Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #06
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

Feb.12 2000

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Thursday, February 10, 2000

What Africa needs to grow, by Obasanjo

From Emeka Nwankpa,Paris

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has challenged African leaders to demonstrate exemplary leadership which he said was necessary to mobilise responsible followership in the continent.

  He also called on all Nigerians resident in France to be good ambassadors of the Nigerian nation.

  The president, who spoke separately in Paris when he had audience with African ambassadors and the Nigerian community, said that most African states which attained political liberation and independence in the 1960s had remained largely backward and impoverished.

  He said: “Political independence is not enough; when we compare Africa with the Asian or the Latin American countries, you would agree with me that we in Africa have underperformed”.

  The scenario of under-performance, he said, was attributable to poor leadership from African leaders, explaining that the only way to the greatness of the continent lay in qualitative exemplary and responsible leadership. Explaining that “a good leadership begets a good followership,” he stated that Africa’s economic` backwardness could only be corrected when good leadership was enthroned in the continent.

  At an address to Nigerians resident in France, some of who came from as far as Strasbourg (about 500 kilometres away) the president urged them to be good citizens and patriots of the country.

  Calling them “fellow compatriots,” he said it was his divine responsibility to rekindle the hope of all Nigerians abroad, stressing that his administration was committed to liberating the country from the rot and decay in which it had been sunk in the past few years.

  At the session which was preceded by his commissioning of the new Nigerian ambassador’s residence, the president told the large crowd made up mostly of professionals, international civil servants and students, that the government, at inception immediately embarked on addressing the problems that had bedevilled the nation in its conscious efforts at making the country conducive for foreign investments and safe for the citizens.

  Speaking amidst thunderous applause, the president urged them to be prepared to come have soon and invest their financial and intellectual resources.

  In his opening remarks, Nigeria’s ambassador to France, Ambassador Edward Aina who spared nothing in according to the president and his entourage a befitting reception, remarked that the three-day visit had opened a new vista in the France-Nigeria relations.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper


Thursday, February 10, 2000

Crash: Survivors leave hospital

TWO survivors of the ill-fated Kenyan Airways plane crash have been discharged from hospital following their recovery, and have since rejoined their families, the airline’s representative Susan Machaira said yesterday.

  The airways’ agent also said the other survivors, who had been placed on the danger list, were also out of danger and responding to treatment.

  She said the airline’s Managing Director, Richard Nyaga, on Saturday visited the patients at the Pisam Hospital in Abidjan to brighten their spirits.

  “One survivor was discharged early in the week. All are now out of danger and are in contact with their families through hospital telephones and cellular telephone facilities provided by Kenyan Airways,” Machaira said.

  Nyaga, assisted by other survivors and Kenya Airways’ workers, cut the cake at a birthday party organised by the airline for Francesca Sambo, one of the survivors.

  “Francesca was full of excitement as guests in her hospital room, including her fiance, chanted the happy birthday tune”, she said

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, February 10, 2000

Bomb scare in court, Rogers gets new date

Defence counsel threaten boycott   By Gbolahan Gbadamosi and Ibe Uwaleke

FEAR of bomb explosion at the Lagos High Court yesterday compelled a heavy security search by members of the Police Bomb Disposal Squad (PBS) who took over the entire court premises where former Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi and four others are standing trial over the 1996 attempted murder of The Guardian publisher, Mr. Alex Ibru.

  The expected cross-examination of Sergeant Barnabas Mshelia (a.k.a. Rogers) by the defence team which was to commence yesterday was, however, adjourned by the presiding judge, Mr Justice Ade Alabi to March 8 and 9 owing to the absence of the fifth accused person, CSP Mohammed Rabo Lawal who was said to be having malaria.

  The security search for bomb was occasioned by a security alert to that effect.

  As early as 7 a.m, members of the PBS had arrived the court premises in their sophisticated vehicle marked “Police Bomb Squad” with the registration No. PF 802 HB. They immediately swung into action, took over the gates of the court on the Moloney, Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) end and later took strategic positions.

  Even though there was power failure at the court when the PBS arrived, the policemen, armed with their detectors, moved into action and started combing both the court premises and the courtroom which was illuminated by two powerful torchlights. Inside the room, they frisked every nook and corner, including the judge’s area, the dock where Rogers testified, the suspects’ dock where Bamaiyi and others stood, the Bar, the litigants’ section and the press gallery.

  At the entrance of the courtroom, people, including lawyers, relations of the accused persons, litigants and journalists covering the trial were thoroughly frisked before entering the premises. Those who resisted search or failed to identify themselves were turned back.

  Yesterday’s development, said to be “an order from above for security alert,” was a clear departure in intensity from the usual security checks at the court premises since the beginning of the trial in December last year.

  The security checks became more intense when it was obvious that adjournment of the cross-examination of the star witness, Rogers, was the next option, following the absence of Rabo Lawal, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) and the officer-in-charge of Mobile Policemen (O.C. Mopol) at Presidential Villa during late Gen. Sani Abacha’s administration. Lawal’s absence was said to be due to malaria fever.

  However, the cross examination expected to begin yesterday was shelved while Barnabas Mshelia who had on Tuesday been scheduled for questioning  yesterday was not in the dock but was believed to be within the court premises.

  Rogers, while concluding his testimony on Tuesday had narrated how Al-Mustapha tremendously assisted in installing Gen. Bamaiyi Chief of Army Staff when the relation of the two was cordial.

  He had said that the relationship between Bamaiyi and Al-Mustapha became sour over the 1997 coup (The Guardian inadvertently published 1995 in its yesterday’s edition), when Rogers also revealed that Mustapha told him of a plot by Bamaiyi to kill him.

  At yesterday’s sitting, Mr Justice Alabi was forced by the defence team, led by former Justice Minister, Mr. Clement Akpamgbo (SAN) to make an order calling the police to conduct themselves with “decorum and civility.”

  Facing trial with Bamaiyi and Rabo Lawal are former Oyo and Lagos Police Commissioner, James Danbaba, late Gen. Sani Abacha’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and former Zamfara State Military Administrator, Col. Jubrin Bala Yakubu.

  The judge who sat at 9.44 a.m. first asked the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Prof. Yemi Osibajo about the whereabouts of Rabo Lawal whose defence counsel, Mr. Peter Obi was also absent.

  Osibajo, who led the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Fola Arthur-Worrey among others replied that “I do not know where he is. I do not know anything about him.”

