Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #08
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

Feb 26, 2000

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Friday, February 25, 2000

President Clinton names Jeter new envoy to Nigeria

By Moses Ayo Jolayemi, Foreign Affairs Reporter

A NEW United States envoy to Nigeria has been named, in what is said to be normal reshuffle of the country's foreign service.

A high ranking State Department official in the African Department, Howard Franlin Jeter, is to replace Williams Twaddell, also a career diplomat who assumed duties three years ago.

The nomination, announced late on Tuesday with others, will have to be confirmed by the U.S Senate.

Jeter, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and Minister-Counselor, is a native of Union, South Carolina.

Currently servicing as Deploy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, he was also director for the Office of West African Affairs and Special Presidential Envoy for Liberia.

According to the U.S. embassy is a statement yesterday, Jeter was ambassador to Botswana from 1993-96 and has held several key positions in the country's embassies in Namibia, Lesotho, Tanzania and Mozambique.

He also served in the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

He has a bachelor's degree from Morehouse College and Masters' from Columbia University and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The proposed change of guard, according to embassy sources last night, has no political undertone as Twaddell is said to remain in the good looks of the U.S. president.

The replacement, The Guardian learnt, is in line with the country's normal ambassadorial postings as ambassadors are moved to other stations after two or three years.

Twaddell will be three years in the country in July when the new envoy is expected to resume duties.

Twaddell's next posting is yet to be announced by the State Department but speculations are that he may be heading for another African country, considering his deep knowledge of African Affairs.

President Clinton has repeatedly pledged his country's commitment to ensuring the success of Nigeria's nascent democracy and improving the relationship with Africa.

Friday, February 25, 2000

President Obasanjo reaffirms supremacy of constitution over Sharia

By Tola Kosoko and Taofeeq Ayinde

THE President spoke yesterday on the Sharia controversy in the light of the Kaduna clashes between Moslems and Christians in which about 200 are feared dead.

Ordinarily, Olusegun Obasanjo said, Sharia as a system of religious injunction has been in practice in northern Nigeria among its moslem population.

However, he reiterated that the Islamic legal system was subordinate to the constitution if it contradicated the federal document in theory and application, especially in criminal cases where stiff penalties are meted out Obasanjo spoke in a chat with media executives in Abuja last night.

He said he had sought clarification onthe Islamic legal code which, according to him, has some 55-milarities to the penal code.

On the high price of oil on the spot market, Obasanjo said the development did not call for unrestrained joy because it could force consumers (users) to seek alternative energy sources.

"Molerate oil price, between $22 and $24 is our interest and the interest of consumers. Excessive oil price is ill-luck and uneconomical," he remarked.

On revenue allocation, he said it was not what went to the states and councils that mattered, but how it is managed given past experience of embezzlement by public officials.

Responding to a question on the Senate's passing of the anti-draft bill without immunity to the President, governors and their deputies, he said he was available any day for scrutiny if allegations of corruption are levelled against him.

Responding to a question on claims that the government is not spending enough to prevent the over-heating of the economy, President Obasanjo said measures were being taken to reflate the economy while guarding against inflationary effects.

He said: "In fact, the recent announcement and programmes of the government to spend almost N10 billion on the employment of unskilled and semi-skilled labour is all part of reflating the economy because almost all of them are meant to go down to the ordinary people. We have awarded contracts worth about N80 billion. When work start on all these, there will be a lot of activities and people will be engaged. Those who will supply gravel, even women who will provide food for the labourers who are working.

"Then we are of course working out the details on the implementation of UBE which of course will run into billions of naira".

He pointed out that excessive spending would engender inflation. His words: "If we do that, we will have two things; we have the inflation and which would start eroding the purchasing power of the naira. Then, we will have the exchange value of the Naira being reduced. If we do that the way some people will want us to do it what happened early last year where within five months naira moved from N83, N84 to the dollar, to a hundred naira to the dollar, will reoccur.

"We may be talking of probably, in the space of three to four months, N120 to the dollar.

"So what we are doing is that we are reflating sensibly. We are reflating gradually. We are reflating in such a way that the economy is able to absorb what we put in.

"When there is too much excess, it leads to another thing which is bad for the economy."

The president also spoke on the privatisation of inefficient public enterprises and the use of the proceeds from the exercise.

According to Obasanjo, money realised from the sale of public utilities and companies can only be spent after the National Assembly's approval.

