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Published: Tuesday June 10, 2014 MYT 12:17:22 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 10, 2014 MYT 12:19:13 AM

Protests erupt over Nigeria's new Islamic authority - witnesses

KADUNA Nigeria (Reuters) - Hundreds of youths protested on Monday against a decision to appoint Nigeria's former central bank governor as the country's second-highest Islamic authority.

Sunday's state government decision to make Lamido Sanusi the Emir of Kano, one of the most influential positions in the largely Muslim north, surprised many who had expected the job to pass from father to son as a sign of stability when the north faces an Islamist insurgency.

Sanusi, an outspoken critic of the government's record on corruption, became the Emir two days after the death of his great uncle, the last emir.

Protesters backing the late emir's oldest son, Lamido Ado Bayero, chanted "Ba ma son", or "We don't want" in the Hausa language, and "Kariya ne", meaning "It's a lie", near the emir's palace in Kano, the north's main city, witnesses told Reuters.

Sanusi was popular among international investors for his inflation-fighting policies. But his past clashes with the government could make him a more divisive figure on the local stage than his predecessor, who largely stayed out of politics.

"They are really wild and angry  with the state governor about the choice of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the emir ... They stopped our vehicle and insisted that we must put tree branches on it as solidarity with their protest," said tailor Alhaji Adamu Scorer.

The crowd tore up pictures of the governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, who with the state authorities made the final decision to appoint Sanusi, and attacked anyone they thought had supported the decision, he added.

There is no automatic father-to-son succession for the position which has few formal constitutional powers but has significant influence over the region's Muslims. Candidates, who are shortlisted by a panel of "kingmakers", have to come from leading families.

Sanusi was suspended from his post at the bank in February by President Goodluck Jonathan after presenting parliament with evidence that the state oil firm Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to pay $20 billion (11.9 billion pounds) into federal coffers.

NNPC has repeatedly denied Sanusi's allegations, which brought him into conflict with Jonathan's administration a year before national elections.

The administration of Jonathan, a southern Christian, denied any link between Sanusi's removal and his allegations and went on to accuse the central bank of procurement irregularities during his tenure. He has dismissed those charges.

(Reporting by Isaac Abrak in Kaduna, Writing by Andrew Heavens; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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