Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #04
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

Final Release Jan 29, 2000

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Friday, January 28, 2000

President Obasanjo Makes Good on His Threats 

Presidency recalls consular chiefs over delay in visa issuance

From Laolu Akande, New York

COMMITTED to facilitating easy entry into Nigeria by prospective foreign investors, the Presidency has recalled consular chiefs in three of Nigeria’s embassies over delay in visa issuance.

  The chief consular officers of the embassies in the United States of America, Kenya and South Africa were reportedly recalled in regard of a delegation of American investors who were to visit President Olusegun Obasanjo late last year. Only a member of the delegation made it to Nigeria owing to visa problems.

  But Nigeria’s ambassadors in the respective countries are said to be pleading with the government so that Alhaji Abdulahi Musa Idrissu recalled from Washington DC, Mr Buba Tekene from Nairobi and Ibrahim Nojib from Pretoria do not ultimately lose their jobs.

  During his visit to the United States last October, President Obasanjo had warned all embassy officials and all involved in visa issuance to always ensure that those planning to visit Nigeria, especially for investment purposes, should be granted the visa within 48 hours.

  He indeed made it clear that his drive to woo foreign investors to Nigeria has to be backed up by such prompt response to visa requests, reportedly warning that official guilty of visa delays would be disciplined.

  Sources close to the embassy in Washington DC explained that the President was referring particularly to the example of some foreigners who had complained to him personally about visa problems at the three Nigerian embassies.

  Soon after the political administration’s inauguration in May last year, an international business concern having links with former American envoy and President Obasanjo’s associate, Mr. Andrew Young, named Monsato Scientific Group, planned to send one of its officials, an American lady to Nigeria. The business concern, which also has officials based in South Africa and Kenya, planned to send some officials from those countries to join with the American in Nigeria for the business trip involving foreign investment plans.

  The three were to meet with the President, but only the company official from the United States made it to Nigeria. A disappointed President Obasanjo was said to have felt let down by the embassies when told that her colleagues from Kenya and South Africa did not get a visa to travel into Nigeria. Sources also said the company official from the United States reported on how she was delayed at the Nigerian embassy in Washington.

  But Nigerian officials in Washington explained that while it is true that the embassy did not issue the visa within 48 hours, it did so in a few days.

  It was learnt that the consular officers had asked the woman to show proof that she had the invitation of the Nigerian President, as she claimed. But the woman reportedly made a mere verbal assertion without a letter from the presidency or any other government agency. Embassy sources said this necessitated the delay in issuing her visa for a couple of days.

  It was after that incident that a circular originated from the Presidency to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, asksing for the recall of all consular officials involved in the visa problem.

  The Guardian was told that Mr. Johnson Ogunyemi, who was the Charge d’Affaires before an Ambassador was named by the new government, has also been recalled home. The official position is that he is on vacation. It was not clear if Ogunyemi’s recall was also due to this visa problem.

  The recall of the diplomats were said to have been ordered by the Presidency, and the diplomats are to report in Abuja by February 6.

  Although The Guardian could not get through to speak with Nigeria’s new Ambassador to the U.S, Professor Jubril Aminu, sources close to him said he had decided to appeal to the president to reconsider the recalling of the diplomats. The new ambassador to South Africa, Dr Tunji Olagunju is said to be making similar moves to save the jobs of the diplomats.

  Commenting on the development, a Nigerian activist based in Washington DC, Mr. Lanre Banjo, said he had sent an e-mail to the President to “assure fairness in treating the diplomats.”

  Banjo has been campaigning in the U.S. against what he perceives as a one way courtesy treatment that the Nigerian government is offering American travellers to Nigeria, as opposed to the problems he said Nigerian travellers to U.S. face daily at that country’s embassies.

  In a statement he issued on the recall of the diplomats, Banjo said the Nigerian embassy officials were simply doing their job by following the laid down rules and procedures for the issuance of visa.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Bamaiyi Protests Torture in Prison

By Kayode Matthew, Ben Agande, Abuja, Ifeoma Okologume & Nurudeen Kareem

By Kayode Matthew, Ben Agande, Abuja, Ifeoma Okologume & Nurudeen Kareem

FORMER Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi now facing trial along with four others for alleged attempted murder of Mr. Alex Ibru, yesterday, protested at a Lagos High Court that he was being manacled and kept in a solitary confinement at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Lagos.

At the resumption of the trial yesterday, Bamaiyi’s counsel, Mr. Emmanuel Toro (SAN) told the court that his client was singled out by the prison authorities for punishment.

Also yesterday in Abuja, lead counsel to Mohammed Abacha, son of the late Head of State, denied that he was using delay tactics to stall Mohammed’s trial over the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.

Mr. Emmanuel Toro (SAN) for Gen. Bamaiyi, addressing the Lagos High Court yesterday said: "I would like to express serious concern at the welfare of the first accused (Bamaiyi).

"He was moved from where he was formerly kept and he is now in a solitary confinement where he is chained.

"We find it highly condemnable. Those who take care of them should treat all the accused equally more so as he is still presumed innocent until he is convicted. This selective treatment should stop.

"He is also being denied access to his relations and even counsel. They had all along been feeding themselves but this have been removed entirely."

Lagos State Attorney-General, Prof. Yemi Osibajo who is leading the persecution team said he was disturbed by the allegations made by Bamaiyi’s counsel especially that on his physical maltreatment.

Said he: "The accused has not been found guilty and the prison is not a place for punishment.

"The state government, however, has nothing to do whatsoever with the running of the prisons which are federal institutions. The state government has no power to exercise any control on the prison officials who are officers of the Federal Government.

"As the State Attorney-General, I have a responsibility to inquire from the prison authorities whether these allegations are true and to what extent the prison authorities have breached the regulations.

"I will undertake to find out latest tomorrow (today) because the court needs to get the response of the prison authorities before making an order. I will therefore report back to the court before the next adjourned date."

