Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #02,2000
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Jan.15, 2000

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Nigeria in Review From 1000 to 2000 by Dr. Aluko

Jan 15, 2000

No group is Marginalised --- Babangida

By Daphne Agwu

ON January 18, 2000, the members of the National Assembly resume sitting after going on a long recess. Hon Umaru Babangida, representing Kontagora/Wushishi/Wuse constituency in Niger State in the House of Representatives speaks on some issues affecting the Assembly presently, plus the tasks that await them as they reconvene. Read on.

What should Nigerians be expecting from the National Assembly as it commences sitting on January 18?

Well, when we resume for the new millennium, we would be resuming sitting with optimism, believing that there is a lot to be achieved. From what I read in the papers, out of the supplementary budget approved for the third quarter of the year, we were made to understand that the implementation of the budget was not as it should be in the sense that over fifty billion is back to the ‘kitty’. Only about a little over a third of what was appropriated was spent.

So it would appear that maybe due to time constraint, it does not make implementation possible. Thank God that the fifty billion has been saved or rather has been retrieved. We are hoping that would give impetus to the proposed new budget for the year 2000.

Can we then say that this situation has any connection with the delay of the year 2000 budget?

Yes it has, in the sense that the money we voted for last year, which has not been spent and did not go to the drain, but has been retrieved, would assist in the implementation of the new budget to be approved because whatever has not been spent would be declared surplus. Hopefully, the project would be continued if they are adopting projects which are supposed to be in the rolling plant which normally takes three to four years. You do not start such plans and finish within three months.

So, if it is in the rolling plant, I am sure it would be revisited in the new budget. So, for the executive to say that they have ‘retrieved’ I think that it shows the transparency and accountability which we stand for and which seems to be seeing the light of the day. It is a good step in the right direction.

Don’t you think that the budget has been delayed long enough?

It is not delayed because after the presentation, we were quarrelling that what we appropriated was not what was being implemented. There was that deadlock between the legislature and the executive. But now that the money in question is already retired by the executive, we are hoping that after the new budget is approved, we would give it all the support that it needs to get the implementation.

Another reason is that I still believe there is a lot of time constraint and there is nothing we can do about time constraint. And you know that in implementation, there is a certain aspect that takes longer time to do. For example, if you start building a house or a bridge you cannot claim to be finishing it in just two or three months, it is a task that may take as long as a year to complete.

In the past, you would find a situation whereby money kept with the government was spent recklessly. At the last minute, you’d see all sorts of budgets flying in the air, left, right and centre. In the end, when you measured what went out within one week, and what you have done, you find out there’s nothing, yet the money had been spent. So, you see that it is obvious this present government is truly practising transparency.

What is your opinion on the rise of ethnic clashes and other such conflicts within the country?

Personally, I consider it as a product of what we have inherited and secondly, we have a lot of youths which our educational system has not been able to care for. Our educational system, the 6-3-3-4, we have at every stage drop-outs and there’s nothing done to rehabilitate those drop-outs. That’s what we should do. And at each stage they stop, whether at the primary level or JSS. Let us be sincere, in almost every house, there is a drop-out and these dropouts are idle and as we know, an idle mind, they say is a destructive mind.

As these people stay in the house with no objectives, the next thing is to do whatever they can do whether positive or negative. All we can do is to rehabilitate them, cater for them and find something to engage them.

Is there any group in Nigeria today that you think is marginalised?

Nobody is being marginalised. In a democratic system, marginalisation is gone, in the sense that the whole country is represented. Every state has a minister. The boards of parastatals have not been reconstituted and I am sure they are working hard to make sure that every part of the country is adequately represented on those boards. As far as the constituencies are concerned, we have over three hundred constituencies, we have over forty-two ministers, we are even saying that the executive is jam-packed. It was all in the effort to make sure that all nooks and corners are represented. So, who is marginalising who?

And how do you hope to address the numerous problems affecting the masses of this country?

I am sure with time, you can see from the supplementary budget, which was the first one we considered, we will be better. So, people should still have hope, I mean why we budgeted eighty billion, only thirty has been expended, meaning fifty billion is yet to be expended. That is why the impact has not been felt or seen. So, we still have hope. People should have patience. I am sure this year 2000 budget would be better implemented and I am sure the executive is aware of the anxiety of the masses.

What exactly is the problem with the Niger/Delta Bill, why the delay in the implementation?

As for the Niger Delta, I would say the people are themselves part of the problem which we are still battling with. They themselves are the problems.

How do you mean?

By that, I mean that presently they are still arguing on the location of the headquarters. Some want it in Yenagoa, Others want it in Port Harcourt. It is not even in the best interest of the Niger Delta to say the place should only be constituted for themselves. The Bill for the creation of the organization was conceived by Mr. President. So, he is supposed to be responsible for those on board and other such decisions because he will finance it anyway. Let’s allow Mr. President to regulate the body so that we do not end up with the experiences of the past groups like the NDDC.

Vanguard Transmitted Saturday, 15 January, 2000 

Saturday, 15 January 2000

Nigeria, Ghana to be linked by rail, says Gana

From Emmaunel Onwubiko and Kate Da Costa, Abuja

PLANS have been concluded to link Nigeria and Ghana by rail, according to Integration and Co-operation in Africa Minister Jerry Gana. The direct link is expected to boost transnational economic activities not just between the two countries but in the West Africa sub-region as well, he added. He disclosed this to a top management team of ECOBANK Transnational Incorporated (ETI) which visited his office in Abuja. The plan, according to him, is a strategic component of a five-point programme to develop ECOWAS member-states These are: monetary union, which seeks to establish a second monetary zone which will eventually merge with the existing monetary zone (CFA) to form a single currency. strategies to enhance free and unimpeded trade among member countries measures to enhance and facilitate free movement of people-goods and services building of regional infrastructura, and the line construction would begin. He lauded ECOBANK for being a strategic model for building a successful private-sector driven economy and playing the role of a respectable facilitator for the speedy achievement of economic integration in the sub-region. The Olusegun Obasanjo administration believes that the private sector should be in the forefront of the plan to achieve a successful economic integration and trade cooperation in the sub-region, he said, adding: you (ECOBANK) have done the sub-region proud A meeting of ECOWAS ministers incharge of relevant financial sectors and Central Bank Governors of member nations will hold on January 29 in Bamako, Mali, he disclosed, adding that a technical committee of officials from Nigeria and Ghana will meet in Abuja on January 17 to discuss the strategies for Ďaccelerating the implementation of ECOWAS integration programmes Earlier, ECOBANK's president Gervais K. Djondo, who led the seven-man delegation remarked that the financial institution was an initiative of the private sector in the sub-region, adding that currently, its balance sheet reads $860 million and over 1,200 shareholders with branches spread among 11 countries in West Africa, with operational Headquarters in Lome, Togo and a clearing house in Serra-leone. Emphasising that the 10-year-old bank had overcome its teething problems, Djondo who spoke in French, noted that for the past four years, it had recorded tremendous breakthroughs. He spoke further: ECOBANK's objective is to be the carrier and reflection of all that ECOWAS stands for and is posed to working towards achieving effective trade and economic integration and cooperationin Africa. Djondo presented a document to the minister outlining measures which would be adopted to achieve convertible currency among West African countries and appealed to government assistance in ensuring that investors were gained unimpeded access to ECOWAS member-countries. He urged the countries to ensure the success of ECOWAS travellers document. Also on the delegation were Adekunle Ojora, chairman ECOBANK Nigeria and Chief Akin George first Vice President ECOBANK group. Others were Arnold Ekpe, Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Disun Holloway, managing director ECOBANK Nigeria and Faith Mathens, zonal business Head, ECOBANK Nigeria.


Saturday, 15 January 2000

OPC: Nwuche backs Obasanjo

From Tony Eluemunor and Adamu Abuh, Abuja; Tolu Olarenwaju and Iyabo Sotunde, Ibadan

STEPS taken so far by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration in ending violent clashes in Nigeria are commendable, according to Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Chibudom Nwuche.

Condemning members of the militia group, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) for undermining the nations security, Nwuche in a statement yesterday also urged Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State to live up to his responsibilities of protecting the lives and property of residents.

Signed by his Special Assistant, Media Relations Yinka Oduwole, the statement said OPC's actions were subversive and inimical to national unity, and urged law enforcement agents to arrest the situation before it degenerates further.

According to him, the legislative would be shirking its responsibilities if it looked on while militia groups held the country hostage.

He added: It is inconceivable that any group will continually sponsor mindless violence and banditry in total defiance of the lawfully constituted authorities in the country.

No arm of government in Nigeria will sit back and allow this country to be taken hostage by any group.

For the sustenance of the nascent democracy, law enforcement agencies must re-double their efforts and arrest the situation quickly, he said.

Oyo State chapter of the OPC has however decried public misconception of the groups motives, and renewed its call for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC).

The group led by the co-ordinator and secretary, Messrs. Dauda Alaka and Kazeem Lawal respectively, spoke during a two-hour meeting with the state Governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina. It said the group was concerned about the emancipation of the Yoruba race which some notable freedom fighters had fought for.

According to Alaka: OPC is fighting for the advancement of the Yoruba race just like the NADECO committed itself for the freedom of our people from political oppressors in the land.

Accusing the press of bias, he threatened that the group would deal decisively with any journalist found to be portraying it as a body of hoodlums and miscreants.

He solicited the support of the governors of the South-West so that the group could achieve its goals.

He specifically implored the inspector-General Musiliu Smith to thoroughly investigate the face-off between the police and OPC in Lagos State, alleging that a commander in charge of the state security outfit, was behind most of the robbery operations in the state.

He also accused men of the Oyo State Police Command of indiscriminate arrest of OPC members over last weeks bloody clash in the state, alleging that police officers were extorting money from suspects.