  Upon suggestion from the judge that information should be obtained from the prison officials, Osibajo observed that Mr. Bala Ibn Na’ Allah who stood in for Obi should be able to know Lawal’s whereabouts.

  Na’ Allah, however, told the court that Rabo Lawal had been vomitting for the past two days, saying: “He (Rabo Lawal) only managed to be here yesterday (Tuesday). His counsel, Mr Peter Obi was physically present in this court this morning before my lord sat and he even participated in the pre-trial conference of the defence team on how the cross-examination should be conducted.

  “He had to leave for the Kirikiri Prisons when he did not see his client among the other accused persons when they were brought to court this morning. And when he asked, he was told that Rabo Lawal had been attacked by malaria fever. Subsequently, Mr. Obi had to go to the prison to inquire before informing his (Rabo Lawal’s) wife. That explains the absence of the counsel to the fifth accused person.”

  This development did not go down well with Mr. Justice Alabi who expressed his reservation about the absence of prison officials in the court, noting that the Attorney-General was expected to know better.

  After consulting with the head of the police escort, an unnamed Assistant Commissioner of Police, Prof. Osibajo confirmed that the accused person whom Sergeant Barnabas Mshelia, in his evidence-in-chief, called “OC Mopol” was suffering from malaria fever.

  When Na’ Allah drew the attention of the judge to the wrong procedure of allowing the police escort to be in charge of the accused persons, Prof. Osibajo replied that: “It is not the practice for the prison officials to accompany accused persons to the court. It is also not my responsibility to check on daily basis whether an accused person has malaria fever or not (laughter). I take exception to the way he (Na’ Allah) wants to impugn my responsibility as Attorney-General. I do not control them (prison officials).”

  But Mr. Justice Alabi saw it differently. In his words: “In all sincerity and as a matter of convenience and common sense, prison officials should accompany the accused persons to the court. I am not aware of the practice where this is not done. I am not happy about it. The Attorney-General should take steps to ensure that every morning you know something about the conditions of the accused persons.”

  As the judge was convinced that the adjournment was the next option, Mr. Akpamgbo rose and complained about the manner of the “stop and search” employed by the Police Bomb Squad.

  Fuming, Akpamgbo said: “My lord, I have an observation and a complaint to make. This morning (yesterday morning) as I was trying to enter the court, I was stopped and subjected to a bodily search by policemen using bomb detectors. I told the man (police) that I was going into my vineyard. But he said I should not move a step further and subjected me to screening.

  “In the process, my glasses and mobile phone showed that there was some metal on me and I was compelled to be checked. My Lord, I see we are now operating as if under siege in this matter. Any lawyer whether engaged in this matter or not is free to come into this court without being searched.”

  Continuing, he said, “This court is not a tribunal. If the Federal Government desires a tribunal with all the intimidating apparatus. My lord, in all my 35 years at the Bar, 15 of which I have served as a senior advocate, I have not been so threatened and embarrassed like this. In fact, I feel very uncomfortable with the development, which if it continues, I will crave the court’s indulgence to withdraw from the matter.”

  Supporting Akpamgbo’s argument, Mr Emmanuel Toro, the leading counsel to Bamaiyi also objected to the security search. He said: “My lord, I associate myself with the complaint of my learned brother. I went through the same treatment. This experience has reminded me of the Zango Kataf trial where counsel were even arrested.

  “We are now operating a brand new constitution that allows a free democratic atmosphere. I say that seriously because the atmosphere of the court must be made conducive both for the accused and the counsel. The standard being practised must conform to universally accepted standards.”

  Arguing further in his objection to the heavy security presence and body search, Toro said: “This development today (yesterday) readily reminds me of an experience in Pakistan where the court premises was overrun and taken over by security operatives. The judge did not take it and therefore ruled against it.

  “We urge my lord to emulate that standard set by the Pakistani judge. My lord, if the atmosphere is not conducive, one may be forced to withdraw from the matter so that the government can deal with the accused persons if they want.”

  Arguing in the same vein, the leading counsel to the second accused person, Danbaba, Mr. Mike Okoye, condemned the practice and the development.

  He said: “I adopt the views of the senior advocates who spoke earlier. I was also a victim of the bodily search. I was restrained from entering the court premises by persons other than the court officials. But for the timely intervention of the Commissioner of Police (COP) whom I explained to that I am appearing in this matter.”

  Continuing his objection, Okoye further submitted: “My lord, the COP said it was wrong. I agree and say that this is wrong. Moreso, as this is not a police station. Neither are we operating a police state. Presently, in this court, I feel threatened. This is because if my lord looks around he will see arms around the court. Anything I say now in court as a defence counsel, the security operatives could aim at me or even at the court.

  “This is a democracy. Are we being told that the accused persons are already presumed guilty? What are all these arms being brandished by the operatives in the courtroom for? My lord, if the accused persons are still innocent, then the security men should be asked to leave lawyers and judges to do their business. This is because the way the securitymen are carrying their guns in the courtroom, there could be an accidental discharge, then what will happen.”

  Counsel to Yakubu, the fourth accused person, Mr Ibrahim Buba, also objected to the surveillance and the search carried out by the operatives. His words: “I went through the same process. Issues of search in the National Assembly and the court premises have been settled in law. The security of the court is the responsibility of the lawyer more than every other person.

  “If there is any other development, the court should be informed before it is carried out. It is abnormal in a situation where lawyers are standing in the court room while policemen are sitting down. I urge my lord not only to condemn it, but to be firm in taking his decision. I also urge my lord to rule that this should be the last time such search is conducted.”

  Speaking in similar vein, Mr Bala Ibn Na’ Allah, holding brief for Rabo Lawal’s counsel, Mr Peter Obi, condemned the exercise.

  He argued: “My lord, the court compound is labelled High Court of Justice. I adopt the sayings and arguments of my colleagues who spoke earlier. I take consolation in a biblical saying which says that “only sinners run away when they are pursued by no one.”

  At this juncture, Justice Alabi asked Prof. Osibajo his opinion on the issue. Replying, Osibajo said: “My lord, the search is not selective. I was also screened. The Solicitor-General, Fola Arthur Worrey was screened and every member of my team was screened. When I asked why the screening, I was told by the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), that there was a security alert and so those carrying out the search are from the Bomb Disposal Unit.

  “My Lord, it is wrong for the defence to say that the search was directed at them. I would have objected but it would be foolhardy if there should be an explosion in the court room. We were not screened yesterday (Tuesday) nor were we screened last week. That is the reason why there must be a serious reason for the screening.”