In his ruling, Justice Augustine Ade-Alabi said the position of the law was very clear on the allegations made by Bamaiyi.

He said: "The first accused (Bamaiyi) does not deserve the treatment being meted out to him as he is still presumed innocent until found guilty.

"All the accused persons without exception should be given fair treatment and the court will deal with any official who flouts prison regulation."

The court could not, however, proceed with the trial yesterday as counsel to Mr. James Danbaba, Mr. Mike Okoye had already written a letter to the court applying for an adjournment in view of another matter involving Bamaiyi at the Court of Appeal, Abuja yesterday.

Further trial was adjourned till Thursday, February 3, 2000.


*Abacha’s counsel denies stalling trial

And at press conference in Abuja, lead counsel to Mohammed Abacha, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN) denied that he was stalling his client’s trial over the murder of Alhaja Abiola.

He said the defence team was only doing its work to ensure that Mohammed got justice.

His word: "The defence is not engaged in any delay tactics. The defence is merely doing its work in line with the highest standard of professionalism and the rule of law.

"What is important is that at the end of the day the truth must be asserted and justice must be seen to have been done."

He said the due process of law required that everybody should suppress his bias and leave the court to decide.

"This include the proper procedure being followed and the presence of a tenable evidence upon which a prima facie case can be presumed. Due process entails access for the accused person to go on appeal where he feels that he is not satisfied with the decision of the court," he noted.

Mr. Daudu said since the crime for which his client was arraigned carries the death sentence, it was important that every step be taken to ensure that he got justice.

He also said alleged hostility of the Lagos environment was capable of scaring away potential witnesses which the defence might call.

*Appeal Court speaks on judge’s withdrawal

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that there was noting unusual for a judge to withdraw from a case at any point in time, provided he was convinced that his continued stay would jeopardise the case.

Justice Dahiru Mustapher of the Court of Appeal, Abuja withdrew from the case in which the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi is challenging the legality of the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) set up by the Attorney-General of the Federation to investigate the activities of some officials in the Abacha regime. He cited recent development for his withdrawal.

But when the court which was supposed to rule on the application by counsel to Mohammed Abacha, resumed yesterday, it said it could not deliver judgement because a new panel had just be constituted, following the withdrawal of the former judge.

The new panel is made up of Justice Justine Thompson Akpabio, Justice M.S. Murtala Commassie and Justice Albert G. Oduyemi.

However, at the resumed hearing of the case, counsel to Gen. Bamaiyi, Mr. Mike Okoye sought to know why Justice Mustapher withdrew from the case.

"The world is watching us. People may read meanings into why he withdrew from the case he stated."

Mr. Okoye said though he received a letter from the deputy registrar of the court explaining the withdrawal of the presiding judge, the letter only stated that the decision was borne out of "recent development."

"With due respect, given the high profile nature of the case and the fact that everybody in the country would want to know which way our judiciary is going in this particular matter, I would want to say that if the ‘recent development’ is as a result of government interference by subtly accusing judges, then a dangerous precedence was been laid.

"We have unshakable faith in the judiciary of this country and we are ready to abide by the decision of Justice Dahiru Mustapher panel hearing the case," he stated.

Counsel to Mohammed Abacha who had filed a suit to be joined in the case filed by Gen. Bamaiyi said that he had confidence in the Justice Musdapher-led panel.

He said the insinuations that government might have influenced the withdrawal of Mustapher could be valid except reasons were adduced for the withdrawal of Mustapher.

"There is need for the reasons for the withdrawal to be taken in the open court so that people will not accuse the court of clustered justice. It is not enough to say we have full confidence in the judiciary. It is the issue of openness, transparency and due process of law," he stated.

Counsel to government, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs argued that it was wrong for his learned colleague to infer that government had influenced the withdrawal of Justice Mustapher.

According to him, the insinuation is capable of eroding confidence in the judiciary, saying that it was a political submission without any legal basis.

Ruling on the matter, the Presiding Judge, Justice Justine Thompson Akpabio said having carefully examined the arguments by the counsel, "there is nothing unusual for a judge to withdraw from a case," if he feels that his continued stay could jeopardise the case.

Citing the case of Olu Falae and Olusegun Obasanjo, Justice Akpabio said a judge can disqualify himself at any stage of a case. He therefore said that since all the parties expressed confidence in the panel the case would be started afresh.

After hearing the submissions of all counsel, the presiding judge fixed Monday 31st January 2000 for ruling on the case.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper


Friday, January 28, 2000

 World Bank sponsors poverty alleviation scheme

From Ifedayo Sayo,Ekiti

THE World Bank sponsored poverty alleviation programme is to take off in five states of the federation in June, the co-ordinator of the programme, Dr. Funso Okunbadewa said yesterday.

  He told Ekiti State Governor, Chief Adeniyi Adebayo, that the beneficiaries including Ekiti State have been directed to make adequate preparation for the programme to ensure its success.

  The co-ordinator who was in the state to ascertain the level of preparedness of the state government for the programme, however, noted the enthusiasm and eagerness on the part of both the federal and state governments to ensure its success.

  He stressed that unlike other programmes sponsored by the bank, the beneficiaries have been the front runners in the implementation of the programme.

  According to him, the programme will complement the efforts of the Federal Government in its poverty alleviation programme and will go a long way in the beneficiary communities.

  Adebayo said his administration will support any programme aimed at improving the living standard of the people of his state.

  He assured that his government was prepared for the take off of the programme adding that he will personally ensure the success of the programme.

Vanguard Transmitted FRIDAY, 28 January, 2000


Federal Government hitting N102.8 billion in the first month of this year.

THE bullish international oil market has brought about a significant increase in revenue accruing to the Federal Government hitting N102.8 billion in the first month of this year.

It is expected that with prices hitting about $29 per barrel the nation’s economy stands a good chance of witnessing a rapid transformation in the months ahead.

The Ministry of Finance said yesterday in Abuja that of the amount, N70.7 billion had already been distributed to the three tiers of government for their January expenditures.