He went on: "All monies of the Federal Government must be approriated by the National Assembly before it can be spent. So once any money is realised, you cannot just say 'yes we sold NEPA, then we buy NEPA. No it cannot be done that way. We sold NEPA; whatever we want to buy, we put that money in the accounts of the Federal Government.

"We then send the bill to the National Assembly and say we want this money, we want to spend that money. And the sources of the money we want to spend. We spend so much of oil, so much from privatization, so much from recovered loot. All these go to the National Assembly and then it is approached before government can spend.

"Besides, monies realised will be invested "in the future of Nigerians".

He listed education, health, agriculture, food security and transportation (roads and rails) as areas of investment to guarantee a bright future for Nigerians.

"In fact, we probably won't have enough money to do all that we want to do," the president said.

"This is a country that has already lost at least 20 years; a country that in 1979 was 48 among the leading economic powers in the world, ranked among the first fifty (50), today we are in the 176th position we will need to spend a lot of money to do what is right an spend it prudently, even to be among the first 100 which will bring us to 100 or 200 per cent less than where we were before.

Thursday, February 24, 2000

President Obasanjo Addresses the Nation: Costs of violence

By Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

NIGERIA cannot afford to lose nascent gins from its democratic experiment President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday in a nationwide broadcast as he deplored the wanton destruction of lives and property in the Kaduna riots.

President Obasanjo stressed that violence was needless and could only rob the nation of the goodwill needed to sustain efforts at reconstructing the country.

Lamenting the carnage which he described as sad and regrettable, the President expressed sorrow at the turn of events and consoled all victims of the crisis.

It was his second reaction to the riot engendered when Moslems clashed with Christians who were demonstrating against the planned introduction of Sharia, the strict Islamic code, in the state.

The fighting which flared on Monday continued overnight despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew, prompting the Kaduna state government to impose a 24-hour ban on movement within the metropolis as soldiers arrived to help the police curb the violence.

President Obasanjo, in his first reaction to the crisis on Tuesday, said it was a source of anguish to him and blamed leader of both religious whom he said had refused to heed his earlier appeals for tolerance and calm over the Sharia issue. He spoke while receiving a Seventh Day Adventist Church delegation, adding that the government would do everything possible to protest lives and property.

In his "Address to the nation on the atrocities and riot in Kaduna," which was broadcast yesterday, the President said: "If Nigeria is to tread the path of greatness, it cannot be along the line of religious violence and bigotry. It must be along the path of constitutionality, democracy, the rule of law and mutual respect for each other in all aspects of our lives."

Below is the full text of the speech:

Fellow Nigerians,

It is indeed with a heavy heart that I have to address you today on the events of the last 72 hours in Kaduna. I am sure I speak for every Nigerian, Moslem or Christian that the event is one of deep sadness, regret and sorrow.

Let me at this point offer condolence to those who have lost relatives in the disturbance. Equally, I offer my sympathy to those who have been injured, those who have lost property and all those who have been disturbed in any way as a result of these unspeakable activities.

Let me also congratulate those who have in the midst of the troubles maintained their calm and demonstrated good neighbourliness and their willingness to be keepers of their brothers and sisters.

Our new democratic dispensation affords us the opportunity for dialogue, debate and deliberation together for peaceful solutions, rather than bitterness, confrontation and violence. Thus the events in the recent past in Kaduna violates the new spirit of governance.

Whilst the adherents of the two main religions have sadly turned combatants in the streets of Kaduna, the fact still remains that Islam by name is a religion of peace and Christianity was established by the Prince of Peace. Both religions have love as cardinal in their creeds.

Any adherent of either religion would thus be failing his faith if he or she should resort to violence, destruction of life and property. It is foolishness to trust in promoting our faith or religion by violence or in protesting against other people's faith or religion by violence.

To be engaged in activities that so unsettles public peace is not only criminal but highly unpatriotic, particularly now that the international community is beginning to regain its confidence in our nation. We cannot afford to lose the considerable amount of goodwill that has greeted our transition to the democratic governance, we need that goodwill to sustain our efforts at reconstructing the country and improving the economic prosperity of every man, woman and child in this country.

Let me assure those living in Nigeria today that our Administration is irrevocably committed to ensuring security and protection of life and property for all. We will leave no stone unturned, nor will we mind whose goat is gored in our determination to protect life and seek out and punish the perpetrators of these terrible atrocities.

What have we really gained from the horror of Kaduna? Absolutely nothing, except wanton destruction, loss of mutual trust and belief in the merits of tolerance. We must return to tolerance, constitutionality, decency and good neighbourliness. Extremism in religion, nationalism, or in any other human emotion is self-destructive in addition to possibly destroying its victim.

