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Nigeria: Crash involving governor kills 4

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By MUAWIYA GARBA FUNTUA and YINKA IBUKUN
The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 15, 2011; 1:19 PM

KATSINA, Nigeria -- A Nigerian state governor survived a Tuesday car crash that left four dead as he traveled to meet the president in the oil-rich country's north, officials said.

It was the second fatal crash in recent weeks involving President Goodluck Jonathan's bid to extend his mandate.

An Associated Press reporter said he counted three dead and 11 injured people at the Federal Medical Center in Katsina, the capital of Katsina state. Most of the victims were passengers on a bus which collided head-on with Gov. Ibrahim Shehu Shema's car.

The governor and his driver were unharmed, but his aide-de-camp, Aminu Ibrahim, died inside the car. Ibrahim was buried immediately after the crash, bringing the number of dead to four.

Shema was going to escort Jonathan to pay tribute to a traditional ruler before the start of his presidential rally.

"We pray for Allah to give the family the fortitude to bear the loss," Jonathan later said at a ruling party rally that started a few hours after the crash.

A Christian from the south, Jonathan is trying to win votes from Nigeria's Muslim north. However, many northerners believe they should have another turn in the nation's highest office.

It isn't the first fatal crash involving Jonathan's campaign. During a Feb. 12 visit to Port Harcourt, a vehicle in Jonathan's large presidential convoy crashed into a civilian automobile just outside the southern city. Local newspapers reported at least two people died instantly in the crash, though authorities would not confirm that.

Car crashes are common on Nigeria's poorly maintained roads. Even main cities are linked by pitted, two-lane roads crammed with passenger buses, trucks laden with goods and rickety private vehicles. Drivers often travel at high speed and overtake slower vehicles, leading to head-on collisions and high death tolls.

Politicians' convoys are also accused of disregarding the country's often-flouted traffic rules, with armed men with machine guns using threats and force to push traffic out of the way.

Meanwhile, the federal House of Representatives ordered an investigation Tuesday into an airplane crash last week involving the country's main opposition party. A plane carrying the vice presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria crashed into rams and goats crowding a rural northern Nigerian runway.

The candidate and his entourage were unhurt, but the plane was damaged. A party spokesman later described the ram intrusion as "sabotage."

During a hearing Tuesday, Rep. Olufemi Gbajabiamila of the Action Congress of Nigeria criticized the government for trying to portray the crash as beyond its control.

"This was not an act of God," he said. "It was an act of negligence."

Nigerians head to the polls April 9 to choose a new president. There also will be separate state and federal elections next month.

---

Ibukun reported from Lagos, Nigeria.


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