Responding, Adesina commended the group for its sense of patriotism and maturity in handling issues.

He however urged it to continue to make peace so as not to court the wrath of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He also promised to liaise with his colleagues in the South West to avert further Police-OPC clashes.

In another development, Nwuche described the late Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) boss, Justice Ephaim Akpata as a patriot whose contributions to national development would be missed by the nation.

He spoke when he led a delegation of legislators to pay a condolence visit to the bereaved family.

Nwuche, who represented the speaker Ghali Umar Naabba, said the visit was in recognition of the deceased selfless service and sacrifice to the nation. He was accompanied by Nduka Irabo, Chidi Duru, Segun Damiro, Idris Yakubu and Linda Ikpeazu.

Responding on behalf of the family, Mrs. Efe Etomi, first daughter of the deceased, thanked the legislators for the visit. She said that the family had been drawing a lot of strength and comfort from all the good things the public had been saying about the late electoral boss.

Also yesterday, the All Peoples Party (APP) National Chairman, Alhaji Yusuf Ali, led a delegation to condole the family.


Friday, 14 January 2000

Foreign reserves hit $5.1b

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

NIGERIA'S external reserves now stand at $5.1 billion, from $3.7 billion inherited in May last year, when the Olusegun Obasanjo Administration took office.

Vice President Atiku Abubakar also said yesterday that deficit spending which stood at some N250 billion by May, last year, had been eliminated, while inflation rate, according to him, fell to 8.0 per cent last month from 12.1 per cent in June, last year.

He also cited a three per cent increase in industrial capacity utilisation, among rewards of the economic reforms pursued in the first six months of the current administration's tenure.

But there seems no going back on the government's controversial plan to deregulate the petroleum sector, which is sure to induce products price increases. The Vice- President yesterday insisted that the proposed policy is in the national interest.

In an address titled Better Days Are Ahead which he delivered at his monthly news conference with State House correspondents in Abuja, he said the government had no intention to dump the policy, despite recognising that there is widespread opposition ˝ especially from Labour.

While Vice-President Abubakar was silent on when the deregulation policy would take effect, he said the government took adequate care to ensure that all factors were taken into account. The factors, according to him, included the social, economic and human implications, and the likelihood of economic hardships to which vulnerable groups may be subjected, especially in the short term.

That the government is finally proceeding with the policy is informed by its desire to build a concrete foundation for sustainable economic growth and development without which the whole country would be imperilled, .he said yesterday, adding: The hard realities must, of course, be faced. We must realise that petroleum is a wasting asset, and as a nation, we have been wasteful in the utilisation of the proceeds from petroleum. If we pay the real value of petroleum products, it would go a long way in enhancing more efficient utilisation of the resource.

The Vice-President further said: The deregulation of petroleum product's prices will also allow government to improve its reserves which will be channelled to areas in dire need of resuscitation. Our covenant with Nigerian's is that the gains from deregulation would be used judiciously to improve the welfare of the citizenry.

He cited poverty alleviation as one of the areas to which proceeds from the deregulation would be channelled, as earlier pronounced by President Obasanjo in his year 2000 budget proposal.

The Presidential Committee on Poverty Alleviation and the Rationalisation of Poverty Alleviation Programmes and Institutions, according to the Vice-President, has submitted its report. He said it was being envisaged that the programme would mark a departure from those conceived in the past, with its clear identification of beneficiaries and grassroots orientation.

To this end, state governments and councils will be fully involved in the design and implementation of the programmes which are best suited to their environment.

Vice-President Abubakar said another area the government plans to invest the proceeds from petroleum sector deregulation is in providing adequate security for citizens. According to him, N2.5 billion has already been released to the police for emergency procurement of vehicles and communication equipment.

He said the minimum price of a litre of petrol in countries neighbouring Nigeria is N50. But he assured that even if petroleum products prices were deregulated, it would not be up to that level.

Speaking on what he called the grave economic conditions inherited by the Obasanjo Administration, Vice-President Abubakar said realities were such that the situation was near hopeless.

Our troubled economy was characterised by double digit inflation, volatile exchange rate, massive unemployment, huge fiscal deficit, low agricultural production, low capacity utilisation by industries, plummeting external reserves, unsustainable high interest rates, scarcity of petroleum products and frequent power outages.

In fact, the economy had declined in real terms by about 13.5 per cent in 1998 and virtually all indicators of the economy had signalled serious deterioration in the country's economic performance by the second quarter of 1999. Fuel scarcity had persisted, causing unquantifiable social, economic and human costs. The budget deficits went out of hand, rising up to about eight per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Poverty and squalor were on the increase, pushing Nigeria to slide unjustifiably downwards on the scale of human development.

He explained that it was against the background of problems and obvious weaknesses of the economy that the current administration took certain emergency measures to reverse the trends, adding that fuel supply which was made persistently scarce by an intricate network of high level corruption was restored to normalcy within two weeks in office.

Other reforms of immediate concern include the granting of autonomy to the Central Bank, re-introduction of pre-shipment inspection, and re-ordering of economic priorities. These, the Vice-President said, went a long way to tame inflation, stabilize the exchange rate and curtail waste.



Friday, 14 January 2000

Govt to clampdown on militant groups

From Emeka Nwankpa, Emmanuel Onwubiko (Abuja) and Ben Akparanta (Lagos)

MILITANT groups fomenting trouble and perpetrating acts of lawlessness in parts of the country were yesterday warned in strong terms by the Federal Government to desist or face reprisals.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me on behalf of the Federal Government warn that we are running out of patience with these groups and their sponsors ... Those responsible for the perpetuation of these acts of violence and their sponsors are better warned that the full weight of the law would be brought to bear on them. They should be ready to face the consequences of their actions. Enough is enough, Vice President Atiku Abubakar said.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja while addressing a news conference entitled Better Days Are Ahead, the Vice President said government would not hesitate to declare a state of emergency in any trouble area in the country.

This administration now has more than its fair share of acts of lawlessness being perpetrated in some parts of the country by some militant groups under the guise of protecting ethnic interests on advancing human rights, he said against the backdrop of accusation against the Oodua People's Congress (OPC) of fomenting trouble in Lagos.

He spoke just as the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Prof. Alphonsus Nwosu, hinted on the possibility of the government banning the OPC.

The adviser who said government was worried by the resurgence of ethnic militancy and the activities of the group in Lagos and Ibadan, however, said due process of law would be applied when the measure is to be taken.

At the briefing which held at the State House, the vice president explained that in some of these acts, law enforcement agents have been attacked, killed or maimed with these groups allocating to themselves responsibilities which are clearly outside their authority.

According to him, it was the constitutional responsibility of the government to maintain law and order in any part of the country, stressing that no one should be in doubt of its ability to fulfil that role.

Vice President Abubakars riot act yesterday coincided with President Olusegun Obasanjos crucial meeting with the Inspector-General of Police, state police commissioners, Police Affairs Minister, Maj.-Gen. David Jemibewon (rtd) and his permanent secretary, Mr. Robert Audu.

The meeting, according to a statement by the Presidents Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Dr. Doyin Okupe, was summoned as part of governments continued efforts at stemming the rising tide of criminal activities, wanton destruction of lives and property, murders and assassinations in some parts of the country.

Commending the efforts made by the police so far, the president drew their attention to areas in which government expected urgent improvements while reiterating his administrations commitment to improving the welfare of members of the force and equipping its officers and men with sophisticated arms and ammunition in view of the fact that the criminals have also become sophisticated.

He urged them to remain conscious that their performance in protecting lives and property of citizens was one of the critical indicators by which any administrations effectiveness and seriousness was judged.

The police officers spoke of inadequate mobility, poor communications facilities and general low morale in the force which they described as the cumulative effect of social and political trauma inflicted on the police over the years.

On the possibility of a declaration of state of emergency, the vice president said it is better to isolate any state with high level of disturbances than to allow such disturbances to spread to other parts of the country.

He said before a state of emergency could be declared, certain conditions should dictate such a decision which could only be taken in collaboration with the National Assembly.

But he did not foreclose dialogue in resolving the lingering face-off between the militant groups and the authorities but noted that government would not hold such dialogue under any form of blackmail or threat.

If any group is ready for dialogue, government will dialogue with them; it will not, however, do that with those who take law into their hands to maim, kill or attack people and destroy their property, he said.

On the reported OPCs demand for a Sovereign National Conference, the Vice President said the Presidency was not aware of any formal request, adding, however, that the need for such demand does not rise.

According to him, any group that desires reform or amendment to the constitution should channel it through the appropriate quarters, which is the National Assembly or the Constitution Review Committee already instituted by the government.

On the creation of more local governments by state governments, the vice president acknowledged that it was the constitutional right of the states to do so but cautioned that they should be ready to shoulder the attendant responsibilities as the Federal Government would not fund such desires.

On the possibility of proscribing OPC, Nwosu said: The Federal Government absolutely abhors the organisation called Oodua Peoples Congress and what it stands for. But the Federal Government is building national consensus on OPC activities, especially the recent orchestrated ethnic-motivated clashes and violence in Lagos and Ibadan.

According to him, the President has held a meeting with the nations security chiefs with a view to drafting lasting security strategies to contain the current upsurge in ethnic-motivated clashes.

Nwosu maintained that the due process of law would be followed before the government could impose a ban on the OPC.

Emphasising that the government deplored the recent killing of the Divisional Police Officer in-charge of the Bariga Police Station in Lagos, Mr. Afolabi Amao, and other violent attacks on police officers, the presidential aide said: The Federal Government is in total control of the security situation in the South-West and indeed every part of the country. Let it be known that nobody, no matter how highly placed, can threaten the corporate existence of the political entity called Nigeria. OPC, APC or whatever militant groups must know that the Federal Government will not fold its arms and watch some groups drag the country to a total state of chaos and anarchy. But Federal Government will observe the due process of the law before taking stringent security action.