If Nigeria is to tread the path of greatness, it cannot be along the line of religious violence and bigotry. It must be be along the path of constitutionality, democracy, the rule of law and mutual respect for each other in all aspects of our live.

What we need most now is love, caring for each other and joining hands to rebuild the nation together. Let us bind our wounds and accept the challenge of the time.

We must stand together in love, peace and prosperity.

May God bless you all and bless Nigeria.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Sharia riot: Death toll now 200 in Kaduna

CONTRARY to earlier reports putting casualties figure in the Kaduna religious crisis at about 40, collation of authenticated figures of causalities from two Kaduna mortuaries alone yesterday showed that over 200 people died in the mayhem.

President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), His Eminence, Sunday Mbang reacting to the crisis said it was not a surprise, while the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said it was politically motivated, and identified itself with actions so far taken by the Federal Government to deal with the situation.

 

Vanguard counted 210 charred bodies at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) yesterday, most of them on the floor because of lack of room in the mortuary.

Five deaths were also confirmed at the Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna by the Assistant Army Public Relations Director, Lt.-Col. Mohammed Yusuf who told newsmen that the army medical personnel were coping well with the situation with assistance from the state government.

Scores of injured people were on admission in hospitals across the city although the police tried to play down the figure.

According to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone A (Kano), Alhaji Tarfa Balogun who has since relocated temporarily to Kaduna, there are only 13 confirmed deaths.

But he said over 50 persons had been arrested in different parts of the city in connection with the riots saying, the police had information that certain persons distributed arms to the rioters.

He stated that the police were now on the trail of the alleged arms distributors and other ring leaders of the rioters.

Kaduna remained a ghost city after 12 noon yesterday as the streets were deserted by residents who observed the curfew imposed on Monday.

Offices and business premises also remained closed on the orders of the acting governor of the state, Engr. Steven Shekari while armed soldiers and policemen patrolled the streets.

There were, however, reports of skirmishes at Kaballa, Costain, Malali, Rigasa and Kawo areas of the city and Kachia in Southern part of the state.

It was gathered that troop reinforcements had been sent to the areas to deal with the situation.

Between 7.00 a.m. and 12 noon, yesterday people ventured out to be faced with the stark reality of destruction especially in the main business district of Ahmadu Bello Way, which was littered with carcasses of buildings, electronic items, vehicles, among others.

Some burnt bodies were yet to be cleared from Kawo area of the city at the time of this report.

Meanwhile, many people who took refuge in different military formations in the town were seen taking advantage of the ease in tension to return home.

* Obasanjo orders troops’ deployment

It was gathered yesterday that President Olusegun Obasanjo personally requested the deployment of troops to Kaduna streets.

Army spokesman, Col Felix Chukwuma said on a telephone interview yesterday that the soliders’ deployment came through "an order from President Obasanjo to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Rear Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi for the military to assist civil forces in quelling the situation."

He said the soldiers’ mandate was to aid the police in quelling the riots, assist the police in maintaining law and order, and safeguarding military locations and installations.

He said "that role is a constitutional duty of the military in periods of local uprising where the police cannot cope."

*Mbang speaks

Commenting on the mayhem, CAN President, His Eminence, Sunday Mbang said:

"The news of the sad and unnecessary conflict in Kaduna State did not come to any impartial observer as a surprise. Many of us expected it, relying on the past history of that state. We expected the leadership of that state to be a little more matured.

"We had advised the architects of this irresponsible madness,- the introduction of Sharia, to look for other means of remaining relevant in the new democratic political dispensation. How could any sensible person and sincere politician living in a complex and multi-religious country like Nigeria think that he or she could Islamise Nigeria through the back door and get away with it? How could any normal leader in Kaduna State with her past history believe he could do the unthinkable and have peace? Nigerians must not allow themselves to be intoxicated by the political suicide perpetuated in some parts of Nigeria.

"There are still many Nigerian politicians, some of them political office holders today who were part and parcel of the evil dictatorial regimes of yesteryears. These sick Nigerians, wolves in sheep’s clothing, are still with us. They are yet to abandon their selfish and self-centred hidden agenda. We all must defend our young democracy which many of our sons and daughters gave their lives for. We must stand up to defend our freedom, which these never-do-well-politicians are attacking in the guise of religious fanatism.

"I call on the President, the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Judiciary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to step in now while it is early to halt this madness and the impending disaster. The unity, peace and well- being of this nation are being threatened. Delay will be dangerous. We have warned!