  Osibajo continued: “My lord, the defence counsel appearing before your learned brother, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun argued in her court that they were not safe in Lagos. While security is being ensured in Lagos, I am surprised that they are fighting against it.

  “My lord, this practice is common in criminal trials even in America. I object to counsel being subjected to security body search. But there is a security alert. The search is because of extreme circumstance.

  “I do not understand what this search has to do with the presumption of innocence of the accused persons. I know that the search is purely for security. The senior advocate, Akpamgbo, said it might be because of a published article in a weekly magazine of a bomb scare, but I think any government must be security-conscious to protect lives and property. This attempt is not to infringe on the right of any person.

  “Again, should anything happen to any of the accused persons or anyone in the court, none of us will be held responsible. It is the security that would be called upon. The duty of the police is to pre-empt any offence and to prevent it.

  “The comparisons with the tribunal in the unfortunate past is completely different in this case of the security of this court. The police has a right to carry out their duty but they should not treat any lawyer or any member of the public with disrespect. And to answer Na’Allah in his reference to the Bible, there is no such biblical saying in the Bible.”

  At this point, Okoye stood up again to reply to Osibajo’s submission.

  He said: “The Attorney-General of Lagos State said there is a bomb scare, but he did not tell us whether the information came from the registrar of the court. It is not the duty of the Attorney-General of the Federation to decide how many policemen should be posted to a court premises, but that of the chief judge of the court.”

  In his ruling, Justice Alabi said: “I am also baffled about this development. The accused persons have fundamental rights as citizens and as enshrined in the constitution. Every steps should be taken to make sure that they not only have access to the counsel of their choice but also access to the court room. Access to counsel of their choice is a vital aspect of the justice and anything done in the other way will not be allowed.”

  On the “stop and search” conducted on all the lawyers, the judge observed that “I condemn the treatment meted out to both the prosecution team and the defence team. As a security alert, it does not stand to reason to expect a counsel to see police to carry guns inside the court room. I do not think the situation has degenerated to that level of where counsel would be carrying self-destruction weapons into the court room.

  “It is the responsibility of the court to make the atmosphere conducive for all the parties. I cannot say a counsel who is coming to the court should be subjected to a search.”

  Mr. Justice Alabi added: “This court, no doubt, is not an ordinary court in view of the personalities involved in this trial. These personalities have served this country for many years. We should not make a mistake. This is not an ordinary matter. It is bound to attract both national and international attention.”

  On security alert referred to by Prof. Osibajo, the judge noted that “the process of the circumstances was not properly explained to the counsel.” ‘‘He then said that: “The search should excuse counsel. Police are, however, warned to avoid embarrassing any counsel while doing their assignment. I cannot stop the police from searching other citizens.

  “Finally, I appeal to the police to carry out their functions with decorum and civility.”

  Following the observation of the defence team that the trial involving Al-Mustapha and son of the late Gen. Abacha, Mohammed, over the murder of the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola resumes at the Ikeja judicial division on Monday, the cross-examination of Sergeant Rogers was adjourned to March 8 and 9. The consolidated bail application for Danbaba and Yakubu will be heard on February 18.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper


Nigerian Embassy Vandalized in Dakar

By Ikechukwu Eze, Patrick Omorodion & Taye Obateru, Jos

SENEGALESE went on the rampage in Dakar, Monday night, attacking the Nigerian Embassy and Nigerians resident in the capital, to protest Super Eagles’ defeat of the Lions of Senegal earlier that day in the quarter-finals of the ongoing 22nd African Cup of Nations.

At home, at least one Nigerian soccer fan celebrating the Eagles’ victory drowned in a canal at Idi-Araba area of Lagos while a 20-year-old housewife had a premature birth in Kano after joining in the celebration that swept across the country.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported last night that the Zimbabwean Embassy in Dakar was also damaged by the rampaging Senegalese who believed that the Zimbabwean referee that handled the match, Felix Tangawanina was biased against their country.

Nigerians in Dakar are now reported to be living in fear following the attack and threats of further attack from Senegalese.

During Monday night’s rampage that lasted for more than one hour, several Nigerians were beaten up and their shops looted by the irate Senegalese. Some of the Nigerians were said to have ended up in hospital while others have taken refuge at the battered Nigerian Embassy.

A spokesman for the Nigerian Embassy, Mr. Ifeanyi Obiozor told BBC that what Nigerians saw in Dakar was beyond description.

He said: "We were surprised by the attack. Many Nigerians were wounded and some of them are now in the hospital. We are law abiding citizens. We have done our best to keep the spirit of brotherhood here in Senegal."

According to some Nigerians, the local police in Dakar did not do anything to protect the victims during the attack.

One of them said: "When we noticed that the mob action targeted against us continued to build up, we made frantic calls to the security forces for protection. But none was forthcoming."

The Nigerians claimed that it was only when the rampaging Senegalese had carried out their attack that some policemen were dispatched to the scenes of violence including the Nigerian Embassy which is now under police guard.

Nigerian Embassy staff were said to have petitioned the Nigerian government urging it to demand compensation from the Senegalese government.

Angered by the development, the diplomatic community in Senegal has reportedly decided to lodge a joint protest on the attack on the two embassies with the Senegalese authority, describing it as "outrageous and unacceptable."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper


Soccer fan drowned in Lagos

An unidentified teenage soccer fan moments after Monday’s match plunged into a canal at Idi-Araba area of Lagos and drowned before help could reach him.

According to an eyewitness, the deceased joined other jubilating fans who emptied into the streets soon after the Super Eagles beat the Lions of Senegal 2-1 to qualify for the Nations Cup semi-final.

He could not be rescued, as the spot in which he fell could not be identified by sympathisers because of darkness in the area.

The celebration was, however, cut short with the fans retreating to their homes.

In the Iyana Ipaja area also in Lagos, another fan fell off a moving mini-bus while attempting to jump down to go and watch the football action at a nearby viewing centre.

He was unconscious.

He was, however, revived by passers-by who later took him to a near-by clinic in the area for treatment.

In other parts of Lagos and the country, Nigerians in their hundreds emptied into the streets jubilating the Eagle’s victory.

Many drank late into the night.

Scores of soccer fans walked several kilometres to get home in Lagos after watching the match in their offices and other places they were sure of electricity supply while the match lasted.

Their ordeal was compounded by the withdrawal of molues by drivers protesting the return of touts.