On other security measures being adopted by the government to check the rising trend of organised social unrests in Lagos and Ibadan, Prof. Nwosu noted that the decision taken by the police to declare Mr. Ganiyu Adams wanted had received the Federal Governments blessing. He added that the government was not resting on its oars to ensure that violence was curbed in the major flashpoints of the country.

On whether the Federal Government would declare a state of emergency in Lagos and Ibadan in the wake of the rising incidence of unrest, the presidential aide said:

I have been as clear and categorical as I can be. Federal Government is very sad and depressed about the emergence of these militant groups. Government has declared OPCs Ganiyu Adams wanted. It has declared shoot on sight order against suspected arsonists, but some Nigerians opposed the action because of their concern for the need to respect human rights. Government will nevertheless do all it can to restore total social peace, inter-ethnic harmony, and the respect for the sacredness of human life.

Four days of frantic but fruitless under water search for the body of the police chief have not yielded any result, heightening fears that the police officers body may have been tied to a weight before it was thrown into the lagoon.

Police are continuing their house-to-house search in the Bariga area to apprehend all those connected with the killing of the DPO while the Lagos State Government yesterday initiated a high profile security meeting which involved all the local councils of the state.

The council chairmen were directed to hold similar meetings with DPOs in their areas.

It was gathered that the meetings were organised and financed by the state government in an effort to assist police to effectively crush activities of the militant group.

Mr. Mike Okiro, the state commissioner of police, had threatened that the police were prepared to turn Lagos upside down and inside out to find and arrest those behind the killing.

While the police continued their search of homes of suspected members of the group in Bariga yesterday, streets where youths put up some resistance were bombarded with teargas canisters released by the police to force their way through.



Friday, 14 January 2000

Obasanjo to Tinubu: Halt violence or face emergency rule

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

FROM the president came an ominous warning yesterday for Lagos State Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu whom he accused of inaction over the security situation in the state.

Mr. Governor, I regret that I have not seen any action on your part in the recent past to suggest that you are in control of the security situation in Lagos State. On the contrary, there is evidence of increasing disorder, loss of lives and property and a general sense of fear among the citizens of Lagos State. This is an intolerable situation, President Olusegun Obasanjo said in a letter to Tinubu in which he hinted at a likely declaration of a state of emergency if the situation persists.

The letter came in the wake of rising tension between the police and members of the militant Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), led by Mr. Ganiyu Adams who has been declared wanted for the offences of murder, arson, acid bath on police officers, etc.

The latest victim of the police ˝ OPC face-off was Mr. Afolabi Amao, the Bariga, Lagos Divisional Police Officer (DPO) who was allegedly abducted and killed by the militants. His body was reportedly thrown into the Lagoon which divers are currently combing in the hope of its retrieval.

Obasanjo's January 13 letter to Tinubu, who had blamed the insecurity in the state on the Federal Government, reads:

I write to you, once again, on the very disturbing and increasingly worsening security situation in Lagos State, which situation, I must say, is not helped by your seemingly unguarded utterances in support of the dastardly acts of brigandage and banditry of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) as reported in the newspaper.

You would recall that on, at least, four occasions, in writing and verbally, I drew your attention to your constitutional responsibility to take concrete action to stop the wanton destruction of lives and property, looting and other forms of criminal actions being perpetrated by the illegal organisation that calls itself OPC.

For your information, I have given fresh and stronger orders to the Lagos State police Command to do everything in its power to seek out, arrest and bring to justice any lawless and criminal person who parades himself as a member of the OPC or any similar body.

I need not remind you of the Oath of Office to which you swore in May 1999 as the Executive Governor of Lagos State. As Chief Executive Officer of the State, the onus of the protection of the lives and property of the citizens of your state rests squarely on your shoulders. Indeed, the raison detre of your office is the maintenance of law and order in Lagos State and the provision of good quality of life for people living in the state.

For me, every life is sacred and must be treated as such no matter what position we are. Normally, outside the establishment of federal law enforcement agents, the Federal Government has no reason to interfere with the matter of law and order in any state. This is primarily the responsibility of the governor. However, when, either by this utterance, action, or indeed inaction, a Chief Executive shows a loss of control in the maintenance of law and order in his state, it becomes incumbent on the Federal Government to take appropriate action to arrest the situation, usually in the form of the imposition of a State of Emergency.

Mr. Governor, I regret that I have not seen any action on your part in the recent past to suggest that you are in control of the security situation in Lagos State. On the contrary, there is evidence of increasing disorder, loss of lives and property and a general sense of fear among the citizens of Lagos State. This is an intolerable situation.

I seize this opportunity to appeal to you, once again, to do all that is in your power to arrest the worsening security situation. I believe that the perpetrators of these condemnable acts of criminality are known or should be known to you, as many of them are known to claim to be under your protection.

I consider this issue to be an important national one. More so, as it reflects badly on the actions and responsibilities of the Executive Governor of a state. I am sending a copy of this letter to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, for the information of the Distinguished and Honourable Members.

I count on your full cooperation on this all-important national matter, a matter that, if not nipped in the bud, has the potential to derail our young democracy. I trust that you would act now to avoid a further escalation of an already bad situation.

Reacting to the Presidents letter, Governor Tinubu rejected the allegations and insinuations contained in it.

He said that as the Chief Security Officer of Lagos State, he could not encourage or condone lawlessness, adding that he had been attacked thrice in recent times by hoodlums.

The full text of Senator Tinubu's letter to the Presidents letter runs as follows:

I received with mixed feelings Your Excellency's letter dated January 13, 2000, on the above subject. On the one hand I am relieved that the deteriorating and absolutely unacceptable security situation in Lagos State, to which I have endlessly drawn your attention and that of the general public, is at last being accorded the necessary seriousness by Mr. President.

But I am appalled, on the other hand, that you have offhandedly accused me of unguarded utterances in support of the dastardly acts of brigandage and banditry of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC). And this without the slightest iota of evidence to prove such a grave allegation coming from an office as exalted as that which you occupy.

Your Excellency referred vaguely to a newspaper which allegedly reported these fictional utterances falsely and maliciously ascribed to me but surprisingly failed to name the publication in question. When, I must ask, has it become consistent with the tenets of democracy for an individual to be adjudged guilty, in this arbitrary way on the basis of unspecified, obviously imaginary utterances made in unidentified publications?

It is important for Mr. President to know that I am fully conversant with the constitutional responsibilities attendant on my Oath of Office as Executive Governor of Lagos State. Afterall no one took that solemn and sacred oath on my behalf on May 29, 1999. As Governor, I am the Chief Security Officer of the state responsible for safety of lives and property under my jurisdiction. And it is as a result of this consciousness that I have consistently led the way in condemning the dangerous constitutional lacuna which confers on a state governor the empty status of chief security officer but effectively denies him the wherewithal to function as such. I am glad that many of my colleagues in various states have followed my example by calling for either state or regional police formations. Mr. President has unfortunately maintained a baffling silence on this all important constitutional matter that borders so crucially on the sanctity of lives and property which you apparently value very much.

I find it very interesting, for instance, that I am just being so casually informed, possibly as an afterthought, of fresh and stronger orders to the Lagos State Police Command that border on the security of the state. Till date I am entirely oblivious of the content of these orders. With respect Mr. President, I must say with every sense of sobriety that if I had this kind of control over the police, the security situation in this state would not have degenerated so badly.

What we have on our hands in Lagos, Mr. President, is not as you insinuate a loss of control in the maintenance of law and order due to the utterance, action, or indeed inaction of a Chief Executive. No, it is the helplessness of the relevant security agencies, particularly the police, in coping with its statutory responsibilities. The reasons for this I have reiterated over and over again. The police is undermanned, ill-equipped, poorly motivated and demoralised.

If there is evidence of increasing disorder, loss of lives and property and a general sense of fear among the citizens of Lagos State, as Mr. President rightly observes, the requisite arm of government in control of the relevant security agencies should simply wake up to its responsibilities. The ball is clearly in the court of the Federal Government. She should either more ably bear the constitutional burden of maintaining security in the country or allow for the necessary constitutional amendment to allow the states bear their own cross.

Mr. President, I simply find it difficult to understand the strange assertion that certain perpetrators of condemnable acts of criminality are known or should be known to you, as many of them are known to claim to be under your protection. If anybody has indeed made any such claim, is it necessarily true? Why should perpetrators of criminality be known to me? I really do not think there is any point replying to this kind of baseless insinuation. You must be aware that I have personally been the subject of attack by these lawless groups thrice in recent times. Does this suggest I have an interest in encouraging violence as you insinuate?

I am aware, Mr. President, of the constitutional requirements for the imposition of a State of Emergency in any state. Those conditions do not exist in Lagos and they will not exist if all of us faithfully live up to our responsibilities. But I know that there are some members of your party and government who desperately wanted to govern this state but were rejected at the polls by the people.

It is very tempting for them to try to get through a State of Emergency what they failed to win through the ballot box. After all, this was an experiment that was tried in the Western Region in the First Republic. But we know where it landed us. As a good student of history, sir, I trust that you are too wise to be led down a blind alley.

Please be assured, Mr. President, of my unalloyed support and loyalty in the quest for good governance, peace and prosperity in our new democratic dispensation.