"Let me make it abundantly clear to all Nigerians that all Christians in this country will not accept the imposition of Sharia on them and the nation for any reason. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is sufficient for them. No one should underrate our resolve.

"So help us God!"

*PDP also reacts

Also reacting, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it was "a politically motivated religious riot."

National Chairman of the Party, Chief Banabas Gemade in a statement in Abuja said: "The PDP has observed with dismay the wanton destruction of lives and property.

"No responsible government will condone the break down of law and order to the extent that several lives and property worth millions of naira are lost within three days and as such, we completely associate the party with all actions taken by the Federal Government to restore law and order.

"The machinations of enemies of democracy who want to destabilise the PDP government and throw our country into anarchy must be resisted. The PDP calls on all patriotic Nigerians to resist it."

Chief Gemade conveyed the condolences of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and the entire membership of the party to the government and people of Kaduna State and all Nigerians who lost their loved ones and property in the riot.

"The PDP Federal Government will ensure that all Nigerians live in harmony irrespective of tribe, religion, class and political affiliation," he said.

Vanguard Transmitted Thursday, 24 February, 2000 

 

Thursday, February 24, 2000

Five firms show interest in solid minerals

FIVE multinational companies have signified interest in participating in the development of solid minerals in the country, the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Alhaji Musa Gwadabe has said.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that on his recent visit to South Africa, he held discussions with all the companies and that more were going on.

He explained that the discussions now going on were on how to integrate the small and medium scale miners whose interest, he stressed, "the ministry wants to protect."

Gwadabe said the ministry would not want the multinational companies to carry along the small and medium miners, either by way of buying their lease and employing them or allowing them to mine and then sell to the companies "since their lease is very small compared to the lease of the multinational companies."

He pointed that one of the multinational companies wanted to get mining rights of the whole country, "but we would not like the small and medium scale miners to get swallowed by the big time miners."

Gwadabe explained that the companies would participate in various aspects of minerals development ranging from magnetic survey, exploration, exploitation, financing and marketing.

He reiterated that the minerals development sub-sector would be wholly financed by private sector investment.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

President Obasanjo expresses anguish over violence

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

MONDAY'S bitter feud between Christians and Moslem militants in Kaduna State, which led to the loss of about 50 lives and destruction of property, is a source of personal distress and anguish, President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday.

He said the unfortunate development over the proposed introduction of the Islamic legal code, Sharia would have been avoided if religious leaders in the state had heeded his appeal for calm over the contentious issue, adding that his administration would do everything possible to restore law and order therein.

He upbraided the religious leaders for attempting to do God's battle for Him, noting that such efforts were bound to end in vain.

He sued for greater restraint by Nigerians on the Sharia controversy, arguing that it was fruitless resorting to violence in the issue as God whom they both claimed to adore and worship was eminently capable of upholding his own causes.

The President spoke at an audience with a delegation of the Seventh Day Adventist Church at the State House, Abuja, praising the denomination for pioneering private tertiary education in the country with the opening of Babcock University in Ogun State.

He described private universities as a step in the right direction and prayed that God would grant the church the means to accomplish its goal of making a worthy contribution to its development in the country.

The delegation's leader, Pastor Joseph Ola, said the church believed that Babcock University, which is already operational, would help many young Nigerians achieve their educational ambitions.

Internal Affairs Minister Sunday Afolabi in Abuja described the violence as unfortunate, urging Nigerians to tolerate one another's belief, reiterating that President Obasanjo was very worried over the development.

He said: "It is really unfortunate, the president is very disturbed about it. What is it for? Police were immediately called in to contain the situation. But now it is clear they (police) cannot handle it alone. Troops have been deployed to help.

"I believe some people are behind the present problem. What is the problem there? You can worship your God. I can worship my God. Who are you to worry? Why would you go on rampage?

"We have appealed to both religious leaders; they have appealed to both groups".

He spoke further: "It is a question of Sharia or no Sharia. I worship in my own religion. I don't disturb you. What is the problem there? It is only when I am not allowed to worship my God my own way˛ It is another matter. I go to church. You go to mosque. If I am going to church and you are going to mosque and nobody disturbs the other, why worry?"

He deplored the loss of lives in the crisis, saying that the nation could do without such crisis.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Adetiloye, Okogie demand govt's stand on Sharia

By Dickson Adeyanju, Lekan Sanni and James Dadzie

FORMER Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Rev. Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye yesterday demanded from the Federal Government a clear position on the constitutionality or otherwise of Sharia law being imposed by some northern states.