N31.1 billion has been transferred to the Federation Stabilisation Account, while N5 billion went to the Federal Reserved Account.

The Federal Government received N32.4 billion from the Federation Account, the 36 states and Abuja got N17.28 billion, while N13.4 billion was given to the local governments.

Similarly, the specialised funds of the Federal Government got N3.99 billion; they are: Ecological Fund (N1.335 billion), Stabilisation Fund (N596 million) and OMPADEC (N1.805 billion).

In the distribution of the N3.99 billion VAT revenue, however, the Federal Government got the least allocation of N0.6 billion. States got N1.99 billion while local councils received N1.4 billion.

Details of the allocations to the states showed that Abuja topped the list with N667.3 billion, followed by Delta (N651.4 million), Kano (N642.7 million) and Lagos (N640.2 million).

Conversely, Ebonyi got the least with N340.6 million followed by Gombe (N348 million) and Ekiti (N354 million).

Allocation to local governments in Kano was highest with N710 million, followed by Kano and Oyo local governments with N548 million and N529 million respectively.

Friday, January 28, 2000

 Obasanjo opens meeting on African commission

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo will at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the ECOWAS Secretariat, Abuja open the inaugural meeting of the Independent Commission on “Africa and the Challenges on the Third Millennium.”

  The commission is an independent body set up to mobilise and sensitise political, economic, private sector and civil society opinion leaders to opportunities open to the continent in the new millennium.

  Supported by the United Nations, the commission will also assist African leaders to formulate judicious strategies and measures to tap into these opportunities. It will further identify Africa’s contribution to its development and to international solidarity and development.

  It comprises 25 eminent members are the Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, Williams Eteki, former OAU Secretary-General Prof. Ali Mazrui, and former UNDP Assistant Administrator Ms. Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson.

Vanguard Transmitted FRIDAY, 28 January, 2000


Friday, January 28, 2000

 Govt. ready to deal with OPC, says Afolabi

By Sylvester Ebhodaghe

THE Minister of Internal Affairs, Chief Sunday Afolabi has restated Federal Government’s resolve to deal with the menace of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC).

  He told The Guardian yesterday after a two-day working tour of immigration and prisons services in Lagos, that: “The Federal Government is now determined to check the activities of the militant OPC in Lagos.”

  According to the minister, “The Federal Executive Council has come out to condemn the activities of the OPC and has warned the Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu to check the excesses of these people.

  “The Federal Government has warned them. If they refuse to stop perpetrating violence, the Federal Government will know what to do next.”

  Afolabi explained government’s reluctance to deal with the menace saying “as a father, the Federal Government was trying to give them an opportunity to turn from their nefarious activities. So, when it eventually takes a firm decision, nobody will say we did not give the group enough time to change.”

  He added: “The OPC has no agenda, if you look at their said agenda, it is the same thing Alliance for Democracy (AD) is fighting for _ Sovereign National Conference (SNC). If the AD is serious about their call for SNC what then is the National Assembly all about? They should resign from the National Assembly and their various houses of assembly. Then we will know they are serious with their agitation.

  ‘In fact they came out to vote for their representatives to the National Assembly and still they are complaining.”

  Afolabi however blamed most of the violent clashes in Lagos on the activities of the OPC, saying, “crises in Lagos are caused by the OPC, no doubt about that. Investigations and police intelligence reports have established that fact.

  “People who organised the OPC of course are now regretting because the group is now a threat to the society”.

  He also alleged that the reason why the man hunt by the police for the factional leader of the OPC, Ganiyu Adams has not yielded result was because some persons were shielding him.

  “I know that some persons are backing them. Imagine the last time the Ooni of Ife invited Chief Bola Ige and myself to a supposed peace meeting for both factions of the group, they came in lorries.

  “They were both heavily armed with dangerous weapons. They have a lot of weapons. So, they are being financed by some people and the Federal Government is investigating that to fish out their sponsors.

  “Why has Ganiyu Adams not been arrested, is he not in Nigeria?, but somebody is hiding him from being arrested by police.

  “Let us speak the truth to ourselves. He is being kept by somebody. That person is not helping issues at all, Gani Adams is not invisible as many claim.”

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, January 28, 2000

 Obasanjo urges African, Asian political ties

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has advocated increased political cooperation between Africa and Asia as a basis for providing a new direction for the developing world in the emerging multi-polar global environment.

  Concluding his five-day visit to India yesterday, he said such cooperation was imperative given new trends in trans-national cooperation.

  He said there was an urgent need for more collaborative efforts between Nigeria and India given their antecedents, saying both countries had a major role in guaranteeing tangible dividends in the burgeoning global political configuration.

  He spoke at a breakfast meeting with the press at his Rashtrapati Bhavan lodge in New Delhi, noting that as members of several international groups, both countries could make significant input to the re-definition of the organisation’s policy thrusts.

  He said: “Nigeria and India belong to such renowned groups as the Commonwealth, which is a body of 53 former British colonies, the Non-Aligned Movement; the G.77 and the G.50. Beyond being nominal members of all these groups, however, our countries must be able to give a new impetus and focus to the thinking of all such groups.”

  It is not enough for the Commonwealth to hold regular summits, he said, adding that it should constantly appraise its work, aims, manner of prosecution and results.

  “The Commonwealth must stand for democracy all over the world. It must think about poverty alleviation in the member-states, otherwise, it will cease to be relevant. The Non-Aligned Movement must come up with a clear-cut agenda for the 21st century. It must have very well-defined social, economic and political agenda as we begin the new century because the global situation this century is different from what we used to have,” he added.

  Obasanjo expressed optimism that with inspiration of just a few committed countries, it would be possible to enlist the support of other member-states, so as to propel the bodies to new heights.

  He said: “India, Canada, South Africa, Jamaica and Nigeria under our leadership can as well be the engine room of the project to re-focus the Commonwealth and make it functional and relevant to the development imperatives of our respective countries, sub-regions and continents.”