Abacha Cited in $6m Oil Scam in Gambia
by Philip Nwosu, Defence Reporter and Paul Ohia

BARELY two years after an alleged $5 million gift from late General Sani Abacha to Ghanaian President, Jerry Rawlings caused a stir in the Ghanaian Parliament, another multi-million dollar deal between the late Head of State and the Gambian president has been uncovered.
Already, the deal is threatening to tear the government of President Yaliya Jammeh of Gambia apart as members of the opposition have demanded its details and the profit accruing from it.
The revelation was made Wednesday on a British Broadcasting Corporation report monitored in Lagos. A member of the opposition African confidential, Patrick Smith said that under the deal, the late Nigerian ruler provided the Gambian government 20,000 barrels of oil per day as settlement for Gambia's support for the isolated Abacha during his difficult times with the Commonwealth and the outside world. The shipment was valued at $3 million (N300m) yearly.
Gambia had at the Commonwealth Summit in Auckland, New Zealand, where Nigeria was sanctioned for hanging of the Ogoni nine, voted against sanctions on Nigeria, saying that whatever affected Nigeria affected the entire subregion of West Africa.
Following that sacrifice by Jammeh, a warm relationship leading to the deal, was established between Abacha and the Gambian Government.
However, the intention of Abacha was that the government in Banjul should sell the oil and keep the proceeds accruing from it.
But upon disposal of the oil, the government in Gambia never paid the amount into its coffers. Rather, it made payments into a private bank account in Switzerland which could be accessed only through a code.
The former finance minister of the country, Dominic Mende was said to be fully aware of the deal and had given the power of attorney to the Deputy Head of Protocol in Jammeh's office, Mohammed Jawara to negotiate the deal with another Swiss oil trading company Glenco on behalf of the government.
When the deal was unearthed in parliament, Mende denied having any knowledge of it. But it was later discovered that his name was on a document which provided the authority to Jawara to negotiate the deal.
The deal between Yaliya Jamueh and Abacha ran between August 1996 and June 8, 1998 when the Nigerian leader died.
Soon after Abacha died, The Post Express exclusively reported the deal between him and the Ghanaian leader to help campaign for the country to secure a United Nations seat at the security council.
The deal was valued at $5 million and has threatened to pull down the government of Rawlings, but the Nigerian government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar absolved him of any complicity.

Post Express Wired

Thursday, January 13, 2000

Police to recruit 40,000 yearly

From Emmanuel Onwubiko, Abuja

WORRIED by what the “high rate of organised crime” in the country, President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday ordered the recruitment of 40,000 policemen every year for the next four years.

  Speaking at a meeting with state police commissioners and commandants of police training institutions across the country, the Inspector-General of Police Mr. Musiliu Smith noted that the presidential directive was made because of the “Federal Government’s determination to boost the depleted manpower in the force and to meet the United Nations approved ratio of one policeman to four hundred Nigerians (1:400).”

  Smith directed the police chiefs to work vigorously towards the implementation of a comprehensive programme of expansion, rehabilitation and standardization of facilities of all training institutions to cope with what he called the “planned increase of trainees.”

   The Inspector-General urged the commandants of police training institutions to commence a nation-wide massive recruitment enlightenment programme to attract qualified candidates to enlist.

  He also deplored the recent killings of police officers allegedly carried out by the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) in Lagos State.


Thursday, January 13, 2000

Obasanjo to meet with Attah

Obasanjo to meet with Attah, Duke over dispute CROSS River State Governor Donald Duke and his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Obong Victor Attah may during the weekend meet with President Olusegun Obasanjo over the boundary dispute between the two states. Sources told The Guardian that Obasanjo invited the two governors in order to stem clashes between indigenes of the two states. The disputed area is the Tom Scott Island or Effiat West in Bakassi Peninsula. Ownership of this richly endowed area has been the bone of contention between the states. Oron community said yesterday in Abuja ahead of the weekend meeting that the 1999 Constitution places the area under dispute under Mbo Council Area of Akwa Ibom State. The forum’s Chairman Chief Edet Bassey Etienam, advised the president to take into consideration the historical, cultural and linguistic affinity of indigenes of the area in making a pronouncement on the issue.


Thursday, January 13, 2000

Hijacked Airways plane crew petitions Obasanjo

THE 13 crew members of the Nigeria Airways Air Bus A310, hijacked in 1993, have protested to President Olusegun Obasanjo, alleging neglect by the airline management and the Federal Government. They claimed in a letter dated January 5, that the Federal Government had failed to endow them with National Merit Award, as promised by the authorities in the heat of the hijack episode. The Air Bus A310 was hijacked mid-air while on a flight from Lagos to Abuja in 1993. It was later forced to land in the Nigerien capital, Niamey, where the hostages were eventually rescued. One of the crew members, however, died in the incident. The protest letter, which was signed by Capt. A.O. Makpo, on behalf of the 13 crew members, said that they deserved to be compensated for their efforts during the hijack incident, which ensured the safety of all the149 passengers on board. “It is only normal, ethical, and justified, that we should be compensated both by the airline and the nation, as obtains in other countries, where hijacking had taken place due to political reasons,” the letter said. They also claimed that neither the airline, nor the Federal Government had given them a formal letter of commendation or promotion. According to them, it was in recognition of the genuineness of their sacrifice that made the then Interim Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan to approve national honours for them in October 1993. The letter added that in 1997, the Presidency sent forms to them, which they claimed was completed, yet no award took place that year. “In 1998, Nigeria Airways management renominated us for the national honours in January 1999, still we were not honoured,” the protest letter added.


Obasanjo to Focus on Masses-Oriented Projects

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo said on Monday in Abuja that his administration would not waste its energy and resources on projects which will only benefit the rich in Nigeria at the expense of the long-suffering citizens of the country.
President Obasanjo told a delegation from the Owerri Municipal/Owerri North/West Federal Constituency which called on him that rather than committing more funds to such elitist projects, the Federal Government was giving needed attention to the urgent rehabilitation and expansion of the country's road network.
Observing that the improvement and expansion of country's road network will have a more positive and direct impact on the lives of the generality of Nigerians, as well as promote the cause of national unity and integration, President Obasanjo said that his administration would strive to steadily dualise the five south - north roads and three east-west roads which carried the heaviest volume of traffic in the country.
He told the delegation that his administration would also implement a policy of building ring-roads round the country's major cities to ease the flow of traffic within them.
Responding to a request from the delegation for the establishment of an oil-gas industry in Imo State in recognition of its status as an oil-producing state, President Obasanjo reiterated that his administration was irrevocably committed to ending the Federal Government's involvement in direct economic production. The government, he said, will henceforth, limit itself to providing conditions necessary for economic activities to thrive.
Advising the people of Imo to seek other investors who could help in the industrialisation of their state, President Obasanjo said that in exception cases where it found it necessary to do in order to encourage development, the Federal Government might consider minority participation in feasible and viable industrial projects, but that it would never seek majority share-holding or managerial control in such ventures again.

Nigerian Post Express Newspaper

OPC Scares Govs in Ibadan
Dele Ogunyemi, Ibadan

THE presence of about 500 militant Oodua People's Congress (OPC) members at St. Peters Anglican Church, Aremo, Ibadan, venue of the 90th birthday thanksgiving service of Pa Emmanuel Alayande, a renowned educationist and chieftain of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Monday sent jitters down to the spines of the governors of the South-western states and other dignitaries on the occasion.
Most of the dignitaries, apparently out of fear of possible attack by the OPC men, shunned the N100 million fund launch and foundation laying ceremony of Emmanuel Alayande (Teachers) Library and Resource Centre at Somonda, Ibadan, organised by the Oyo State wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT).
The OPC men, who were however, prevented from gaining access into the church, had demanded to see the Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina, and his other AD colleagues, present at the service, for talks.
They claimed that Adesina had shunned them seven times when their representatives called on him in his office.
Despite the strong representation made by the OPC men to have audience with the AD governors, their security aides barred them from entering the church premises.
The Minister of Police Affairs, Major General David Jemibewon, who was also in attendance, later addressed the OPC members, pleading with them not to disrupt the service organised in honour of the nonagenarian Pa Alayande.
Notable among the dignitaries, who attended the church service but who were conspicuously absent at the fund launch were Afenifere chieftains, including Senator Abraham Adesanya, Pa Solanke Onasanya, Chief Olu Falae, Chief (Mrs.) H.I.D Awolowo, and all the AD governors.
The dignitaries also included royal fathers such as the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Ajagunbade, the aseyin of Iseyin and the apetumode of Ipetumodu.
An NUT official told journalists that the AD governors had kept away from the launch in view of the actions of the OPC members at the church earlier in the day, explaining that security reports did not favour their convergence at the launch venue.
However, a government official, who reacted to the NUT claim, attributed the governors non-attendance at the launch to "a clash of events," saying it was not possible for them to be at two places at the same time.
Meanwhile, as members of the Oodua Peoples Congress engaged men of the Nigeria Police in a protracted gun duel in Lagos, operatives of the force appear to be closing in on the leader of the militant group, Mr. Ganiyu Adams, following the arrest of his close aide by the Ogun State command of the force.
Investigations by The Post Express revealed that the Adams aides had stormed Ogun State apparently to deliver a special message from the OPC leader to his wife, following his inability to reach his family since he was declared wanted.
It was gathered that as the aide, whose name was not mentioned, arrived Abeokuta, he was promptly arrested, but his colleague escaped.
The two OPC men arrived the state capital in a volvo car with registration number DM 971 KJA at 2 a.m. and were stopped by security operatives on patrol in the state.
The Post Express reliably gathered that routine check of the vehicle and the occupants however, revealed their identities as top ranking members of the Gani Adams-led Oodua People's Congress.
As at the time of this report, the arrested OPC member was being detained at the Eleweran police headquarters where he was said to have made confessions described as "useful" by the police.