Also, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Rev. Anthony Olubunmi Okogie told President Olusegun Obasanjo to promptly contest the constitutionality of the law through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

Rev. Adetiloye emphatically stated that under the constitution, no state has the right to adopt any religion and urged combatants in the Kaduna crisis to lay down their arms.

Answering reporters' questions at Governor's Office, Alausa, Ikeja yesterday after visit to Governor Bola Tinubu, Most Rev. Adetiloye said that by the provision of the present constitution, every state of the federation was a secular state.

He said: "The government (federal government) should come out firmly on the constitutionality or otherwise of the new Sharia law, and if the government is in doubt then let them go for an amendment.

"The present constitution as it is does not permit creating a Moslem state because every state, according to our constitution is a secular state and there is no one religion that should be adopted by any state.

"So, if any state wants to make a particular religion its own state religion, it (the state) should go to the National Assembly, call for amendment to the constitution and if it is through, then it can go ahead.

"Until that (amendment) is done, no state of Nigeria is a religious state and so, nobody should force any religion on any Nigerian citizen".

The retired archbishop also said that there was no reason for people to resort to killing on account of religion and advised the people to lay down their arms and seek divine intervention.

"God is a God of love and in love, you don't destroy and kill. It is not good to say that you are serving God by killing other human beings. You don't know what those human beings can become. We have no right˛ life is a gift of God and no one has a right to take it," he said.

He had earlier commented on religious harmony existing in Lagos State, as according to him, Moslems and Christians in the state are living together in peace and harmony.

"In Lagos State, Moslems and Christians have lived side by side, they have enjoyed their festivals together and I believe that there is hardly any family which is not mixed in Lagos State.

"We are all living together and we are all worshipping in freedom, according to the constitution of the nation which guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of movement, speech, among other freedoms.

"And this is democracy and we hope that the freedom which we enjoy in Lagos will be enjoyed by every state of the federation," Adetiloye said.

He urged the Lagos State government to ensure the continuity of the present religious harmony in the state, for democracy to grow and for the development of the state.

He also urged the government to summon enough courage to enforce the rule of law, adding however that there was the need for people to give solid backing for democracy, justice and what is good for the rule of law to prevail.

Dr. Okogie who once was President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) alleged that some members of President Obasanjo's party from the core northern states who were dissatisfied with his policies were seeking ways to destabilise his government.

He, however, appealed to both Christian and Moslem communities in Kaduna State to embrace peace by laying down their arms.

"It is unfortunate for President Obasanjo that after he has declared in far away United States, that the Sharia system is illegal, not to have taken any positive step to challenge it. This issue really borders on the security and the constitution of Nigeria. The President has the right to ask his Attorney-General to contest it. If nothing is done to check it , I am afraid it will continue," Okogie said.

He added that "some of the backers of the President particularly from the North who feel the President is not dancing to their tune are behind this crisis to destabilise his government".

The archbishop told The Guardian further that "the issue of the Sharia is not a new thing. I hope you can remember that this Sharia is one of the demands of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries). Any nation which is in OIC must have Sharia. Apart from this key ministries such as petroleum, education, finance and two or three others must be held by the Moslems. So for Nigeria to demonstrate that it is a full member of the OIC, they must operate Sharia.

"It is never a surprise when the Zamfara man (Governor Ahmed Sani) came up with it and others are following him.

"We saw what these same aggrieved people did in Ilorin by burning down churches. They mean to destabilise the country otherwise Kaduna is never a place where you can have the Sharia. Kaduna has more Christians than Moslems," Okogie declared.

However, he called on the combatants to lay down their arms and seek dialogue saying: "I appeal to all especially the Christians to embrace the path of peace and take everything easy. All should live and let other live. You can't buy life with money. Afterall we are all serving the same God. But what right has any religion to declare itself superior to the other. I'm sure if Prophet Muhammed is alive today, he would not approve of this action by our brother Moslems".

Eminent lawyer Chief Sobo Sowemimo (SAN) also said the time has come for the government to make a definite statement that the system should only be adopted after a referendum has been held.

He said the United Nations should send a team to observe the conduct of such a referendum.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Kure signs Sharia bill into law

A BILL which will make Niger the second northern state to adopt Sharia was signed yesterday into law by Governor Abdulkadir Kure, according to his spokesman.

The move came amid the Kaduna clashes between Christians and Moslems over introduction of the strict Islamic code.

