to suspend any implementation of Sharia.

But the authorities in Sokoto, which is the historic centre of Islam in Nigeria, say they had already announced the move and could not go back on the pledge.

President's promise

During his radio and television address on Monday, President Obasanjo pledged that his government would work harder to ensure progress for all Nigerians.

I don't see any sign of breaking up in Nigeria

President Obasanjo
He said Nigeria's image in the world had been improved.

"By all indications, we can now proudly claim to have been accepted by the international community," he said.

"We have taken our rightful place among the comity of nations. We now enjoy the confidence of our development partners and major international organisations, such as the World Bank and IMF," he added.

President Obasanjo promised to continue his fight against corruption.

He noted that his government had recovered 100bn naira ($1bn) of stolen cash and assets while another $2bn had been frozen in foreign accounts, "with the possibility of recovery and repatriation.", he said.

Nigeria united

He also dismissed any fears of Nigeria breaking up.

"I don't see any sign of breaking up in Nigeria," President Obasanjo told reporters.

"And maybe because we had a civil war virtually based on ethnic grounds, people see any flareup in Nigeria, no matter if it is between two schoolchildren, as likely to lead to Nigeria's breakup," he added.

In a conciliatory move towards those who fought in the secessionist Biafran army, the president announced that soldiers who were dismissed from the army for fighting on the Biafran side would now have their dismissals commuted to retirement.

"(It) is another step to put the unsavoury past behind us and there may be more of such acts of reconciliation in the future," he said.

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Key stories:

Holy conflict
Why do Christians and Muslims quarrel?
See also:

28 May 00 | Africa
Nigeria: So what's changed?
24 May 00 | Africa
'200 dead' in Kaduna riots
27 Jan 00 | Africa
The many faces of Sharia
17 Feb 00 | Africa
Nigerian flogged for having sex
20 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Islamic law raises tension in Nigeria
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