Nigerian Post Express Newspaper

DPO, Eight Others Killed ...As Police, OPC clash in Lagos
Lukkey Abawuru and Ademola Idowu

FOR the second time in one week, tragedy allegedly masterminded by persons whom police authorities described as members of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC) stalked the streets of Lagos claiming nine lives.
The deceased, among them, three policemen including a Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr. Afolabi Amao, and six others were victims of a violent clash between members of the OPC and a detachment of policemen in the Bariga area of Lagos Mainland.
However, the spokesman of the state police command, Mr. Fabulous Enyaosah, who confirmed the incident, said only Mr. Afolabi Amao, a DPO attached to Ilaje police station, Bariga lost his life in the crises. Enyaosah said one person has been arrested in connection with the death of the DPO.
A witness account however said that the militant group, apart from sacking all the personnel of the police station, also carted away the entire armoury of the police post.
Giving a further breakdown of the causalities, the source said that two members of the OPC and few "innocent persons" were felled by stray bullets during the exchange of gunshots between the police and members of the militant group.
Although no substantial reason has been adduced as likely cause of the crisis which paralysed socio-economic activities in the area, conflicting reports trailed the mayhem which started on Sunday evening.
According to a version of the story, violence ensued Sunday night when policemen, deployed in the area stormed the venue of a meeting convened by the OPC for its members in Bariga, apparently to disperse them.
The Post Express gathered that the policemen allegedly ordered the militant group to disperse, an action the group viewed as an assault on their right to freedom of association. According to the source, the group's refusal to disperse angered the policemen, who allegedly bore down on the OPC men, thus setting the stage for what turned out to be a bloody encounter.
But, the police spokesman said that trouble started when five policemen, led by the deceased DPO, were on their way to effect the arrest of a suspected gang of armed robbers who robbed an undisclosed person in the area.
According to Enyaosah, one of the gangsters who was earlier arrested and detained, in a confessional statement to the police, mentioned the names of members of his gang and their hideouts. Determined to arrest the other culprits, the DPO and other policemen went in a bus to fish out the people from their various hideouts.
Enyaosah stated that while the policemen were on their way, the OPC members numbering over 50 in another bus, intercepted the DPO and his team, forcing them to a halt. Continuing, Enyaosah said that the DPO, allegedly identified some members of the gang as members of the OPC.
The spokesman said "they kidnapped him (DPO) and advanced to the police station where they vandalised cars and other property of the police."
Enyaosah, who was overtly worried over the incident, said the body of the deceased 42-year-old Amao, a Superintendent of Police (SP) thrown into the Lagos lagoon. He said the Marie police have been directed to ensure that the corpse of the Kwara born DPO was recovered. Amao was recently transferred from Ibadan where he held the same post.
However, when The Post Express visited Bariga yesterday, people have deserted the area. Most houses and business centres were under lock. Armed policemen were seen patrolling the area to ensure that peace returns to the area.
Nigerian Post Express Newspaper

Tuesday, January 11, 2000

 Lagos militants abduct DPO in fresh communal violence

By Ben Akparanta and  Bertram Nwannykanma

A Divisional Police Officer (DPO) was abducted at dawn yesterday in a gang attack on the Bariga police station, on the outskirts of Lagos. He was later reported murdered and his body thrown into the Lagoon.

  The abduction followed fresh communal violence at Ilaje area of Bariga, Somolu Council, that left some four persons dead. The violence involved militants suspected to be from a faction of the controversial Oodua People’s Congress (OPC).

  Official accounts yesterday said the militants stormed the Bariga police post and abducted Mr. Afolabi Amao, a Superintendent of Police who was the DPO. They allegedly struck with the intent to free an armed robbery suspect who they claimed to be one of their members.

  Lagos State Police Commissioner Mike Okiro said trouble started last Sunday when a man reported a case of theft at the police station. The complainant took the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) to identify the suspect who was promptly arrested.

  He explained yesterday: “The suspect was holding a large black nylon bag and when he was arrested, he tried to give the bag to somebody else but the policeman insisted that he should carry the bag along to the police station.

  “At the station, the bag was opened to reveal a loaded American-made automatic pistol, a double barrel gun cut to size and a hunting rifle also cut to size. The suspect confessed he was a member of a robbery syndicate whose colleagues were waiting for him in readiness for an operation.

 “The DPO at this point took over the case and organised his men to follow him to apprehend the robbers. As they boarded a civilian bus to move to the scene, a group of about 300 men stormed the station, claiming they were members of the OPC and were there to effect the release of the member who was arrested by the police. The DPO tried to explain that the suspect was arrested for alleged theft and suspected armed robbery, but he (DPO) was immediately attacked and thoroughly beaten and was taken away in the bus.”

  The police said they promptly mobilised manpower to rescue the abducted officer, but the bid was unsuccessful.

  Persons arrested thereafter in connection with the abduction said the DPO had been murdered and his body thrown into the Bariga end of the Lagos Lagoon.

  The incident has incurred a security siege on the area.

  The entire Bariga area adjoining Somolu to the north and Oworonshoki to the south, was yesterday under tight police security cordon as heavily armed anti-riot policemen hunted for the culprits.

  Vehicular traffic thinned considerably in the troubled area, with residents yet to leave for work when the trouble began, confined to their homes by squads of policemen.

  Unofficial sources, however, linked the violence which began  barely a week after another communal rage in Mushin, Lagos Mainland, involving OPC factions, to the police’s disruption of a meeting of the militant activists.

  One source on the street where the Bariga police post is located told The Guardian that tempers flared about 10 p.m. on Sunday when members of the state security outfit, the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) stumbled on a meeting of the OPC militants at the Olushi area and shot one person dead.

  The intrusion and subsequent death of a militant, as alleged, reportedly provoked the others to violence. They wielded dangerous weapons and charms, as they invaded the police post where two vehicles were damaged and the DPO abducted.

  According to the source, the tension threw the entire neighbourhood into panic, especially before more RRS men were deployed to reinforce the police power.

  The violence reportedly lasted till yesterday morning, in the course of which the militants harassed motorists and commuters.

  When The Guardian called at the scene yesterday, two bodies suspected to be of the militants were lying close to the police post.

  The police also deployed its Marine Department staff and other rescue workers yesterday to search for the slain DPO’s body.

  But as at late afternoon, it was yet to be found.

  Mr. Tunde Sobulo, a superintendent of police who is Squadron Commander of the Police Mobile Force (PMF) 20, Ikeja, and also co-ordinator of the RRS is supervising a search of OPC members at the Bariga area. RRS men have mounted stop-and-search points at every strategic junction in the area to forestall external reinforcement of the militants.

  Some suspects already arrested by the police are being held at Bariga post and the Area “H” Command, Ogudu, Ojota.

  The Lagos State Police Command spokesman, Mr. Fabulous Enyaosah, an Assistant Superintendent  (ASP) said one of the arrested suspects had confessed under interrogation that the DPO had been killed and the body thrown into the Lagos Lagoon. The suspect also reportedly made confessions indicting some other persons who police have gone after.

  Later yesterday, Police Commissioner Okiro said the force would not be deterred by attack on its men. Rather, it will intensify its fight against crime in the society. “We are going to make Lagos State uncomfortable for any individual or group who does not want peace to reign in the state and let the government of the day rule well”, he said.

   Meanwhile, the marine wing of the police force has been given order to recover the body of the DPO.


Tuesday, January 11, 2000

 Cholera kills 15 in Benue

NO fewer than 15 people have died in a fresh cholera outbreak in Okpokwu and Apa  council areas of Benue State.

  The Guardian learnt that about 100 people were affected by the epidemic in the two councils which commuters have declared “no-go” areas, as fares from the capital, Makurdi to the areas have also increased by hundred per cent.

  The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Innocent Okama, who confirmed the report, told The Guardian in an interview that the government had sent vaccines to the affected areas and that victims were responding to treatment.

  Okama advised residents to take preventive measures so as to control the spread of the epidemic, adding that aggressive campaign on the eradication of the disease would soon be embarked upon.

  He however said efforts of his ministry to curb the menance was being hampered by lack of funds and other logistics, lamenting that over 30 people died last year in three councils as a result of the epidemic.


Tuesday, January 11, 2000

 Obasanjo heads campaign against HIV/AIDS

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

ALL activities in the national campaign against HIV/AIDS have been brought under the direct control of the Presidency, with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as chairman.

  Vice President Atiku Abubakar is to serve as deputy chairman while ministers of Health, Education, Information, Defence and Culture are members.

  Others are ministers of Women Affairs and Youth Development, as well as Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

  A statement by Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Doyin Okupe, yesterday said the decision was to give vent to President Obasanjo’s pledge to raise public awareness on the scourge.

  The President had pledged to personally head the campaign on the occasion of the World AIDS Day December, last year.

  The President also approved the creation of a working panel on the disease which will report to the action programme committee.

  The working panel is to be headed by Prof. Ibironke Akinsete. The members include Dr. Mohammed Sani Gwarzo, Dr. C. Lar, Dr. Jordan Lamejo Bako, Dr. Udoh. Senator H. AbdulRasaq Gwadabe and Mrs. Eulir Ajayi. Others are a director each from the federal ministries of Education, Information, Women Affairs, Culture and Tourism, a medical director from the Defence Ministry and the Director of Army in the ministry.

  The President is expected to formally inaugurate both committees and chair their joint meeting on Thursday, at the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja.

  The President also yesterday said projects which benefit only the affluent would not enjoy his administration’s patronage.

  He stated this while receiving a delegation from Owerri Municipal/Owerri North West Federal Constituency, which was at the Presidential Villa to express gratitude to the president for appointing Dr. Kema Chikwe as minister.

  The president said attention would be focused on alleviating the problems of the masses, saying this rather explained his administration’s attention on roads rehabilitation.

  He expressed the hope that this would have a positive and direct impact on Nigerians, pledged to dualise the five South-North and three East-West roads which record the heaviest traffic in the country.

  The administration would also build ringroads round the country’s major cities to ease traffic flow, he added.

  Responding to a request from the delegation for the establishment of an oil-gas firm in Imo State, owing to its status as an oil-producing state, the president reiterated his administration’s commitment to withdrawing involvement in direct economic activities.