In Jos, many residents defied the chilly weather to celebrate Super Eagles victory.

At the blast of the final whistle, people trooped to nearby beer parlour and pepper-soup joints to celebrate the victory.

"I nearly had hypertension. Those Senegalese players almost gave me high blood pressure, so I need to ‘cool down’ now that we have won," said a fan who gave his name as Basil.

Many youngsters who had gathered at electronic shops using generators to watch the match following electricity outage in their houses also took to the streets shouting "Up Eagles."

There was also reckless jubilation by some commercial motorcyclists who performed acrobatic displays as they rode.

A 20-year-old woman, Aishat Oyerinde, was delivered of a seven-month-old pregnancy in Kano on Monday as she joined a bandwagon of ecstatic spectators jubilating over the victory of Nigeria over Senegal at their quarter-finals match.

Aishat was delivered of the baby at the Sabon Gari area of Kano, where she watched the match on television, alongside scores of other football fans.

The tension that gripped Kano during the match also led to the collapse of a middle-aged man at the Kano Central Hotel who fell unconscious after he had screamed and jumped at the winning goal scored by number 17 shirt, Julius Aghahowa.

After he collapsed, other spectators ignored him and went on to watch the match, but the management of the hotel had to switch off the television set in the overcrowded bar to give attention to the exasperated victim.

The hotel management incurred the wrath of the spectators after it ordered the switching off of the television set and threatened to break the television if it was not switched on immediately.

Vanguard Transmitted Wednesday, 9 February, 2000 


Lawmaker Urges Justice Minister to Prosecute Senator Waku

By Ise-Oluwa Ige

A Federal legislator, Tony Anyanwu yesterday gave the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mr. Kanu Agabi till February 14, this year to commence criminal action against Senator Joseph Waku who recently allegedly called for military take over in the country or be compelled through court action.

The legislator who has already prepared three page criminal information against the senator alternatively asked Mr. Agabi to endorse his certificate on the information declining prosecution and empowering him to privately try Senator Waku for inviting professional coupists to take over governance in the country.

In a three page letter accompanying the criminal alleged information against Senator Waku addressed to the office of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Anyanwu said:

"The discretion of the Attorney-General is whether to prosecute or not to prosecute. He has no discretion whether or not to endorse his certificate on the information supplied to him.

Added he, "if an information is supplied to him by a private citizen and he decides to prosecute, he takes over and prosecutes. If he decides that there is insufficient material to prosecute or he believes that a case should not be prosecuted in the public interest, he has to endorse his certificate under section 214(a). He has a public duty to make up his mind and if he does not wish to prosecute, he has a public duty to endorse the information to that effect.

Vanguard Transmitted Wednesday, 9 February, 2000 

Monday, Feb. 7, 2000

Fight to sustain democracy, Abubakar tasks Nigerians

By Rotimi Ajayi, Abuja

NIGERIANS have been called upon to stand up and fight to sustain the present democratic dispensation.

Vice President Atiku Abubakar made the call weekend at the civic reception held for the Minister of State of the Federal Capital Territory Mr. Solomon Ewuga at Eggon, Nasarawa State.

According to the Vice President only democracy could guarantee the continued unity and progress of the country.

He told the people of Eggon community that the civic reception for their son was made possible by democracy fought for by many Nigerians.

Said the Vice President, "this occasion that is taking place would not have been possible but for the sacrifices or contributions of all Nigerians who have struggled to restore democratic rule in this country.

"For this reason I would like to pay tribute to all those Nigerians, those who have laid their lives in the struggle to restore democracy, those who were jailed, those who have been denied freedom, those who have lost property and those who have lost everything they have laboured for in their lives.

"We should pay tribute to those people; but for them and God Almighty we would not be gathered here today to accord honour, respect and recognition to some of the participants of that process.

"I therefore would like to appeal to all Nigerians to support the current democratic dispensation, not only support but stand up and protect it wherever it is threatened.

He added, "it is this process that can bring about the unity, the progress and prosperity of this country."

He commended the people of Eggon community for the honour done to him by being conferred with the title of "Walin Egoon."

In his address, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Barnabas Gemade urged members of the party who are holding elective offices to ensure that they achieve progress for the people at the grassroots.

Vanguard Transmitted Monday, 7 February, 2000

120 French firms to invest in Nigeria

By Ikechukwu Eze, just back from Paris

President Olusegun Obasanjo arrived Paris yesterday on a quest to have Nigeria’s huge debt reduced and to drum up investment.

He was received on arrival by French President Jacques Chirac and a military honour guard.

The bulk of Nigeria’s foreign debt of 30 billion dollars is owed to creditor nations of the Paris Club, and Obasanjo’s spokesman, Dr Doyin Okupe said weekend in Abuja that the president’s visit was aimed at following up "critical negotiations that are expected to result in an all-important agreement for debt-remission with the Paris Club."

Meanwhile, France is poised to boost its economic presence in Nigeria with the number of French companies interested in investing in the country swelling to 120 following the restoration of civil rule.

Secretary-General of the French Enterprises Association (MEDEF), Agnes Dufey told Vanguard in Paris that "improving investment climate and stabilising economic conditions in Nigeria were responsible for the renewed interest in Nigeria."

Before now, only a sprinkling of French companies showed interest in Nigeria. Dufey said that many of the over one million corporate members of MEDEF were now looking in the direction of Nigeria, stressing that at least 120 companies had registered their intention to invest in Nigeria.

According to her, the French companies are interested in various aspects of services and manufacturing including telecommunications, automobile, insurance, hotels, civil engineering as well as oil and gas. Others are banking, energy, law, electronics, transportation, agriculture and aviation.

She said further that a delegation of French entrepreneurs would be visiting Nigeria for four days beginning from February 21. The delegation, which would be led by a renowned French entrepreneur, Mr. Michel Roussin, is scheduled to hold consultations with officials and business leaders in both Abuja and Lagos "as a means of exploring new areas of co-operation."

Dufey said: "We are organising the mission to prove that French companies are ready to invest more in Nigeria. This is because we are convinced that conditions for investment are improving remarkably."

On the visit of President Olusegun Obasanjo to France the Secretary-General said that MEDEF had concluded arrangements to host the president at its corporate headquarters in Paris. She said further that representatives of at least 55 French companies would be participating in the scheduled meeting between President Obasanjo and the body of entrepreneurs.

According to her, these companies many of which already have presence in Nigeria include Alcatel, Peugeot, Bouygues, CFAO, Credit Lyonnais, Elf, City Bank and France Telecom.

