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Nigeria former interim leader, Ernest Shonekan dies at 85

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Former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan has passed away, aged 85

He was said to have died Tuesday morning at Evercare hospital in Lekki, Lagos.

He was a Nigerian lawyer and statesman who served as the interim Head of State of Nigeria from 26 August 1993 to 17 November 1993.

Prior to his political career, Shonekan was the chairman and chief executive of the United African Company of Nigeria (successor of The Niger Company), a vast Nigerian conglomerate, which at the time was the largest African-controlled company in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Shonekan was born on 9 May 1936 in Lagos. The son of an Abeokuta-born civil servant, he was one of six children born into the family.

Shonekan was educated at CMS Grammar School and Igbobi College. He received a law degree from the University of London, and was called to the bar. He later attended Harvard Business School.

Shonekan was unable to control the political crisis which ensued following the election annulment. During his few months in power, he tried to schedule another presidential election and a return to democratic rule, while his government was hampered by a national workers’ strike. Opposition leader Moshood Abiola, viewed Shonekan’s interim government as illegitimate. Shonekan released political prisoners detained by Babangida. Shonekan’s administration introduced a bill to repeal three major draconian decrees of the military government. Babangida made the interim government weak by placing it under the control of the military.

Shonekan had lobbied for debt cancellation but, after the election annulment, most of the Western powers had imposed economic sanctions on Nigeria. Inflation was uncontrollable and most non-oil foreign investment disappeared. The government also initiated an audit of the accounts of NNPC, the oil giant, an organisation that had many operational inefficiencies. Shonekan served as an Executive of Royal Dutch Shell while acting as the interim president of Nigeria.

Shonekan tried to set a timetable for troop withdrawal from ECOMOG‘s peacekeeping mission in Liberia. General Sani Abacha, was the minister of defence and chief of defence staff who had full control over the military.

In 1994, he founded the Nigerian Economic Summit Group an advocacy group and think-tank for private sector-led development of the Nigerian economy.

Since then Shonekan went on to feature prominently as an elder statesman. At the time of his death he was the third oldest surviving Nigerian head of state by age after Elizabeth II and Yakubu Gowon. (With Wikipedia)

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