  The government, would, henceforth, limit itself to providing conditions necessary for businesses to thrive, he said.

  He advised the people to seek investors who could help in the industrialisation of their state, adding that in exceptional cases, government might consider minority participation in feasible and viable industrial projects, but would never seek majority shareholding or managerial control in such ventures.


Tuesday, January 11, 2000

 Britain lauds Nigeria’s regional role, invites Obasanjo

From Emeka Nwankpa and Arthur Obayuwana (Abuja)

NIGERIA has been lauded for what the visiting British Foreign Office Minister Mr. Peter Hain, yesterday described as its “leading and heroic role” in helping to end Sierra Leone’s civil war.

  Hain said: “I am visiting Nigeria first on this trip because of its influential and pivotal role in Africa and on the world stage... I look forward to Nigeria becoming the African superpower that it should be, and taking its place in the African renaissance.”

  A statement from the British High Commission said Hain told President Olusegun Obasanjo that: “Nigeria’s leading and heroic role in (the West African intervention force) ECOMOG to bring peace to Sierra Leone is widely responsible for ending the eight years of bestial conflict.”

  Nigerian troops formed the bulk of the ECOMOG force that restored Sierra Leone’s elected President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to power in March 1998 and have stayed on to ensure security, pending implementation of a peace deal reached in July, 1999.

  Hain, a minister of state, said Prime Minister Tony Blair had formally invited President Obasanjo to visit Britain. The visit is to afford both leaders opportunities to work out plans for a Britain-Nigeria bilateral forum.

  “I would envisage that our governments get together formally at least once a year at senior ministerial level, to discuss issues such as foreign policy and conflict prevention, defence, industry, trade and health. I see this as a partnership of equals,” the minister said.

  Hain also met Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Foreign Minister Sule Lamido to discuss issues of debt, economic reform and Sierra Leone. A British delegation of financial experts is expected in the country today.

  “This is make-or-break times for Nigeria. Britain backs success in Africa and we stand ready to provide technical and practical assistance to help Nigeria achieve its goals,” Hain said.

  The minister said Nigeria would be the second after South Africa, with which Britain was working out a bilateral forum, stressing that the country was fast achieving results in its anti-corruption crusade.

  Hain added that the forum, which should meet once every year at senior ministerial level, would discuss issues such as foreign policy, conflict prevention, defence, industry, trade and health.

  Under a new policy on cooperation with African countries, Hain said Britain would only support nations that showed readiness to succeed, adding: “We stand ready to provide technical and practical assistance to Nigeria and all other countries that show a willingness to succeed.”

  On his visit to the Niger Delta today, Hain said it was necessitated by the British Government’s desire to “encourage greater company/community relations.”

  Besides, the British Government has concluded arrangements to assist in carrying out environmental assessment as well as training of the local people to make them more useful to the society, the minister said.

  A major Anglo-Dutch company, Shell Petroleum Development Company, has been in the centre of the crisis in the Niger Delta region


America to Immortalise Two Pilots

THIRTY years after the end of the Nigerian civil war, a mausoleum is to be built to immortalise the two American aircraft pilots who died while on mercy flights to deliver relief materials to then break-away Biafra, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu has said. He said mausoleum is to be located in Amorka/Uli, near Ihiala in Anambra.
An airstrip and the headquarters of the defunct Biafran Airforce were located in the area which also was the last stronghold of the Biafran forces. Speaking with newsmen at the weekend on the 30th anniversary of the end of the Nigeria civil war, Odumegwu-Ojukwu said he had been approached by some people to erect the memorial.
" I am involved in a memorial for the mercy pilots. Two Americans who flew in relief supplies but died," he said, pointing out that the cemetery where they were buried was destroyed at the end of the war.
"We are trying at Uli to gather their bones and build a mausoleum that will stand for ever and remind the people of the sacrifice by the pilots," the Biafran leader said. Elaborating on the plans to immortalise those who died during the 30th-month long civil war, he said, "passion have cooled sufficiently and people will not see this as an anti-Nigeria project."
Odumegwu-Ojukwu who was the Biafran head of state and commander-in-chief estimated that 1 million people died during that war.
Reflecting on the loss of the airstrip, he said, "with the loss of Uli Airport we were totally surrounded and cut off and my cabinet knew that as Uli was lost, the war was over."
Assessing the seven-month old Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency, Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi, said Nigerians needed to see the actual practice of democracy, adding that it was wrong to use military language in governance.
"There is need to explain issues more to the people," Ojukwu added.

Nigerian Post Express Newspaper

FG to Prosecute Leaders of Militant Groups, Says Lamido
by Bassey Inyang, Kano

Foreign Affairs Minister, Alhaji Sule Lamido, said in Kano at the weekend that the Federal Government would prosecute every identified leader of any of the various militant groups that constitute a threat to the unity of the country. He reiterated that the shoot-on-order was still in force.
Lamido has also refuted the report that Cameroon was engaging in a military build up at the disputed Bakassi Peninsula. The area has been a bone of contention between Nigeria and Cameroon.
Speaking with journalists at a briefings, the minister said such ethnic militant groups as the Oodua People's Congress (OPC) the Arewa People's Congress (APC) and the likes in the Niger Delta region were, by their activities, threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.
Similarly, the minister stated that foreign investors are scared of investing in the country as a result of their violent activities which are being perpetrated at the expense of the corporate image of Nigeria in the international community.
He condemned in strong terms what he described as the violent activities of the marauding groups, saying they were unleashing" senseless violence against innocent law abiding citizens of the country."
"These miscreants are too busy fighting and, therefore, sending wrong signals to the international community" he stressed, adding that it was unfortunate because it is happening at a period government was reconciling aggrieved political groupings in the country."
In condemning the violence of the groups, Lamido warned that no responsible government would sit back and allow disgruntled elements to batter its image and scare away potential inventors.
He reminded Nigerians that the "shoot-on-sight" order of the Federal Government was still in force and that "the perpetrators of these dastardly acts under the guise of tribal and ethnic jingoism would be death with in line with the provisions of the laws of the land."
On recent speculations that the Federal Government was being teleguided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Lamido argued that as a sovereign independent nation, Nigeria was a member and financial contributor to the body, hence it is morally right for the country to benefit from the policies of the body.
In another development, Lamido at the weekend in Kano described as untrue the report that Cameroon was engaging in a military build-up at the disputed Bakassi pennisula.
Lamido, who made the refutal during a press briefing also made it clear that Nigeria would not embark on any military expedition against Cameroon nor any other African country as its policy was geared towards integration and development of the continent.
The minister said at this point of human development, it would be an unfortunate and embarrassing testimony for African countries to be engaged in destructive wars and meaningless waste of human and material resources.
Lamido was of the view that disputes among African countries and internal conflicts should be settled through dialogue without recourse to undue barbarity.
Consequently, he opined that it would be more beneficial for the mass media in Africa and Nigeria in particular to eschew sensationalism in their reportage which he observed brews tension.
Lamido said Nigeria at this point in time, especially with the attainment of democracy, has no alternative but to shine as a glowing example and a rallying point for other African countries.
On the recent coup in Cote D'Ivore, Lamido re-emphasised the position of the Federal Government, saying the junta led by General George Guei would not be tolerated beyond six months.
He said talks have been held with the new Ivorien leader and that he has been desuaded from staying beyond the time stipulated for him by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Nigerian Post Express Newspaper


Senate Explains Delay in Appropriation Bill
Tom Obiechina, Abuja

THE Senate has given reasons why the 2000 Appropriation Bill is being delayed even as it has called for the understanding and support of all Nigerians in the fulfillment of its constitutional roles.
Special assistant to the Senate president on Media and Publicity, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha said in a press statement in Abuja at the weekend that an appropriation bill is a vital and sensitive matter that affected the lives of all Nigerians and should therefore not to be rushed.
His words, "it is instructive to note that an appropriation bill is vital and sensitive as it affects the lives and property of all Nigerians and cannot therefore be a matter of quick fixes and shorthand discussion. It involves the discussion of fiscal policies, measures and tactics."
The Senate president's spokesman argued that in line with parliamentary convention, all the 360 members of the House of Representatives and 109 senators have the right to speak on the budget as elected representatives of the people as they cannot therefore, compromise a thorough scrutiny of bills that reflect the sensitivity of the projections as it affects the electorate.
"Money bills are live wires of the nation and must not be hurriedly passed, except in military situation where the bills are deemed to have been passed even before presentation to the citizens", he contended. According to him, even in advanced democracies of the world such as the United States, Britain, Germany etc, appropriation bills have never been passed over night except in times of war.
Mr. Ihedioha who warned that the method of passage of bills as enshrined in the constitution with specific reference to the appropriation bill, must be followed to the letter disclosed that it takes a minimum of three days to pass a light bill with virtually no debates.
"It will be in the national interest for Nigerians to understand the workings of democracy and the imperatives of the legislative process. The use of the constitution and the due process of legislation and passage of bills or motions before the legislative house should be understood by commentators or such issues of national significance," he cautioned.
The spokesman recalled that since the emergence of the new Senate leadership, bills which have been in different committees' stages have witnessed accelerated progress, warning that 'the Senate and indeed the National Assembly cannot be stampeded into rushing any bill without a meticulous and deliberate study and in accordance with the rules.
In a chat with journalists, last month, the Senate President Dr. Chuba Okadigbo had reassured all Nigerians that while the appropriation bill is going through normal legislative procedures, national development would not be hampered as Section 82 of the Nigerian Constitution empowers the president to authorise necessary expenditure from the consolidated revenue fund of the federation for a period not exceeding six months.
In view of this, the statement sounded a note of caution. "The duties of the legislature are very clear, the executive is to make projections, while the legislature determines whether those projections are national priorities and the means to achieve them are available."
Nigerian Post Express Newspaper

