Nigerian Leader to Offer Asylum to Defuse Gambia Crisis

LAGOS (Capital Markets in Africa) – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari headed to Gambia to defuse a political crisis sparked by President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to step down after he lost elections last month.

Buhari will present a plan approved by Nigeria’s lower house of parliament on Thursday to offer Jammeh asylum, as part of efforts to persuade him to leave office. The plan is intended to “prevent violence which could engulf the region,” Abdulrazak Namdas, spokesman for the House of Representatives, said by phone from the capital, Abuja.

Jammeh’s lawyer on Thursday filed an injunction in the Supreme Court that seeks to prevent the inauguration next week of Adama Barrow, who won last month’s vote, according to Fatu TV, a pro-opposition broadcaster. The petition came two days after the court failed to consider another petition from Jammeh’s lawyers contesting the election results. Gambia’s Supreme Court hasn’t functioned since 2014.

Preparations for the inauguration on Jan. 19 won’t be hindered by Jammeh’s petitions, Halifah Sallah, a spokesman for Barrow, told reporters Thursday in Gambia’s capital, Banjul. “The status of an election petition should be regarded as a peripheral issue,” he said, urging authorities to allow four private radio stations that have been shut since Jan. 1 to resume broadcasting.

Barrow obtained 263,515 of the votes in Dec. 1 election against 212,099 for the incumbent. Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia since a coup in 1994, initially conceded defeat, only to make an about-turn a week later. The Economic Community of West African States has threatened to use force if Jammeh doesn’t step down.

The U.S. State Department last week ordered employees and families to leave the country, citing possible violence linked to the contested election.

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