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  Security concerns force Queen to tour fake market

London Telegraph

Nigeria was at its colourful best yesterday as the Queen met traders in a perfect, little dust-free market place. So perfect, in fact, it looked like a studio set - which is exactly what it was.

The Queen's only chance to meet "real" Nigerians, not just the great and the good selected to attend her official functions, was compromised by security fears.

Instead of visiting a real market, she was forced to tour a pretend one, built inside a heavily-fortified government compound for Voices, a BBC World Service radio drama series.

Many in the market were actors. The 70 traders who were not had been security vetted and transported from their dusty stalls at the real market in Karu, half a mile away on the outskirts of the capital, Abuja.

While the Queen chatted to the "traders", most of whom were sporting huge official security passes, the real people of Karu remained outside the huge locked gates, some managing to get a glimpse of her by standing on high banks outside the perimeter walls.

Security has been unprecedented. The Queen's three-day state visit and the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting today is seen as a potential terrorist target for some Muslims.

Buckingham Palace had stressed before the visit that the Queen wished to meet "as many of the Nigerian people as she can".

As her official car neared the compound a loudspeaker sounded out: "Market traders, please take your positions. Drummers, thank-you."

All it needed was, "Cue lights. Cameras roll. Action!" It could almost have been Walford market on the EastEnders set.

The Queen, accompanied by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, asked one women selling cloth: "Is it traditional?" She was clearly aware that little in the market could be taken at face value.

It was all a far cry from her previous visit, 47 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of flag-waving people crammed on to the streets to wave to her.
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