Topic: 10 Varsities, Others Share N54m Telecoms Grant

NO fewer than 10 Nigerian universities and sundry other non-governmental organisations and agencies are beneficiaries of N54 million grant from the African Telecommunications Foundation (ATF), an international non-governmental organisation with headquarters in Switzerland.
The money is the organisation's contribution towards the realisation of an ambitious initiative to empower the 100 million Nigerians in the area of communications.
The chief executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Emmanuel Nnama, who is also a member of the ATP, disclosed this at the weekend, stressing however, that the money is meant to jumpstart a communications empowerment campaign starting from key relevant agencies.
This grant is one in a series of goodwill that has come Nigeria's way since the inauguration of democracy in the country last May.
Nnama, who is also the chairman of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), said the deliberate policy of communications empowerment for Nigerians would help whittle the level of ignorance both within the ranks of policy makers in government and the millions of consumers.
Some of the universities that benefited from the grant are University of Lagos; Lagos State University; University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka; University of Ife and the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. They are to get N1 million each.
Other beneficiaries include the NCC and sundry NGOs whose objectives border on communications empowerment and poverty alleviation.
Nnama also hinted that the NCC has initiated the process of harmonising all tariffs charged by telecoms operators in the country.
Nigerian Post Express Newspaper

Monday, 10 January 2000

Britain outlines news policy on Africa

BRITAINS new African policy is to reward reform and support success in the continent, according to its Foreign Office Minister, Peter Hain.

Hain who is due in Nigeria today at the start of a five-day visit of three West African countries, explained at the weekend that Britain would continue to support those who stand up for democracy and human rights and help governments that want to modernise their economies.

We will support African solutions to African problems. We will work with African leaders who commit themselves to freeing their people from poverty, he added.

The minister who was born in South Africa and still claims to be an African, disclosed that since his appointment, five months ago, his main mission has been to give Africa a higher international profile, stressing that he wanted to help turn the continent into the success story of the 21st Century.

He said he would be visiting Nigeria to encourage President Olusegun Obasanjo to stay on course with his courageous reform programme, and while in Ghana, he would underline the message that a peaceful democratic transition, as president Jerry Rawlings steps down, is in the interest of all.

Hain said he would press government and former rebels leaders in Sierra Leone to implement the Lome, Togo peace deal, and highlight the urgent need for more international community assistance to help deliver a proper United Nations peace -keeping operation.

A programme of the visit released by the the foreign office indicate that the minister, while in Nigeria, will call on Obasanjo, visit Rivers State to see and hear first-hand the problems of the Niger-Delta, And meet with various community representatives and human rights groups, among others.


Monday, 10 January 2000

Soldiers avert Itsekiri, Urhobo clash in Warri

From Chido Okafor, Warri.

ANOTHER ethnic clash between the Itsekiri and Urhobo in Warri, Delta State, was averted at the weekend by soldiers of the 7 Amphibious Battalion, Effurun.

Tempers rose when some youths believed to be Itsekiri at about 8.00 p.m invaded a property sited on the disputed Okere area and collapsed its re-built fence, said to belong to one Chief Wilson Eboh, an Urhobo, which was torched during the last June mayhem.

Reconstruction, according to Eboh, was going on when some Itsekiri youths living in the area mobilised and pulled down the fence as well as destroying other repairs already done.

The quick intervention of the soldiers, however, halted what might have been a reprisal attack by Urhobo youths on their Itsekiri neighbours.

When The Guardian visited the place, the property had been cordoned by soldiers.

Lt. M. C. Ejike, the officer incharge of the area, told The Guardian that his men were in firm control and on full alert.

He said: I went there yesterday to see things for myself, I patrolled the area. I saw it but unfortunately we did not meet any of the youths who destroyed the property. My boys will be there on alert. I have assured the owner of the property to proceed with the reconstruction, and I have also briefed the commanding officer of the 7 Amphibious Battalion on the development.

Ejike said when he visited the property, a man who claimed to be a councillor from the area came, and was told to warn the youths to desist from any act that could threaten the fragile peace in the area.

Eboh told The Guardian: I was at home when men on site came to tell me that some Itsekiri youths came in the night and pulled down the newly constructed fence and made away with some construction materials. I went to the property and discovered that the fence had been pulled down.

He continued: The same youths used caterpaults to fire stones at the men working on the site and even stole a good number of the blocks.

He said the incident had been reported to the State Security Service (SSS), the police and the army, saying that the matter should not be allowed to degenerate into another ethnic crisis.

The area had always been hotly contested by the two ethnic groups, resulting in a bloody clash last June, during which several buildings were torched.



Monday, 10 January 2000

Armed Forces Day is no longer relevant, says cleric

From Chukwujekwu Ilozue, Owerri

CATHOLIC Archbishop of Owerri Dr. Anthony J.V. Obinna has asked the Federal Government to change the Armed Forces Rememberance Day to War Victims Day.

Remembering armed forces does not give Nigerians much to cheer. Meanwhile, we are having more and more victims of the Nigerian civil war whom we live with, he said in a sermon to mark the Armed Forces Rememberance Day, at the Maria Assumpta Cathederal, Owerri.

The cleric noted that there were many war victims in the country that needed to be attended to, many of whom are amputees, and therefore, only reasonable to focus on such people.

Recalling the circumstances that led to the war and later reconcilliation, Obinna said Nigeria was yet to meet the aspirations of its citizens, resulting in calls for a Sovereign National Conference, adding that: There is a sense in it.

He, however, urged Nigerians to embrace the positive change that appeared to be taking place in the country, urging the congregation which comprised Governor Achike Udenwa and his wife Theresa, Deputy Governor Ebere Udeagu and members of the state executive council, to eschew hatred and unnecessary controversy, that might include the Sharia issue as Jesus urged all to live in peace.

He expressed worry over lapses in the provision of social amenities in the state, especial electricity, noting that no society could develop with such erratic power supply.


Monday, 10 January 2000

Imo demotes 51 civil servants

From Chukwujekwu Ilozue, Owerri

ABOUT 51 civil servants in Imo State who were given command promotions by the immediate past military administration have been reverted to their former ranks.

Also, those on contract appointments have had such quashed.

The government's action followed the recommendations of a committee which reviewed appointments made by the military administration of between January 10 and May 28, last year.

The committee discovered that 76 command promotions were made during the period under review out of which five were done by the office of the Secretary to the State Government while 20 others were formalised and processed by the civil service commission.

There were, however, 51 other officers of various ranks whose promotions were forwarded to the service commission by the then principal secretary to the administrator without credible reasons backing their documents.

In concluding that this group of officers revert to their former status, the government regretted the attitude of serving officers applying to the chief executive of the state for promotion as this is against civil service ethics.

To avoid industrial disharmony which may be occasioned by the promotion of junior workers over and above their superiors, the committee advised that only certificates should be given civil servants conferred with productivity merit award.

The committee headed by Chief J.A. Udeogu noted that some appointments made by the previous administration were devoid of merit, saying, such promotions were abused, while in some cases the geo-political spread was not followed.


Monday, 10 January 2000

Cleric urges military to shun coups

From Madu Onuorah, Abuja

MEMBERS of the Nigerian A rmed Forces should show their faith in Nigeria by defending her against external aggression and not coup planning, Secretary General of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Abuja chapter, Rev. Victor Ogunkanmi urged yesterday.

He also urged the government to pre-occupy itself with reconstructing the country and bringing her back to the path of honour.

In his sermon at an interdenominational Christian service marking this years Armed Forces Remembrance Day, he admonished all citizens to work towards the goal. He said: If the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain, we need to embark on the reconstruction of Nigeria's broken walls.

He told the audience at the ECWA Church in Wuse II, Abuja which included President Olusegun Obasanjo, his wife Stella, ministers, other top government functionaries and defence officials that whoever was involved in bringing the country to its current sorry pass would never know peace until genuine repentance and restitution were effected.

He drew parallels between the country and the days of restoration of the Jews from Babylonian captivity under Prophet Nehemiah.

Ogunkanmi, who is also General Overseer of the Christ Gospel Mission Int. noted that Nigerians had for long been told to make sacrifices and bear with unwarranted increases in the prices of petroleum products only for the leaders to massively loot the treasury.

Emphasising the imperative of the nations reconstruction, he said: We need to rebuild our walls for the restoration of our national integrity. We need to rebuild our walls for the protection of our citizens against external assault, to stop the adulteration of our Godly national values of love for one another, respect for authority and the elderly, honesty, communal harmony and Godly inter-personal relationship.

He expressed regrets that many war veterans were being subjected to harrowing economic experiences, saying that those who have served their country for decades are begging to be paid their retirement benefits.

Ogunkanmi urged President Obasanjo to emulate Prophet Nehemiah who avoided sin so that the enemies might not have an evil report against him and reproach him.

He also urged every Nigerian to show faith in the country, saying: Let the members of the Armed Forces also show their faith by their good works in defending the security of Nigeria, never by planning coups. Let the civil servants be honest in the formulation and implementation of good and consistent sustainable economic policies for the attainment of meaningful and rapid socio-economic growth and development in Nigeria. Let the politicians show their faith by serving as partners in progress, not exchanging blows in the House. Let them pass the Anti-corruption bill.

The cleric also urged the citizenry to shun all acts of evil so that in no time there will be joy in Nigerian homes.

President Obasanjo read the only lesson of the service, which was taken from Psalm 46. A three-minute silence was also observed in memory of all fallen heroes.