At least four northern states have hinted of plans to introduce Sharia since Zamfara State took the lead to launch the code last October.

Spokesman Shuaib Mohammed told AFP from Minna that the state house of assembly passed the bill on Monday and the governor merely added his signature without any formality.

Mohammed said the government did not want to make a noise about the ceremony since a formal launch will take place on May 4 when the Sharia is expected to come into effect.

Kure sent the bill to the assembly last year where it was supported by representatives of the Moslem majority and opposed by representatives of the Christian minority.

Mohammed said the law would only apply to Moslems, adding that Christians had nothing to fear.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Senator walks out, as Assembly defers debate on riot

From Abiodun Adeniyi, Abuja

FOR resisting attempts at raising Monday's religious strife for discussion at the Senate by its president, Chuba Okadigbo, Isa Mohammed (PDP, Niger) yesterday walked out of the Senate. He accused its leadership of not appreciating the enormity of the problem.

Both Mohammed and Zego Azeez Haruna (Kaduna) were disallowed from introducing the issue as a matter of urgency by the Senate president, who said "the prevailing state of emergency in Kaduna makes further actions probably unnecessary."

Speaking with journalists later, Mohammed said: "I walked out of the Senate because I wanted to raise the issue of what was happening in Kaduna. But the senate president did not allow me to speak.

"I wanted to give the president emergency powers to deal with all the militant groups and all the problems affecting this country, emergency powers to deal with all the situations."

He spoke further: "Some people are very happy now that things are happening in Kaduna and they think it is something against the president. But it will affect the whole Nigeria because it is Nigeria's image that is being dented."

He said that those who felt aggrieved about the Sharia declaration by some states in the country should seek for redress in courts, noting that nobody had the right to take laws into his hands.

Also speaking with journalists, Zego said: "Based on what I have heard in the media, I will ask everybody to keep calm. Everybody should lay down his arms and wait for government. I however feel very bad that I could not, that I was not given the chance to raise the matter on the floor of the Senate because, my constituency , my state is on fire and people are dying."

He added: "It is only fair and nice that I should make a comment about it, to tell the whole world that we are not happy. We followed the proper channel; to make our complaint. The senate president told me that, 'well an emergency situation has already been declared in Kaduna' and that there was no need for it."

The Senate has however resolved to institute a permanent measure to forestal a recurrence. Speaking while receiving the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), led by its president Mr. Adams Oshiomole, Okadigbo said the House leadership made the decision on Monday.

He said: "The Senate leadership met last night, discussed the issue and we have resolved to set up some committees to look into the matter more seriously before the budget . A national position will have to be taken now on a way and means of defending democracy and avoiding the agents provocateur . They have to be identified and appropriate measures taken to forestal a recurrence."

Also reacting to the development, a member of the House of Representatives, Nicholas Ukachukwu (Municipal/Bwari) cautioned that wisdom be applied in handling the matter.

"It is unfortunate that the riot occurred, but we have to seek God's wisdom in handling the situation" he advised.

Senator Khairat Raqak-Gwadabe of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) also advised the combatants to lay down their arms in the interest of peace.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Violence threatens Kaduna trade fair

By Ade Ogidan, Senior Correspondent

WITH the uncertainty in Kaduna, following Monday's bloody Sharia-related riot, the state's 21st International trade fair scheduled to start on Saturday may yet be kept on hold.

Today, the Kaduna Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KADCCIMA), the organisers will issue a statement on the fate of the fair, after due assessment of the situation in the city.

It has, however, advised participants from Niger Republic, who arrived in Kano at the weekend, to suspend travelling to Kaduna, pending the resolution of the current crisis.

According to officials, work on exhibition stands have been stalled since the crisis started, as those at the site, had been cut off since Monday evening.

KADCCIMA director general, Alhaji Mohammed Bana, in a telephone chat with The Guardian yesterday, said the situation was getting calm and the prospects of the fair, holiday on schedule, still remained bright.

Bana said: "I can confirm to you now that the situation is already getting calm. I was able to leave my house in Kano, 15 kilometres away, and I am calling you from the trade fair venue.

"We are monitoring events and security men have already taken full control of the situation here. We are not unmindful of the need to ensure the security of exhibitors and visitors to the fair and by tomorrow (today), we would come out with a definite statement, after due assessment of the situation."

Earlier, a KADCCIMA official, who responded to inquiries from The Guardian on condition of anonymity, also said that the crisis had subsided, but confirmed that those of them trapped at the fair ground had gone through harrowing experiences, on Monday, when the crisis started.