  According to a statement from India by a Special Assistant to the President, Tunde Olusunle, Obasanjo also reminded Nigerians resident in that country at a reception organised by the Nigerian High Commissioner, Kabiru Ahmed, that they should conform with Indian laws to avoid embarrassment to themselves and the image of the country.

  He assured that Nigeria would  be made conducive enough socially and economically for them to return to any day.

  At a foundation-laying ceremony of the Nigerian High Commission, Obasanjo remarked that when he visited India on September 18, 1998, he did not know he would be returning to that country as an elected President.

  While receiving Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Ram Naik, the President drew that country’s attention to Nigeria’s abundant gas. The minister had indicated a desire for more of Nigeria’s crude oil, saying: “But this cannot match our needs of 10 million metric tonnes per annum or 250,000 barrels per day, to meet annual consumption which has increased by 10 per cent annually.”

  President Obasanjo said beyond petroleum, Nigeria was more endowed with natural gas, saying, with global attention turning to environment-friendly sources of energy, “we have begun to develop our natural gas reserves which we have in abundance. We already have one LNG plant, while the second is to be developed. While we are working out the details of the project, we may be able to factor India in as a partner or participant.”

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, 27 January 2000

Lagos plans own refinery

By Lekan Sanni, Staff Reporter

 PLANS are on by the Lagos State Government to establish a refinery that will cater for the needs of the people and neighbouring states.

Already, the former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Mr. Aret Adams, has been commissioned by the state government to prepare a blueprint on the proposed refinery which is expected to check the perennial fuel scarcity in the metropolis.

Lagos is said to consume more than 50 per cent of petroleum products in the country and the refinery, if established, will serve not only Lagos but the entire South-West.

Receiving in audience a delegation from Gaslink Nigeria Limited led by Adams, Governor Bola Tinubu said Adams had indeed been contracted to carry out a feasibility study on the project.

Tinubu assured on his administrations commitment to the project even as he called on the Federal Government, especially the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to wake up to the challenges of improving on energy supply in the country.

The project, according to Tinubu, was informed by his belief in the philosophy of free market economy, saying it was only through competition that people could think and be innovative.

Deregulation, the governor said, will create competition, dousing the fears of accompanied price increment. When there is competition, innovation is placed at a higher pedestal and the satisfaction of the consumer is the ultimate. Therefore, the prices will end up going down, not going up as being negatively projected. We must encourage deregulation. We must discourage unitary system of control. We must have fiscal discipline in our financial activities and be consistent in the policy that will bring about the potentials of our nation and best use of our resources, he said.

Confirming the development, Adams said the South-West in particular would benefit from the petroleum products from the refinery.

According to him, the idea was to sell the products to other states after the demand of the South-West must have been met.

The issue, according to him, is not a constitutional one but purely economic, adding that it was in line with free market economy.

The delegation, he said, came in connection with a plan to supply gas to Greater Lagos Industrial Area on a build, operate and transfer basis by Unipetrol, adding that contract for the construction of a gas distribution pipeline with a completion date of 2001 has been awarded to a Pakistani company, Shawkat and Raza for N1 billion.

Adams noted that during its life span, the Ikeja system would generate about $1.2 billion as revenue.

The project is to release a volume equivalent of 200 million litres (200,000 metric tonnes) of fuel oil yearly for export to generate foreign exchange for the economy.

On safety plan, Adams said: We intend to incorporate an odourisation plant along the right of way of the pipeline to odourize the gas as a safety measure to allow easy detection of gas leakage.

Tinubu has also requested that the management and development of the Bar Beach be handed over to the state government.

It hopes to develop the beach into a major tourist centre in line with what is obtained in South Africa, bringing in foreign investors, he said.

The governor is believed to have met with the Minister of Works and Housing, Chief Tony Anenih on the issue, already being considered by the Federal Government.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper


Thursday, 27 January 2000

Health workers may begin strike tomorrow

From Seun Adeoye, Osogbo

HEALTH workers in the country have threatened to embark on a strike tomorrow over what they regard as poor conditions of service.

The workers, under the aegis of Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI) said the Health Minister, Dr. Tim Menakaya has been intimated of their plan.

In a statement by their President-General, Mr. Ralph Adeniyi, sectoral chairman, Joe Menkiti and Secretary, Kingsley Nwangwu, the workers recalled that an earlier letter asking the Health Ministry to look into their plight was ignored.

In the said letter, SSAUTHRIAI complained of governments alleged preferential treatment to the medical and dental practitioners over other health workers.

While demanding for an urgent redress, they suggested what should be paid to them by the government.

They said: Our first ultimatum lapsed on the 4th of January, 2000 without even an acknowledgement or any action known to us.

On January 14, we gave another ultimatum which expires on Friday.

The Health Minister, they said, should be held responsible if by tomorrow, government fails to address their complaints.

Government should hold the Ministry of Health responsible for somersaulting the noble and progressive efforts of the new visionary government of Nigeria to revive the dying National Health Delivery System.

We extended the ultimatum by another14 days as a proof of our unreserved support for the success of this new civilian administration and also because the negative cost of strike are better imagined than experienced they said.

The Guardian learnt that the workers have been put on alert by their officials.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper


Thursday, 27 January 2000

PDP cautions Soyinka on utterances

THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has cautioned noble laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka against statements and utterances capable of disintegrating the country.

PDP, in a satement yesterday by its national secretary, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo advised the literary icon to show more maturity and patriotism by taking positions on issues that will promote the unity of the country.

The party was apparently reacting to a report by Soyinka on Tuesday, alleging militarisation of the polity by the President Olusegun Obasanjos government.

Professor Soyinka's contention that there is creeping re-militarisation of Nigeria and his allegation that President Olusegun Obasanjo is engaging in gestapo conduct amounts to playing to the gallery. It also smacks of ignorance of the true situation of things on the ground in Nigeria which is not a surprise as the learned professor spends more of his time outside the shores of his fatherland, the statement said.