She stated that the entrepreneurs would be rubbing minds with the president on how to make the Nigerian climate more attractive to foreign investment. She said: "We will be telling him (President Obasanjo) that French companies want more grounds in Nigeria’s business terrain. We will also tell him that we need elementary conditions, legal and otherwise which are favourable to investment."

Vanguard Transmitted Monday, 7 February, 2000

Monday Feb. 7, 2000

Enahoro, Akinrinade to float new party

By Jide Ajani, Political Editor

NATIONAL Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the pro-democracy group which fought a running battle with Gen. Sani Abacha until his death in 1998, now wants to transform into a national political party built around such personalities like Chief Anthony Enahoro, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi and Gov. John Odigie-Oyegun.

The modalities for the transformation are still being packaged by a special committee set up by leaders of the group. Chief Enahoro and Gen. Akinrinade are still abroad on self-exile.

Part of the terms of reference of the ad-hoc committee, according to information available to Vanguard, is that of identifying other core groups with which members of NADECO can go into an alliance for the formation of the proposed political party.

Although the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which is largely populated by, but not completely made up of sympathisers of NADECO, should be a ready platform for such an arrangement, Vanguard learnt from one of the leaders of NADECO that "there are some people who have hijacked the AD and which makes it a bit unattractive for the type of political party that we are envisaging."

Additionally, the role the Afenifere continues to play in the politics of Yoruba land stands out as another potent factor against the NADECO move.


Vanguard was reliably informed by the NADECO chieftain that the continued rancour in the AD is one of the reasons why a NADECO party is now inevitable.

"We believe that with the crisis in the AD, some people who do not share the same aspirations with the present crop of leaders of the party are bound to look for the real thing sooner than later, and we believe that NADECO would be offering that best option for such people," the chieftain said.

NADECO is banking on the popularity of Chief Enahoro, as well as the influence of one-time Governor of Edo State, Odigie-Oyegun, to enable the proposed party capture the Edo/Delta axis.

It is also expected that some prominent members of NADECO, who are now in either the All Peoples Party (APP) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would return to the proposed party.

However, there are fears that the options open to the NADECO members may face financial difficulties.

Another leader of NADECO said: "If there is something that the NADECO leaders need now, it is money. Having spent so much time abroad without any means of livelihood, it would be a bit difficult for our leaders to see the project through; but we are hoping and believing that things would work out well for us. At least the goodwill is there."

He said political support in most parts of the country today stemmed largely from financial prowess.

Vanguard Transmitted Monday, 7 February, 2000

Sunday, February 05, 2000

 Customs Rakes In N116b

From Madu Onuorah, Abuja

THE Nigerian Customs Service collected a total revenue of N116,754, 688,736.18 (about N116.8 billion) between January to December last year, its Comptroller-General, Alhaji Ahmed Mustapha, announced Friday.

  The amount represents a total of N86.2 billion paid into the Federation Account and N30.6 billion collected into the non-Federation Account.

  The Customs Service also seized a total of 72,500 cartridges and ammunition along the Lagos water creeks last year.

   Also, it recorded a total number of 570 seizures valued at over N257.3 million.

   Mustapha, who spoke at the anniversary of his one year in office, said that the total revenue for last year represents an increase of N32.9 billion (about 39.29) over the 1998 figure of N73.9 billion.

  Government revenue target to the Customs for 1999 was initially N72 billion. But it was later reviewed upwards to N76 billion.

  The service, he said, has secured the release of two aircraft from the fleet of the Air Border Patrol Unit to the Customs.

  Since 1970, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been operating these aircraft. They were originally bought in 1964 for the Customs but was mobilised in 1969 for the execution of the civil war.

  The aircraft, he noted, will be a major boost to the service’s anti-smuggling and security patrols.

  According to Mustapha, the excise duty was re-introduced on “some luxury goods that are locally manufactured in the country as it obtains all over the world.”

  The six items slated for payment of excise duties include beer, stout, cigarette, bleaching creams, wines and spirit.

  Government, he stated, has decided to buy X-Ray scanning machines for the use of the Customs.

  The machines, Mustapha noted, “will help in the enhancement of collection of collectable revenue, facilitate fast cargo clearance and safeguard the security of the nation through detection of concealment of any kind.”

  He said that the service needs “areas of immediate attention which include proper funding without which we cannot address the present gross inadequacy of residential accommodation operational and administrative vehicles, health care facilities, recreational facilities, modern arms and ammunition, office and operational equipment and functional communication equipment.”

  It is also committed to the construction of transit sheds at all its border stations to enhance physical examination of cargoes.

  The full functioning of the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA, the Customs boss said, will not only boost revenue collection but also ensure faster clearing process and enhance the eventual attainment of the 48 hours clearance of goods desired by government.

 He also announced the establishment of Provost (Police) units in all Customs formations to check and bring to book any officer or men involved in any misbehaviour or other disciplinary cases.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Sunday, February 06, 2000