"When the riot began we could not move out of the trade fair complex. Infact, we slept there overnight, as Kano, our gateway to the town, was really boiling.

"Consequently, construction work on the stands stopped, with everybody gripped with fear, due to reports coming from the city about the crisis.

"None of us at the complex had access to food as we were cut off. We at the secretariat had to phone delegates from Republic of Niger who had arrived in Kano, to stay put meanwhile as we did not want them to be harassed."

KADCCIMA President, Brigadier-General Garba Muhammed (rtd) had, in Lagos, last week, expressed optimism that the turnout for this year's edition of the fair would be the "most impressive, ever recorded in recent years," due to the enthronement of business-friendly democratic environment.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

America warns citizens

THE American Embassy has advised citizens against travelling to Kaduna where the implementation of Sharia law has led to widespread violence on Monday.

A statement from the embassy said although there was no evidence that the violence was directed at its citizens or other expatriates, yet, it was necessary to warn U.S. citizens because "widespread civil disturbances presents a serious general hazard in the area".

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Nigeria, South Africa plan joint crime control

NIGERIAN police authorities and their South African counterparts are working out modalities to jointly combat crime, especially those concerning their nationals in both countries. The move is part of efforts to protect the cordial relationship between the two nations.

Police Affairs Minister Maj.-Gen. David Jemibewon (rtd) and his South African counterpart, Mr. Steve Tshewete, are meeting in Pretoria, the South African capital, to devise means of checking the wave of crime and identify areas of co-operation.

At a joint press briefing yesterday, Tshewete said both countries agreed to rely on each other's experience and expertise to rid the continent of cross-border crimes.

He said both countries had a common crime problem, noting that the several years of military rule in Nigeria had a negative impact on the functions and scope of its police.

Tshawete said that the content of the memorandum of understanding, to be signed at the end of the visit, would be informed by the mutual respect both countries had for each other.

"We will be learning from each other's experiences, seek the consolidation of the police services of both countries and explore areas of mutual assistance," he stressed.

"We are also looking forward to the consolidation of the draft document regarding mutual co-operation which will be drawn up by officials from both countries," he added.

He remarked that emphasis would be placed on issues of police logistics, as well as control of immigration and criminals from both countries.

Tshwete, however, noted that because the countries were far apart geographically, it was important for each police service to plan on ways of dealing with criminals from both sides.

Responding to a question, Tshewete said the meeting was not specifically to address issues on Nigerian criminals in South Africa, but to explore areas of assistance in combating crime, considering the growing relationship between both countries.

On his part, Jemibewon said his visit would explore areas of training, exchange of police officers and ideas.

South Africa, he noted, had more advanced technology in the areas of production and manufacture of logistics equipment for control, which Nigeria needed for more effective policing across the country.

The minister said that in the spirit of looking inward within the continent for the procurement of police equipment, Nigeria would patronise South Africa directly. He said in the past, foreign suppliers of police equipment to Nigeria usually purchased them from South Africa, "so we feel instead of foreigners buying for us from Africa, why can we not come to South Africa ourselves?"

At a meeting earlier, the Nigerian High Commissioner, Dr. Tunji Olagunju, told Jemibewon that some Nigerians involved in criminal activities were frustrating the efforts of the government at projecting the image of the country in South Africa.

He said that their nefarious activities were capable of discouraging potential investors from the Nigerian market.

Jemibewon, who is on a six-day visit to South Africa, is scheduled to tour police and security installations.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

U.S. to spend $110 million on Nigeria

From Arthur Obayuwana, Abuja

WASHINGTON's assistance to Nigeria is expected to hit the $110 million mark this year, according to the Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the American embassy which, in Abuja yesterday, quoted the State Department as saying that the Bill Clinton Administration was determined to see that Africa got its fair share of that country's foreign policy budget.

The sharp rise in assistance, from $7 million two years ago, is being interpreted by diplomatic watchers as a "practical evidence" of the fresh confidence of the U.S. in the new democratic order in Nigeria.

Secretary of State Madeline Albright said last week at the National Summit on Africa that the Clinton Administration was determined to see that this continent got its fair share of America's foreign policy budget.

She told the leaders that the continent "has as much potential as anywhere on earth and in this era of globalisation, what happens in Africa will have a direct impact on the United States".

According to the PAS bulletin, Clinton is already asking Congress for an additional $150 million in the next fiscal year to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases internationally with a focus on initiatives in Africa.