It noted that Soyinka, unlike the average Nigerian in Ajegunle, Ketu or Odi does not know what is meant by the threat of lawlessness nor does he feel the insecurity and embarrassment of a policeman in Lagos where uniform as a law enforcement agent now makes him a target of miscreants and criminals out to cause a breach of public peace.

Soyinka's comment may have been informed by late last years deployment of troops to Odi, Bayelsa State by the Federal Government to curb youths unrest and the recent threat to declare a state of emergency in Lagos, owing to arson and killings of policemen traced to the militant faction of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC).

Pertainings to the threat by President Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency in Lagos which Soyinka finds distasteful and a recourse to militarism, Prof. Soyinka can tell the nation what is expected of any responsible government when there is a creeping slide towards anarchy in a state. At Odi, only 12 policemen were killed, but in Lagos, the notorious Oodua Peoples Congress unleashed limitless violence on the psyche, person and property of about 12 million Nigerians, the statement added.

It said: President Obasanjo's threat to declare a state of emergency is to draw the attention of the government to his duty of ensuring that security of lives and property are maintained.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, 27 January 2000

Govt restates respect for human rights

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

THE Federal Government yesterday reaffirmed its unalloyed commitment to upholding human rights of all citizens.

Denying recent media reports of remilitarisation of the polity, it said since it was a product of the struggle of the Nigerian peoples quest for freedom and liberty, it would not do anything to return the country to the dark days.

A statement yesterday by the Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity , Mr Chris Mamma said the Federal Governments attention has been drawn to a series of negative news reports and commentaries in the Nigerian media expressing concern about real or imagined human rights abuses by this administration.

For the avoidance of doubt, this administration wishes to reiterate unequivocally its commitment to upholding human rights of all its citizenry. Needless to state the present administration is a product of the struggle of the Nigerian peoples quest for freedom and liberty; hence it would not do anything to return the country to the dark days of yesterday.

It described as isolated, examples cited by its critics for concluding that the country was either witnessing human rights abuses or heading towards a militarised state, saying the conclusions did not reflect the realities on the ground.

Government wishes to restate that it has the responsibility of upholding law and order in any part of the country. Certainly, it does not intend to abdicate that responsibility. To do that is to encourage a state of anarchy in the country, the statement added.

Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka was quoted a few days ago as condemning the Federal Governments recent threat to impose a state of emergency on Lagos State which he described as an attempt to re-militarise the polity.

The statement also reiterated the governments determination to remain resolute in its readiness to intervene decisively in the event of breakdown of law and order in any part of the country.

After all, the overall welfare which includes security of life of all Nigerians is part of the mandate freely given to us by the Nigerian people, it added.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, 27 January 2000

NEPA may sack 6,000

By Yakubu Lawal, Energy Correspondent

A MAJOR restructuring which is likely to erase 6,000 jobs at the National Electric Power Authority NEPA) may have been approved by the Federal Government.

However, implementation of the plan by the authority may be staggered over a period of six months to enable it cope with its financial implication estimated at over N4 billion.

This, according to the assistant general manager, public relations of the authority, Malam Mohammed Mousa-Booth, is because: In this difficult time, you cannot ask people to go or sack them without paying them. What do you expect them to eat when they go empty handed?

Officials explained that the re-organisation which will affect about 20 per cent of NEPA's total work force of over 34,000 is expected to address the following:

bulletmisplacement of workers within the system i.e. placing non-professionals in places where they are ill-equipped to function in);
bulletredundancy and verification of academic qualifications;
bulletbad records and scrutiny of those who are due for retirement.

The latest decision of the authority is believed to have been predicated on several reports of studies which, in the past, had blamed its inefficiency on over-bloated workforce and redundancy.

Officials said one of the reports specifically showed that the distribution of NEPA's workforce was skewed in favour of support and services departments.

The engineering section which formed the core service area of the organisation is believed to have inadequate manpower, especially at the power stations.

Sources explained that an in-house staff audit committee raised last year also discovered a lot of discrepancies in staff ratings, appropriate fixing of staff as well as lack of communication between the personnel and account departments.

The committee is believed to have alleged that some staff who have been transferred, dead or retired from service were still being paid their salaries and other benefits.

Also discovered were duplication of functions especially at senior manager, assistant general manager and general manager levels.

Mousa-Booth, however, said the authority was ready to reduce its workforce from the current level. He cited the proposal sent to the Presidency to justify his position.

But the only snag, according to him, was that NEPA has no money to pay the full entitlements of those that will be affected. This he put at N4 billion.

The authority, he said, cannot afford such a huge sum except the presidency comes to its aid.

Mousa-Booth, however, assured that as soon as the government provided the fund for the payment of the retirement benefits the restructuring will be implemented.

He explained that President Olusegun Obasanjo has given NEPA the go ahead to resolve the problem between it, the Lagos State Government and the independent power producers, Enron.

He regretted that the issues involved were not properly put across to the public, stressing that NEPA had no intention to frustrate the effort of the private power producers.

Mousa-Booth said the authority had been encouraging the private sector to participate in power generation because it could no longer do it alone. This, according to him, is especially because of the enormous financial resources required and the competing needs for governments little resources.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Hospital to pay N0.3m damages for wrong medication

By Taye Obateru, Jos

A Jos High Court has awarded N300,000.00 damages against the Plateau hospital Jos for giving a patient wrong medication which led to his deafness.

A retired Inspector of Police Philip Fetuka had filed a suit claiming N2 million as compensation from the hospital for negligence. Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Thomas Naron said evidence before him proved that the hospital caused the plaintiff to lose his sense of hearing after wrongfully administering on him a high dose of gentamycin for treatment of pneumonia..

The plaintiff had in a supporting affidavit stated that he sometime in 1990 went to the hospital to complain of ill health which was later diagnosed as pneumonia.