Obasanjo Leaves For France, To Canvas Debt Relief

by Austin Edemodu, Staff Reporter

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo is expected in Paris, the French capital, today at the start of a four-day official visit , in continuation of his worldwide campaign for debt forgiveness. An advance party of the Finance Minister, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, and the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Chief Philip Asiodu, has been in Paris for several days now holding preparatory talks with French government officials and members of the Paris Club to which the bulk of Nigeria’s debt is owed. According to a statement at the weekend by the Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Doyin Okupe, government’s expectation is that an agreement with the Paris Club during President Obasanjo’s visit to France would make it vastly easier to strike similar accords with Nigeria’s other creditors. “President Obasanjo attaches the greatest importance to his efforts to urgently achieve substantial debt relief for Nigeria, because as he has constantly pointed out, the current situation in which Nigeria spends close to 40 per cent of its annual revenues on debt servicing is clearly untenable because it drastically curtails the government’s ability to provide the dividends of democracy, by way of a better life for long -suffering citizens,” Okupe explained. He said the leading Western Nations in Europe and America had clearly predicated fresh support for Nigeria from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, on an agreement between Nigeria and the Paris Club of creditor nations. “President Obasanjo, therefore, intends to utilise the opportunity of his state visit to France to carry forward discussions towards reaching an accommodation with the Paris Club and continue discussions which were opened during President Jacques Chirac’s official visit to Abuja in July last year,” Okupe said. Pointing out that the French President had, during his visit to Nigeria; become the first leader of the Western World to expressly pledge his full support for Nigeria’s current campaign for debt relief, Okupe said President Obasanjo would be holding him to that commitment during their meetings in Paris. Obasanjo is also billed to hold talks with the French Prime Minister, Mr. Lionel Jospin, the President of the French National Assembly, Mr. Laurent Fabius, and the Senate President, Mr. Christian Poucelet, according to Okupe, who expects that progress would also be made in other areas of bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the course of Obasanjo’s visit. While further action would be taken towards the implementation of several agreements reached during President Chirac’s visit to Abuja such as the establishment of a Joint Permanent Forum and an Economic Commission, expectations are also high that economic ties between France and Nigeria would be boosted with the formalisation of other agreements which have been under consideration. These, according to the Special Assistant to the President, include agreements on avoidance of double taxation, prevention of fiscal evasion, reciprocal promotion and the protection of investments. He said President Obasanjo would also, while in France, urge the French government to play a more positive role in Africa, especially in the areas of conflict resolution and the promotion of regional cooperation. The President is also billed to hold meetings with members of the French business community in continuing efforts to attract foreign investment capital to Nigeria. In particular, Obasanjo is expected to meet with the Director-General of the French Development Agency, company executives of the French Power Generation Corporation (EDF), Peugeot Automobile International and Totalfina, the oil industry multinational. According to Okupe, President Obasanjo is expected to end his visit to France on Wednesday, February 9, with a trip to the Aerospatiale and Airbus Industrie plants in Toulouse. He would thereafter leave for Lisbon, Portugal, for scheduled meetings with the Portuguese President, Mr. Jorge Sampaio, and Prime Minister Antonia Guterres. Okupe, who said President Obasanjo would return to Abuja on Thursday, February 10, disclosed that the President during his talks with the Portuguese Prime Minister who is the current President of the European Union, would reiterate his call for urgent top-level talks between Europe and Africa.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Sunday, February 06, 2000

 Zamfara Offers Prostitutes Money To Abandon Profession

From Agaju Madugba

THE government of Zamfara is offering N25,000 to every prostitute from that area who is ready to give up prostitution for marriage.

  Already, 27 former commercial sex workers have benefitted from the gesture which the wife of the governor, Hajia Karima Ahmad Sani, says will also enable the beneficiaries start small-scale businesses.

  Describing the development as a “continuous process,” she equally announced government’s readiness to give financial assistance to young girls from indigent homes to enable them get married.

  Hajia Karima who briefed reporters on Friday in Kaduna explained that, “with the current wind of Sharia blowing in the state, all our activities will have to be in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Koran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

  “With the abolition of prostitution, some prostitutes, who do not want to cooperate with governments left the state while others have decided to be reformed  and get married.”

  “We do not assist only prostitutes but also young girls from less-previleged homes who want to get married but cannot do so because of finance. We are ready to assist them when they present us with the problem.”

  She lamented the low-level of education of the girl-child in the state, saying that government has decided to introduce free-education for girls from the primary school up to the university level.

  Moreover, she added: “With the establishment of the Female Education Board, we undertook a tour of some reputable schools across the country to emulate their standards and reform our own schools. We want to establish  14 model primary schools (one for each local government area) exclusively for girls, to improve the quality of girl-child education and increase their enrolment.”

  The governor’s wife added: “We are also committed to the eradication of child-begging and hawking. We have set up a pilot rehabilitation centre for the Almajirai with 100 pupils. We have provided them with identity cards and uniforms,” she said.

  “We have commissioned a centre for the physically and mentally handicapped. It is well-equipped for skills acquisition.”

  “We have also set up a Board for poverty alleviation to provide loans to women cooperative organisations in order to empower our women economically.”

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Sunday, February 06, 2000

Nigeria Loses $330million Yearly Over Unaccounted Oil Expenses

By Yakubu Lawal and Kayode Ogunbunmi

OFFICIAL ineptitude and towering influence of multi-national corporations have combined to create logjams, leading to huge financial losses to the nation. The Guardian On Sunday investigations reveal that the nation has, in the past few years, lost revenue in excess of $300 million annually to oil companies, because regulatory agencies have not shown sufficient interest in regulating the operations of the joint venture operators, as required by law.

  At the heart of the issue is the mismanagement of the Reserves Addition Bonus (RAB), an incentive provided for in the 1991 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), an agreement first signed in 1986 detailing the fiscal arrangements between the government of Nigeria and the multinational oil companies which are its partners.

  Renewable every five years, the RAB, The Guardian On Sunday) gathered, was among the policy measures adopted by the government in the 1991 document to encourage oil companies to intensify exploration activities, instead of restricting themselves to only production following the slide in the price of oil in the world market.

  Other measures taken then included opening up of the deep offshore through allocation of blocks which heralded the entrance of companies like Exxon, Conoco, BP/Statoil, Amoco and others; and the encouragement of indigenous participation in the upstream business, known as Exploration and Production (E&P) sector.

  The RAB is a special tax incentive earned by a joint venture operator who adds new reserves over and above what it produces on an annual basis. Given the low oil prices at the time, it provided a good return to risk takers whilst rewarding competence.

  Industry sources further explained that the bonus to companies which increased reserves more than production would engender further investment. Indeed, in 1992, oil reserves increased and total investment peaked at an all-time high of over $2 billion, which was more than 100 per cent leap for the yearly average of less than $1 billion in the 80s.

  Ironically, the RAB soon turned out to be another drain pipe for the economy. It was gathered that as soon as the incentive became operational, some major companies started making questionable claims. In the 1991 fiscal year, the companies put forward claims amounting to $400 million on the basis that they had made additional increases to the reserves totalling 1,800 million barrels of oil.

  Determined to verify the actual amount due to the oil companies, and realising its lack of technology and skills to independently monitor the work of the joint venture partners, the NNPC contracted a United Kingdom based company, Scientific Software Intercompany Limited (SSI) to handle the verification and certification of the 1991 RAB claims.

  From the audit, it was realised that only $68.25 was due the oil companies, thereby saving the country about $330 million for 1991 alone. The Guardian On Sunday learnt that one joint venture partner even had to withdraw its claim with the excuse of preparing additional information and evidence.

  The subsequent 1992/1993 audit became a subject of intrigues which ultimately led to the termination of the SSI contract. The Guardian On Sunday investigations revealed that no audit on the RAB has been carried out since 1992 whereas the joint venture partners have continued to claim bonuses under the RAB scheme.