Monday, 10 January 2000

Obasanjo, others mourn INEC chief

From Abiodun Adeniyi, Madu Onuorah (Abuja), Gbolahan Gbadamosi (Lagos), Mike Osunde, Hendrix Oliomogbe (Benin), Seun Adeoye (Osogbo) and Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin)

WE believe that from all we know... you have fought a good fight. These are words with which President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday mourned the death of Justice Ephraim Omorose Ibuku Akpata who died at the weekend at 72 years.

The President was among hundreds who thronged the Mississippi Street, Maitama residence of the late Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman in Abuja, to commiserate with the bereaved family.

Arriving the residence at about 7.55 p.m. in a 605 Peugeot limousine registered AS 325 ABC (Abuja), President Obasanjo was accompanied by Works and Housing Minister Anthony Anenih, Chief of Staff to the President, Major-General Abdullahi Mohammed (rtd), and Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the President, Dr. Doyin Okupe.

Clad in a light blue kaftan with a blue cap and black sandals, he had on arrival made straight for the condolence register where he wrote: We believe that, from all we know, you have fought a good fight. And we also believe that you are with Christ. Fare you well. Rest in perfect peace.

After commiserating with the family, the President prayed: Eternal rock of ages, thank you that you created us in your image; that you created us for a purpose. That is why you made us to be the apex in the crown of your purpose, a purpose that we may serve you and serve humanity. Thank you for the life of Justice Akpata, you made him to fulfil and accomplish your purpose. When men like this are taken away from us, of necessity we feel a sense of loss because of the feeling we have had to bear. But we do believe they are in your bosom, because they have run a good race. They have fought a good fight, and we believe that a crown of glory they will get because they deserve a crown of glory.

We believe that by their departure, they have created a vacuum; a vacuum is created as husband, as father, as brother, as uncle, as confidant ˝ created, of course, as an indefatigable worker in the national cause.

We pray that you yourself will fill the gap. When the wife will feel his absence, we pray you fill the gap. We pray that we (who) are left behind will apply our hearts for occasions like this ˝ knowing that there is only a step between life and death. We thank God for his (Akpatas) life. We are not going to mourn as people that have no faith.

Virtues of the late INEC chairman were extolled yesterday by other sympathisers, including Senate President Chuba Okadigbo and Dr. Okupe, who severally described him as a great man.

Other early callers yesterday at the Akpata residence who expressed shock at his death, includd INEC secretary, Alhaji Bawa Muazu and the Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Steve Osemeke.

As at noon yesterday, no fewer than 22 sympathisers had signed the condolence register opened for the late INEC chief at his Abuja resident.

The respected jurist, said to have caved into heart problems, was described by Okadigbo as a man of integrity. Okadigbo's message passed through his special assistant, Media and Publicity Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, added that the late jurist was rare among men having been dutiful in the discharge of his assignments. He will always be remembered.

Muazu, in the condolence register described the loss as a personal one.

Still visibly shaken, he added: I will never forget Justice Akpata for I had worked very closely with him. He taught me so many things ˝ hardwork, honesty, dedication to duty, straightforwardness etc. He was a great man. He brought peace and stability to Nigerian.

Okupe, believed to have come on the advise of President Olusegun Obasanjo described the late judge thus: Definitely one of the very best departed.

Alhaji Shehu Galadan saw the death as a great loss not only to the family and INEC but to Nigeria.

Muazu hinted that the burial would be jointly organised by the Federal Government, INEC and the family, saying necessary burial arrangements would soon be announced.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Chief Dubem Onyia, described the death as a big blow saying: We are shocked. It is a real shock to us as a nation. We are left with nothing but to adjust. We will adjust.

All we can say is to pray to God to give him rest wherever he is. And we will never forget him. He was an upright man, a man of peace.

He admonished Nigerians to be prayerful especially on his likely successor, saying: we will put it in prayer that God will give us another person who can do the job.

In Benin, Justice Akpata's hometown, yesterday, shock and disbelief greeted the announcement of his death.

His childhood friend, Justice Isaac Aluyi, described the death as the greatest devastation he had ever heard. It is a rude shock, he added as he recalled their last meeting on New Years day when they worshipped together at the Anglican Cathedral of St. Matthews on Sakpoba Road, Benin City.

Justice Andrew Otutu Obaseki, retired justice of the Supreme Court, also described the death as shocking, saying he worshipped with the late Akpata at the St. Peters Anglican Church near his family home on Lagos Street, Benin.

Obaseki, who spoke in Benin said: There was no indication he wont be around much longer. He was looking hale and hearty.

The retired justice said he was, however, happy that Akpata was able to accomplish the task given to him - that of conducting the election that returned the country to a democratic government.

At his Upper Akugbe residence in New Benin yesterday, the modest bungalow was quiet except the presence of an old man who directed journalists to the home of Madam Ayodele Akpata, elder sister of the late INEC chief.

She was too shocked according to her niece who said she was asleep and on sedation.

She however said that since Senator Olu Akpata died in March 1998, the late Justice Akpata had played the fatherly role to the rest of the family.

He was with us here (Benin) last week at a family meeting, we didn't know he was going to die, she said.

Mr. Edun Akenzua, the Enogie of Obayanto, and friend of Mr. Gilbert Akpata, elder brother of the late Justice Akpata, confirmed the family meeting last week.

According to him, Gilbert came to him last week to show his pictures from the family get-together and discuss how to get copies to the INEC chairman.

He was devastated this morning when he heard the news. But I am happy he is alright. I was too shocked myself when I read it from your paper The Guardian On Sunday, Akenzua said in a telephone conversation.

Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN), while praying for the repose of the late INEC chairman, said if he had lived to complete his work, the man would have been able to change a lot of things, corrected many of the ills of our electoral system.

I feel sad, Oh my God, what a pity, what a loss.

The Edo State government described the death as a shock and a big loss to Edo and Nigeria.

Mr. Charles Idahosa, the States Director of Public Affairs, said the government would actively participate in the burial once the schedule is out.

The former governor of the defunct Bendel State, Dr. Sam Ogbemudia, like Isekhure described the death as a great tragedy for Edo and Nigeria.

He was one of the greatest jurists of our time, one can only pray for his soul and the family to bear the loss, he said.

Also, in Lagos, lawyers described the late jurist as one of the greatest justices at the Supreme Court.

To a constitutional lawyer, Mr. Fred Agbaje, Justice Akpata is an intellectual guru, easy going, exemplary in nature and who does not believe that law must always be looked at as it is but as it ought to be.

Another lawyer, Mr. Chiedu Nweke, observed that the judiciary would miss the late INEC boss dearly.

The ultimate while on the bench throughout was to see to the dispensation of justice in the manner that the ordinary man should feel the impact of justice as ultimate of law.

To the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Akpata would be long remembered for steering the country through INEC to a new democratic rule.

The partys National Vice Chairman, Chief Ayo Fasanmi, yesterday said of all the electoral chairmen, the late Akpata was best of them all.

I have known Akpata for long. Even though I have never met him personally, neither was he my friend but for many years I have heard of him.

With what I read about him and heard about him from people who knew him very well, he was a respected judge, respected in the Bar and on the Bench.

Fasanmi added that people like him are rare in our society. So, for him to die at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium is a great shock and a loss to the country.

It will be difficult to get another person into his shoes because of his ruggedness, honesty, dedication and justice. Whoever wants to fit into that has to work very hard. Nigeria lost a great jurist, a great man. We, in AD sympathise with his family, he added.

Former Works and Housing Minister Abdulkarim Adisa and prominent politicians in Kwara State, described as shocking the demise of Akpata.

Adisa, who canvassed a national monument after Akpata, said the smooth transition programme of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) without the competence of Akpata would have been futile.

According to him, government should name a monument after him. People today talk of Abubakars transition but kudos must be given to the think-tank behind it.

Akpata conducted a successful election to usher in democracy in this country. I am giving him that credit, may his soul rest in peace, he said.

To the chairman of All Peoples Party (APP) in the state, Prof Albert Ogunsola, Akpata remained the best chairman of any of the nations electoral bodies.

Ogunsola noted: we have to understand the antecedent of people who occupied the INEC position. There were people who were there before him. But Akpata moved in with vigour, confidence and he performed creditably.

Reacting to the demise of the INECs chairman, the secretary of Egbe Afenifere in Kwara State, Chief Wole Oke, said the nation would have loved seeing Akpata around, conducting another election.

According to Oke, a chieftain of AD, Akpata was thorough and tried to be transparent. We would have loved to see him around conducting another election in Nigeria, but theres nothing we can do against it.


Sunday, January 09, 2000

 Group Commends Obasanjo Over Odi Apology

YOUTH Association of professionals for the emancipation of the Niger Delta (YAPEND) has acknowledged as ‘most appropriate” the recent apology by President Olusegun Obasanjo over the  military destruction of Odi, a community in Bayelsa State.

  Mr. John Ogigbah, president of the association, said at the weekend that the Federal Government should go further to institute a high powered panel of enquiry to investigate the Odi destruction with a view to identifying those who acted in excess and punish them accordingly. He added that government should set in motion without further delay machinery to facilitate the total rehabilitation of the sacked community, stressing: “this should be done with the same speed with which the military razed down the community.”

  The association, Barrister Ogigbah said, is in full support of the definition of the Niger Delta area by the House of Representatives which defined the region as including only five states namely Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross Rivers and Akwa-Ibom. He called on all the peoples of the Niger Delta Region to close rank and present a united front in order to attract the desired response from the federal government, adding: “bickerings and factional crises would not help our cause.”

  He warned that delay in setting up the Niger Delta Development Commission would continue to precipitate tension in the area. “The government wasted no time in spending billions of naira on the Lagos bar beach. The same should be done in respect of the Niger Delta which produces the nation’s wealth.” Evenso, Barrister Ogigbah called on all Nigerians especially the ethnic nationalities that constitute the Nigeria Delta to “co-operate fully with the administration of President Obasanjo in order to achieve the best for the long neglected Niger Delta region.”