According to him, he was subsequently given gentamycin injection following which he lost his sense of hearing. He said the hospital later referred him to the Jos University Teaching Hospital for further treatment, but that he never regained his hearing ability. Justice Narom in his judgement said evidence adduced by the plaintiff proved that a clear case of negligence had been established against the hospital since it (hospital) could not controvert the exhibits tendered.

Vanguard Transmitted WEDNESDAY, 26 January, 2000 

Wednesday, 26 January 2000

FRSC, Jigawa introduce roadside clinics

TO further ensure quick healthcare delivery to road users, Jigawa State Government has concluded arrangements with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to establish two roadside clinics at designated areas in the state.

Disclosing this recently when the Corps Marshal of the Commission, Malam Danyaro Yakassai paid him a courtesy call as part of his nationwide tour of FRSC formations, Governor Saminu Turaki stated that prompt attention was required to save victims of accidents.

Recalling a fatal accident last year along the Kano-Jigawa road which resulted in the death of some people, the governor stated that lives could have been saved with the presence of help within the area.

The governor, who was represented by his deputy Alhaji Ibrahim Sheu Kwatalo urged the FRSC to introduce night patrols in the state, to cope with hazards associated with night travels.

Yakassai stated that though the rate of accidents reduced last year, consistent violation of traffic regulations among Nigerian motorists such as overloading and dangerous driving, had continued to negate the efforts of the FRSC, adding that the commission has resolved to sustain its accident reduction achievements through intensive patrols, rescue operations and public enlightenment campaigns.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, 26 January 2000

British health team visits Nigeria next month

By Olufemi Adedapo

A trade mission comprising 12 companies from the British healthcare sector will visit Nigeria between February 13 and 19, with the aim of establishing links with the country.

According to a statement yesterday by the British Deputy High Commissioner, the mission is visiting the country to draw the expertise of the mission participants and British healthcare sector as a whole to the attention of Nigeria's health and medical interests.

During the visit, the mission would promote a wide range of products and services, which include: supplies of medical equipment; medical consumables, equipment and health insurance agents; Turkey hospital construction; manufacture and supplies of laboratory reagents, chemicals and consumables.

Other areas are health procurement consultancy and advisory services; building engineering and design services; wholesale supplies of medical and laboratory tubing, manufacture of oxygen therapy/anaesthesia equipment; supplies of extensive range of medical and surgical consumables and equipment; management training, development and recruitment of consultants and technical experts among others.

The trade mission is expected to visit Lagos and Abuja during their stay.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, 26 January 2000

Awolowo-Dosumu solicits Dutch aid for Nigeria

NIGERIA'S newly appointed Ambassador to The Netherlands Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo- Dosumu has solicited her host country's assistance for President Olusegun Obasanjo’s effort to pull Nigeria out of its current economic morass.

Speaking while presenting her credence letter to the country's monarch Queen Beatrix on January 19, she also urged a re-awakening of existing bonds with Nigeria.

A statement by P.S.O. Emuze, an embassy official said she was accompanied by her husband and four embassy staff. They were conveyed in two horse-driven carriages to Noordeinde palace for the presentation, it added.

During the ceremony, she inspected a Guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the Royal Guard.

Until recently she was the executive secretary of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation. She is the first Nigerian female ambassador to the Dutch kingdom.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, 26 January 2000

Govt arms police to curb violence

By Ben Akparanta and Akin Jimoh

POLICE armouries nationwide would shortly be replenished with modern guns, armoured personnel carriers APCs and teargas canisters, in the governments new resolve to kit up against ethnic militants.

The Presidency has reportedly given the nod for the purchase of large quantities of K2 Belgian automatic rifles, LAR from British arms manufacturers, and personnel carriers from India, Britain and Israel which will come with teargas canisters from laboratories across Europe and America.

The Nigerian Army may also relinquish many of its G3 assault rifles to the police, while the Kaduna-based Nigeria Defence Industries Corporation NDIC) will provide .9mm and .75mm calibre bullets for the weapons.

On delivery, the weapons are expected to be distributed to armouries of the 36 police commands, and squadrons of police mobile force PMF) before the end of march.

Already, Police Inspector-General Musiliu A.K. Smith has, in a circular to state commissioners, directed that respective command armouries be upgraded to accommodate the expected guns; while armourers are to put forward proposals on how best to preserve the modern weapons, and their adaptability in specific areas.

The Guardian learnt that the Presidency approved the proposal to give the police modern weapons a fortnight ago when Obasanjo, in company of Smith, met with Assistant Inspectors-General AIGs) in charges of the eight zonal commands, and state police commissioners to design strategies against the growing wave of ethnic militancy and armed banditry.

An inside source said yesterday that the weapons expected would be assigned to states prone to restive communal temper. Likely areas include Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja, Warri in Delta State, Rivers, Bayelsa and Plateau states, as well as Kaduna and Kano.

About six officers from the armament section of the Police Force Headquarters are said to be shopping abroad for the required weapons from contractors in Europe and Asia. But diplomatic modalities and financing details may delay the re-equipment bid.

The governments plan to fortify the police also involves an ongoing drive to enlist no fewer than 10,000 constables into the ranks before the end of June.

Ethnic violence had trailed the country's new democratic dispensation, spreading across all zones, notably Warri, Ibadan, Sagamu, Kano, Ilaje Ese-Odo, Odi and Lagos.

Renewed Ijaw clashes with their Itsekiri neighbours in Delta State over the relocation of a local government secretariat occurred shortly after military handover. This was followed by another clash between the Itsekiri and the Urhobo. President Obasanjo had to visit the area where he appealed for peace.

Another ethnic crisis erupted in Ibadan, Oyo State Capital on June 25, in a fight between Hausa and Yoruba traders at the Bodija market. This was followed by the Sagamu riot between July 18 and 20 and a retaliatory attack on Yoruba residents in Kano. The killing of an Hausa lady who allegedly defied the traditional Oro festival sparked off the Sagamu mayhem.