  The General Abdulsalami Abubakar administration however decided to resuscitate the independent audit. As such, another company was contracted to handle the verification and audit from 1992, but the exercise stalled with the exit of the administration.

  Mr. Funsho Kupolukun, special assistant to Alhaji Rilwan, presidential adviser on petroleum resources, claimed ignorance of the matter, directing The Guardian On Sunday to the NNPC, where its Group Managing Director, Mr. Jackson Gaius-Obaseki could not be reached for comments.

  When The Guardian On Sunday contacted some of the oil producing companies, they asserted that it is only the Department of Petroleum Resource (DPR), the regulatory body of the Nigerian oil industry, that can comment on the matter.

  Officials of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant - Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) stated that the company renders its activities to DPR and if there is any enquiry on exploration and production matters, such inquiry should go to DPR.

  The officials who spoke with The Guardian On Sunday explained that under its operation schedule, SPDC operates a joint venture agreement with the Nigerian government through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). To this effect, the officials advised that NNPC should also be in a position to clarify issues.

  The views expressed by SPDC officials were not different from that of Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) and Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited. “Though we own shares in these joint ventures, our senior partner is the government through NNPC,” they said.

  Under the JV agreement which currently accounts for over 85 per cent of the national oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day, NNPC maintains an aggregate equity of 57 per cent while the balance is held severally by the seven multi-national oil companies who also double as the operator of the JV.

  Attempts to see Mr. Winston Dublin-Green, director of DPR and information officer Mrs. B. Osibodu, were not successful.

  But, sources at the DPR told The Guardian On Sunday that the issue of false claim in the oil industry in not limited to RAB alone.

  The source mentioned abuse of expatriate quotas on the part of oil producing companies.

  The source cited that one of the basic criteria for the multi-nationals is that expatriates could only be employed where there is no qualified Nigerian to do the job but regretted that this clause is usually abused by the oil companies.

  Another area of abuse, the DPR source said, is the issue of contract staff - an area which the oil companies now adopt as official code while very few Nigerians are given a placement as permanent staff in their companies.

  In 1997, the issue of crude oil topping by oil companies officials at the crude oil terminal also made same rounds. DPR is supposed to have a firm control and supervision of the industry but, all these loopholes, the officials stated, atimes put credibility problem on DPR’s activities.

  Oil industry official believes that a more pro-active body that will be autonomous of bureaucratic bottlenecks can save the oil industry from these negligence.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper



Stories by Chuks Ugwoke, Fred Iwenjora and Lekan Bilesanmi

Long, painful hours for relations

FOR the tearful and tension-soaked families, it was finally time to grieve over their bereavement after long, painful hours that were characterised by expressions of panic, frustration and anger. At last, all these gave way to tears that will never end.

Without any hint of the impending crash of Kenya Airways flight number KQ 431 into the Atlantic Ocean in Abidjan, Sunday night, some relations and friends had ordinarily come to welcome back their loved ones who had confirmed their arrival on that ill-fated flight.

There was a bit of understandable apprehension as the returnee passengers would not stroll out of the arrival hall with bags in tow. "My friend had called to say that he was returning on that day," says Israel Njoku, a businessman. "After hours of waiting, we asked from the airline officials and we were told that the aircraft was diverted to Abidjan because of inclement weather.

"Nothing indicated that the tragedy had happened before this time. So, a lot of us went home. It was not until Monday that we began to hear whispers about the crash of a Kenya Airways aircraft in Abidjan."

By this day, more relatives had heard about the airbus that plunged into the sea with 179 passengers on board, and in which Nigerians were clearly in the majority.

Couples. A pregnant woman. A university don. An only son. A helpless kid. Airline executives. Businessmen and women returning from a fortune chase. Different nationals.

Thus, the harrowing but varied experiences of their relations began. They scrambled for space at the airline’s office and at the crisis management centre that had been hastily established.

More of the fear-racked persons were in tears, either sprawling on the ground in utter despair or burying their faces in their palms in total dejection. Yet, there were those who went down on their knees in supplication for divine intervention, clinging to the hope that miracle could come to wipe away their agonies.

Indeed, these relatives were desperately awaiting words to confirm their worst fears or pull them away from the heart-rending uncertainty. In such apparent sorrow, they were all ears to eavesdrop on any conversation or to pick official information.

But it was not a day for toleration or moderation. Soon, altercations followed. "What these people (airline staff) are doing is unfair," screams Nnadozie Nwafor who claimed that he had three business associates on the flight. "Why can’t they show us the manifest or announce those on board? Why are they keeping them to themselves? Do they know what people here are passing through or do they want to see others dying here before they release the names?"

The story of Mrs. Ayodeji Ademola was one, which pierced the hearts. A fabric dealer at the Balogun market in Lagos, she is a widow. Her late husband died three years ago in a plane crash. And the onerous task of the upbringing of the children and other dependent relatives rested on her shoulders. She was determined to live up to her expectations.

Thus, Mrs. Ayodeji began to ply the Dubai route to buy materials, which she sold to her numerous customers back home. On Sunday night in Abidjan, she ended the same way like her husband: she died in an air crash!

From Tuesday through Thursday, traders in Balogun were talking about her as "an industrious woman who was all out to give the best to those whom her husband left behind. It’s unfortunate she ended the same way."

At her Abule Egba residence, the shocked neighbours hinted that "her (Ayodeji’s) people have gone to Abidjan (to identify the corpse of the deceased)."

Elsewhere, friends had gathered around Phil Ofodile, a relation of George Nwafor who was returning from Dubai on a business trip. She was simply inconsolable. There were more wailings as the people were almost getting violent over the lack of words.

The airline officials aptly tolerated the rage. "What we do here," admitted Mrs. Susan Macharia, "is to listen more and make explanations because we understand the pains of bereavement."

But by late Monday night, the final hour had come for the people who had endured all along. "A Kenya Airways aircraft flight number KQ 431, Airbus A310-300 to Lagos and Nairobi has been involved in an accident shortly after take-off from Abidjan." That was the statement from the airline which confirmed what nobody had the guts to hear."

And at a time that Rev. Father Onyeibeadi Massdiile of the Justice Development and Peace Commission, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, set out to announce the names of the victims after an emotional session, the mood was almost indescribable.

Suddenly, and for obvious reason, most of them became reluctant to hear the names. Some sat in silence, others cried bitterly whereas there were those who stared numbly in disbelief. More were praying.

Unfortunately, there was no trauma centre. Neither were there psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors or counsellors. Just airline officials, the families and their sympathisers plus few other people.

