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Yar'Adua sworn in as Nigeria's president

Posted by by Olatunde Joel Agoi on 2007/05/29 | Views: 4966 |

Yar'Adua sworn in as Nigeria's president

Umaru Yar'Adua was sworn in Tuesday as president of oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, succeeding Olusegun Obasanjo who stepped down after eight years in office.

Umaru Yar'Adua was sworn in Tuesday as president of oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, succeeding Olusegun Obasanjo who stepped down after eight years in office.

The inauguration marked the first transition from one elected leader to another since Nigeria's independence from colonial power Britain in 1960.

"I Umaru Musa Yar'Adua do solemnly swear that I will be faithful and hold allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria," the new president pledged on a copy of the Koran at a colourful ceremony at the Eagle Square parade ground in the capital Abuja.

The outgoing governor of the Muslim-dominated northern state of Katsina, promised to be "both a listener and a doer and to serve the nation with honesty, transparency, accountability and with absolute fear of God".

The election in April that brought Yar'Adua to power was widely seen as rigged and he will have to move quickly to pacify an opposition still bitter over the result.

"We're all Nigerians; we're a thoughful and enterprising people and we have been asked to make our country a better place," Yar'Adua continued.

He called on his fellow citizens to espouse values such as "modesty and generosity" and to join him "in building our Nigeria".

"I ask and urge you to set aside all negative attitudes and concentrate all our energies on getting to our destination."

Watched by several African heads of state, Yar'Adua, 55, took the oath of office alongside his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan -- outgoing governor of the restive southern oil state of Bayelsa.

He assured Nigerians that he would "find a way to achieve peace and justice" in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, where around 180 foreigners -- mostly oil workers -- have been taken hostage by armed groups in the past 18 months.

"The crisis in the Niger Delta commands our urgent attention. Ending it is a matter of strategic importance to our country," Yar'Adua said.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest crude producer, but is currently losing one quarter of its output to unrest in the south of the country.

On top of the problems in the Delta, Yar'Adua inherits rampant corruption, a weak democratic record after prolonged periods of military rule and a population that has seen its standard of living crumble even as oil revenue soars.

An estimated 400 billion dollars has evaporated from the country's coffers since independence, according to a recent report. Nigeria is regularly ranked among the most corrupt on the planet by global watchdog Transparency International.

Yar'Adua is among a handful of governors recently absolved of corruption by the country's anti-graft agency. On being elected governor of Katsina in 1999, he immediately made public his assets.

But analysts point out that however clean he himself may be, he will have to satisfy all those who supported his election bid and who see this as pay-off time.

Doubts about Yar'Adua's health have subsided since his emergency evacuation to Germany for medical care during the presidential campaign.

Outgoing president Obasanjo, who is seen as having hand-picked Yar'Adua to succeed him, will retire later Tuesday to his farm in Ota some 20 kilometres from Lagos after attending a banquet in honour of guests in Abuja.

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