There were also violent clashes in Aguleri and Umuleri, Odi in Bayelsa State and the Choba in Rivers.

In Ondo State, clashes between the Ijaw and Ilajes occurred from July 31 to September 3, 1999. There was another conflict between Eleme and Okrika over ownership of the spot where the Port Harcourt Refinery Company is situated.

The violence in Lagos started sometime in September with the Tin Can Port incident. Then came the Ketu clash, between traders at the Mile 12 market in Lagos while the OPC, has been having a running battle with the police.

Besides the OPC, other groups linked to the ethnic violence that has engulfed the nation include the Egbesu Boys of Ijaw, and a number of other ethnic groups fighting for self-determination.

While the police attributes most of the violence to the groups some, like the OPC, often deny involvement in some instances especially those that occurred in markets such as Bodija, and Ketu, Lagos.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Jan. 25, 2000

US firm offers 10m phone lines if...

AMERICAN conglomerate, Forbes, says it is capable of deploying 10 million telephone lines throughout Nigeria in four years if government provides the right environment.

Mr. Lucien Forbes, the company’s chairman on a visit to Minister of State for Communications, Alhaji Haruna Elewi in Abuja said his company was ready and willing to invest about N7 billion in various sectors of the Nigerian economy beginning with telecommunications.

Mr. Forbes said his company, could provide no fewer than 10 million lines within four years using "the latest technology" which combines voice, video and the Internet.

"What we have is the new technology. It is a bit complicated. It is not enough to provide telephones in the cities. We want to make a meaningful impact in the rural areas," Mr. Forbes told the minister.

Responding, Alhaji Elewi re-affirmed the commitment of the Obasanjo administration to transparency, accountability and good governance.

"There is no better time than now for you to invest in Nigeria when the government has provided a level playing field for everyone," the minister said.

He assured Mr. Forbes and other genuine investors in the telecommunications sector of maximum support and cooperation for meaningful impact.

The minister advised the company to obtain the comprehensive guidelines issued recently by the Nigerian Communications Commission, adding "if you are not satisfied with their explanations, come to us."

Alhaji Elewi said the present government was aware of the need for quick returns on investment and assured that all impediments to foreign direct investments are being dismantled by the Obasanjo government.

Vanguard Transmitted TUESDAY, 25 January, 2000 

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

 Lagos recalls 511 sacked workers

By Lekan Sanni,Staff Reporter

ABOUT 511 dismissed civil servants out of the 711 recommended for re-absorption by a Lagos State panel have been recalled.

  The action is coming on the heels of the government’s offer of employment to 2,000 graduates.

  The recalled workers were among the almost 2,000 laid off in the early days of the administration of Governor Bola Tinubu based on ill-health, old age, long years of service and those with bad records.

  But the protest that accompanied the exercise led the government to set up a committee, headed by the Permanent Secretary, Parastatals Monitoring Office, Mr. Sunny Ajose to look into cases of those wrongfully dismissed.

  Ajose’s committee had recommended that 711 of the workers should be re-absorbed by the state, local governments and the parastatals.

  But the Head of Service, Alhaji Rafiu Babatunde Tinubu, said in Lagos yesterday, that only 511 could be re-absorbed as the 200 had “bad records.”

  Tinubu, who was on tour of ministries and parastatals in the state, said that the councils in particular could not reabsorb all the workers sacked.

  On the new employees, the head of service said that the governor gave the directive that the 2,000 graduates should be employed.

  The successful candidates, he said, would get their letters of employment this week and posting to the various ministries and parastatals affected.

  About 10,000 graduates applied for the jobs, but Tinubu said the state could only absorb 2,000 due to financial constraint.

  “The state government has limited fund, limited office space and limited assignments. The remaining 8,000 people can also go to the Federal Government or to other states to get employment,” he said.

  He, however, added that the exercise was a continuous one, adding “if we need some of them before the end of the year, we will recruit them.”

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper


Tuesday, January 25, 2000

 Soyinka warns against militarisation of polity

From Laolu Akande,New York

NOBEL laureate Wole Soyinka yesterday warned against increased militarisation of the country and deplored the intolerance of security agencies.

  He also advised against the declaration of a state of emergency in Lagos, saying the manner in which the threat to impose it was issued fell short of democratic requirements. He accused the executive and legislature of violating the democratic creed.

  He said: “This is not quite the way we expect a democratic government to conduct itself. The language of debate in the legislature has turned intemperate, imperious and predictably purblind.

  “These mainly compromise representatives have refused to take to heart the oft reiterated position of the nation’s democratic movements: that they are anything but representative, that they are regarded as noting more than interim functionaries of an untidy governance compromise.”

  Soyinka, who is president of United Democratic Front of Nigeria, while condemning the killing of law enforcement officers by youths in Odi, Bayelsa State, criticised the use of military power to arrest the culprits.

  He warned against what he described as “re-militarisation of the Nigerian polity both by the executive and the legislature, a foretaste of which is being offered the public by the reckless conduct of the police, and the military.”

  The prize-winning author who described the threat to impose emergency rule on Lagos as a “prelude to the rape of Odi” said: “This is not quite the way we expect a democratic government to conduct itself. The language of debate in the legislature has turned intemperate, imperious and predictably purblind.”

  He said the invasion of the International Press Centre, Lagos by security operatives last week was “an ominous addition to the catalogue of violations being perpetrated by this regime. It is time that we called a halt to all forms of Gestapo conduct, that we totally eliminate its vestiges from all processes of governance, including law enforcement.”

  These “tactics of social intimidation” must be resisted by all freedom-loving citizens,” he said, adding: “At this critical juncture (among many others) of our attempted democratic recovery, we feel obliged to serve notice to Nigerian law enforcement officers, of whatever agency - as well as their paymasters - that the Nigerian people have come too far, and have sacrified too much to settle for a mere crumb, even half or more of the democratic loaf, certainly not for warmed-up, mildewed left-overs from the carious teeth of Abacha, his enforcers, and his predecessors since the beginning of so-called national independence. This warning, one that even a child can deduce from the democratic resolve of the nation should be taken as a simple matter of observation, of common-sense analysis of the immediate and remote past, as an expression of the truism that we have attained a watershed in the nation’s history.”