As the names were reeled out, there were sundry pathetic emotions on display. It was all tears and anguish. And even for the journalists, it was one assignment too nerve-wrecking.

From Monday through Tuesday and Wednesday when 58 relations of the crash victims were airlifted to Abidjan to help in the identification process, it was bitterness and wailings occasioned by the depth of their loss.

As late as Thursday morning when more of the relations of the deceased gathered at the crisis management centre at the Murtala Muhammed Airport to conclude arrangements with Kenya Airways for an onward journey to Abidjan, the mood was not different from the gloom that heralded the departure of the first batch.

Even at the University of Jos, sadness has continued to pervade the air following the news that one of their dedicated lecturers, Rev. Fr. Emefie Ikenga-Metu, a guru in African traditional religion of the Department of Philosophy and Religion was among those on board.

No less anguished were traders on Idita Street, Alakoro-Lagos just like others in Balogun area as well as Oshodi and Alaba International Market. Most of the dead victims were traders who were returning from the United Arab Emirate City of Dubai where they had gone to transact business.

At 29, Idita Street in Lagos, one shop was securely locked. Its owner, Nnaemeka Nwabueze was number 97 in the manifest of those categorised as not traceable. A shoe seller who was making his second trip to Dubai, Nwabueze was described by his co-traders as "a nice man who was very honest and cared for people. We will miss his humour and his comradeship."

More painful to the traders was the fact that Nwabueze travelled with two intimate friends in Kenneth Chidozie and Cletus Ugwuanyi, the only son of the parents who was making his first trip to Dubai.

"This is a national tragedy," one of the businessmen said, "and we would have expected the government to show more involvement than ministers issuing statements to the press. For the fact that more Nigerians died in the crash, the government would have even sent representatives to the airport to see how relations of the dead people were being treated by the airline.

"It is also not late for them to get involved in the investigation of the (immediate or direct) cause of the accident."

Miss Florence Ugwuanyi, cousin of the late Cletus Ugwuanyi, an Nsukka indigene in Enugu State, was all regrets that "he had to go in this painful manner. It was his (Cletus’) first time to Dubai, though he had been sending people to buy things for him before now. I don’t know how people at home are going to handle the tragedy because he means so much to a lot of people."

Mr. Emmanuel Adefosoye, a lecturer at the University of Lagos was returning from Uganda where he had gone to attend a seminar. His friend, Toye Akinoye, a friend who had come to the airport, Wednesday, to verify the authenticity of the name he had heard was in pains as he revealed that "it’s not long that he got married. It’s also not a long time ago that their marriage was blessed with a child. Now, you can imagine what the woman will go through. It’s really painful."

Sunny Anene is, today, blaming that day when his younger brother, Alex decided to return from Germany. "It was just last year that he (Alex) came back from Germany to settle here. He was into flowers. His trip to Dubai was also to buy flowers which he would sell in Nigeria."

For Sunny, seeing is believing. "I am going to Abidjan (had already gone) to see things with my eyes. Nobody can identify my brother better than me. I want to be there and see and be part of the decision on what they are going to do. In Igboland, we don’t bury an empty coffin.

"I’m totally dejected that he was not yet married. But God knows why it happened. I pray that we’re able to see the corpse so that we pay him every respect."

And like Alex, Mr. J. O. Kanu could not resist the call to return and contribute his quota towards building his country. That was indeed, why he waved bye to Germany last year and returned to his fatherland to buy a shop at Alaba where he was selling electrical appliances. He was on a return journey from the United Arab Emirate where he had gone to purchase items for his shop.

"It’s devastating," mourns Mike, the elder brother of the deceased. "Tears alone cannot express how deep we’ve been wounded. I don’t think that there’s anything I will tell you here that will reflect the mood in our family. We only urge Nigerians to pray for all of us who lost our loved ones in the crash. It’s only God’s guidance that we need."

But such emotions of hurt are not exclusive to Nigeria and Nigerians. From Abidjan to Nairobi and on to India, Congo, Tanzania and others, the bereaved have not ceased to grieve and to pray like their Nigerian counterparts in sorrow that "we see the corpses of our beloved ones to bury."

Vanguard Transmitted Saturday, 05 February, 2000 


Obasanjo launches poverty reduction plan

By Emma Ujah, Abuja

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo, Thursday, in Abuja launched the first phase of the N10 billion Special Poverty Alleviation Programme (SPAP) with a stern warning against the ghost workers syndrome and misappropriation of funds by the programme implementers.

Inaugurating state committees that would oversee its implementation in 36 states of the federation and the federal capital, he said: "Don’t let us have ghost workers. Anybody who produces ghost workers will be made to become a ghost.

"Anybody engaged in this programme must ensure that he puts in a day’s job and gets a day’s pay."

About 200,000 jobs are expected to be created in short term under the programme.

According to the President, the outcome of the programme must be glaring for all to see in measurable terms.

"We are expecting that what will be undertaken will be inspiring, practical, productive and quantifiable.

"We want to reflate the economy by making sure that skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled works are undertaken by our people who have been without jobs for a long time but can have jobs and regain their dignity as human beings."

Chief Obasanjo who went philosophical at a stage during his address dismissed the belief that God has destined some people to be poor and remain poor all their lives.

According to him, God is not an evil and wicked God who destined some people to be poor and made others to go about town with brazen wealth, which could not even be accounted for.

He said that those who were poor were so conditioned by their wicked greedy fellow human beings who amassed wealth to the detriment of the general well being of the society.

Said he: "I don’t believe the philosophy of those who say that those who are poor are poor because God has made them so or has destined them to be poor.

"My own God is not a wicked God who would make some people poor while others are rich.

"No. It is the wickedness of people and the greed of those few who want to grab the wealth of the nation for themselves at the expense of the general good.

"I believe God has given us enough resources in this country for the need of every Nigerian. But God has not given us enough for the greed of anyone and that is why we are saying that the greedy must be curtailed."

He stated that he was prepared to step on toes and that he was aware that some of those who had fraudulently enriched themselves were trying to fight back but to no avail.

"We are prepared to step on toes to the extent that some of them want to fight back but we are praying that they will not succeed.

"This is an appointed time by God that things should start getting right, in Nigeria."

Earlier in his welcome address, the Minister of Works and Housing, Chief Tony Anenih, who is the chairman of the committee on the programme told implementing officials that the public expectations of the programme were high.

Vanguard Transmitted Saturday, 05 February, 2000