  He called for the lifting of the siege on the International Press Centre, the release of all those arrested by security agents and payment of compensation for property damaged at the centre.

  The renowned playwright called on civil rights movements, democratic fronts, student groups and trade unions to unanimously condemn the invasion “by all legitimate but direct means.”

  He added: “We take this opportunity to reiterate yet again: let us meet, debate, and restructure for the rational end of promoting the genuine wish of our majority for a peaceful, nation-cohering existence. The spate of name-calling, the distortions of argued positions, attribution of emotive motivations and outright fabrications of the ultimate intent of such calls may gratify some demagogues and revanchists of tribal/regional elitism for a while; they do not answer the fundamental cry of the nation for a re-examination of beginnings, of derailments along the route, and the constantly aborted - because irrational - expectations of a pluralistic populace.”

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Obasanjo urges commitment to service

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday charged all citizens to pursue excellence in their chosen endeavours in life just as he enjoined them to support his administration’s on-going efforts to wrest the nation from the decay.

  The President, who was represented by Vice President Atiku Abubakar at the formal commissioning of an ultra-modern multi-purpose secretariat of the Nigerian National Merit Award (NNMA) in Abuja, said the government had taken the initiative in the on-going process with its campaign for moral rebirth and rectitude which, he said, was aimed at re-awakening in the citizens, an urgent need to refine the people’s moral fabric and societal psyche.

  “I wish to emphasise that it is only in an atmosphere of a decent moral tone that intellectual pursuits can thrive and blossom without any inhibitions,” he stressed, adding that there was a compelling need to promote intellectual pursuits and attainment of higher ideals rather than pre-occupation with mundane issues and crass materialism.

    President Obasanjo, who is now in India on a five-day state visit, also explained that the desire to sustain the lofty standards attained by the NNMA informed the composition of a board comprising distinguished individuals who had been performing the sacred national assignment with transparent honesty and unimpeachable personal integrity.

  He praised the board for its timely execution of the project in the face of dwindling resources, stating that the establishment of the NNMA had helped in bringing to the fore contribution of many brilliant Nigerian scholars to knowledge in a pragmatic manner.

  He noted that 31 citizens chosen from various disciplines such as medicine, arts and humanities as well as science and technology had since the inception of the body been accorded due recognition as NNMA laureates and honoured with the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOMA).

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Nigeria's Budget Receives Kudos, Knocks at Summit
by Chijama Ogbu, Business Editor

NIGERIA's Year 2000 budget currently under scrutiny at the National Assembly on Wednesday received kudos, knocks from participants at Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG)/Media Seminar in Lagos. The seminar endorsed government's move to deregulate the petroleum sector, free up foreign exchange market, but criticised inconsistencies in the tax policy as contained in the budget.
Although, the groudswell of views favoured deregulation of petroleum sector, they were not without a caveat that government should first of all put in place appropriate measures to ensure that the prices of petroleum products do not run away as a result and that the gains of the exercise would not be misdirected as in the past.
Mr. Ola Sobande, Business Environment Manager, Shell Petroleum Development Company, in a presentation at the seminar said that the year 2000 budget is predicated on the deregulation of the petroleum sector which he said currently generated about 90 per cent of the country's foreign exchange earning, and the labour seem to have missed the point in deregulation in their orchestrated campaign against it, saying that deregulation would ultimately benefit the economy and the Nigerian masses.
He said that deregulation would generate more money for developmental activities, increase investment in the sector, and make the product readily available. According to him, this did not mean increased prices of petroleum products as feared by workers.
However, some participants were of the view that the full objectives of deregulation could be realised only when the refineries are put on full capacity, depots and the facilities for the discharge of fuel fully rehabilitated.
Mr. Victor Onyenkpa of Arthur Andersen said that government's policy of how tax regime, with how income tax rates, generous incentives and reliefs to reduce tax burden on tax payers is inconsistent with the fiscal policy of increased government revenue.
He said: "the year 2000 budget pronouncement is full of contradictions from the tax perspective: fiscal policy of increased government revenue, against tax policy of lower tax regime; promise to sustain gas incentives, against an intention to review such incentives to avoid subsidising gas operations, introduction of VAT clearance certificate to be issued to tax payers, because of the non -compliance of government agencies with the VAT law. "My hope is that the detailed budget breakdown when provided would clarify these inconsistencies."
Dr. Boniface Chizea, a financial consultant, said that it would be difficult for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to attain the objective of price and enchange rate stability with the bulk of the money in circulation still outside the banking sector.
He said that government from what could be distilled from pronouncements of the Chief Economic Adviser to the president, Chief Philip Asiodu, favours weaker currency, warning however that for my country to adopt exchange as the driver of the economy it "must have a sound export base or it would be missing the point."
Chizea predicts more depreciation in naira value during the year, unless there is a boast in forex supply from oil firms.
He entolled the CBN for its current dynamism, pointing out that the early release of monetary guidelines this year is at variance with the previous practices where the bank had to wait till after budget breakdown.
Chizea said that some of the policies enunciated in the guidelines showed a more articulate and proactive CBN ready to consummate its hard won antonomy.
Mr. Emeka Izeze, managing director of The Guidian newspapers in his own presentation said that Nigerian journalists have not done enough in tracking budget performance, saying that effective reporting of budget involved going beyond reporting what people say to monitoring and tracking performance against objectives and targets.
Earlier, Bunmi Oni, managing director of Cadbury Nigeria Plc, who gave introductory remark on behalf of the NESG said that all hands should be on deck to ensure the economic growth of the country. He fingered agriculture, infrastructure, national competitiveness as among issues that need urgent and sustainable actions.

Nigerian Post Express