In this vein, Albright is urging the U.S. Congress to immediately pass and send to the president for his signature, a final version of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have each passed their own versions of the act and the two must now be reconciled by a joint conference committee.

Albright had visited Africa several times as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (UN) and continued trips every year, since becoming the Secretary of State.

The PAS also yesterday quoted the State Department as saying that America expects Nigeria to play a leading role in the drive to promote democracy and stability in Africa by building the capacity of the institutions needed to promote justice, foster internal trade, enhance regional cooperation and consolidate peace efforts.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Govt deploys soldiers, reinforces police

By Ben Akparanta (Lagos), Madu Onuorah (Abuja) and Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna)

SOLDIERS have been deployed by the Federal Government as strategic back-up to the police in Kaduna, which yesterday received reinforcements to curb the violence over Sharia.

Internal Affairs Minister Sunday Afolabi told The Guardian in Abuja that the way the crisis progressed, it was clear the police alone could not handle it.

Besides the troops deployed, thousands of regular and anti-riot policemen from the northern states have been sent in to reinforce the Kaduna State Police Command. This was confirmed by State Commissioner of Police Hamisu Isa yesterday.

Although the official death toll was as at yesterday afternoon yet to be provided, authorities at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, acknowledged there were casualties. "We are making efforts to ascertain how many people are dead, wounded, and are homeless," said Mr. Young Arebamen, a Deputy Police Commissioner who is the Force's spokesman.

Sources at the Defence Ministry, also at the Federal Capital, explained that soldiers deployed by the Federal Government are not to engage the demonstrators. Rather, they constitute a tactical back-up to the police, in safeguarding strategic facilities and minimising damage at vulnerable points.

One source said: "The involvement (of soldiers) is being downplayed so as not to put the soldiers in direct confrontation with the protesters. The government doesn't want this move to be misunderstood. They (soldiers) may be seen around. But their job is just to maintain a noticeable presence, as deterrent to any group.

They are only on a defensive position, and can only react if attacked first. Otherwise, they are there just to show off their firepower. They are not under any orders to engage the protesters."

The deployment, according to the source, became necessary because of the presence of sensitive military and Federal Government institutions in Kaduna.

As combat ready policemen head for the Kaduna hot bed, men of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command were directed to join with counterparts from Niger State to build up police presence in Suleja. This is to forestall a spill-over of the Kaduna disturbances.

Suleja is located at the approaches of the FCT and though it falls within Niger State, if serves as the commercial melting point for that state and the Abuja Federal Capital city.

Sources at Force Headquarters said yesterday that no fewer than 3,000 policemen had been deployed in Kaduna, aided by a detachment of the Army deployed in the streets yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Arebamen declined to give the number of police officers and men on ground in Kaduna. But he confirmed that reinforcements had been ordered.

Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of Police "B" operations, Mr. Theophilus Akeredolu; and AIG in charge of Zone One, Kano, Mr. Tarfa Balogun, met with Inspector-General Musiliu A. K. Smith yesterday apparently over the security situation in Kaduna.

Several armed policemen patrolled trouble spots in Kaduna with trucks yesterday.

AIG Balogun said in part, in a press statement: "You are all aware of the religious procession and resultant incident that occurred on February 21, 2000, and today, February 22 in Kaduna metropolis and its environs... This development is unfortunate, unnecessary...

"The Nigeria Police deem it necessary to assure members of the public of our determination to bring the ugly situation under control. We are using this medium to warn all miscreants and disgruntled elements that the laws against unlawful procession and rioting are still in force. Any person or group of persons found violating the law will be severely dealt with in accordance with the law.

"The police wishes to remind members of the public of the curfew imposed by the state government. Therefore, everybody is warned to remain indoors as prescribed by the curfew, until the curfew is lifted."

Kaduna State Police Commissioner Isa, confirming that reinforcement had been received from other states, told journalists yesterday that leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) did not obtain police permit to enable the command provide security cover for them during their protest march on Monday.

"We have invited religious leaders to a security meeting, and our men are on the ground to contain any violence," he said, as he expressed regret that the demonstration resulted in violence characterised by indiscriminate attacks on people and looting of shops.

On the toll, the police commissioner said that the command had received report of the death of only one person at the Leventis Round-about on Ahmadu Bello Way, Kaduna.

The police in Abuja confirmed yesterday that security had been beefed up around the Abuja-Kaduna highway to ensure that the two-day-old violence over Sharia did not spill over to the Federal Capital, which is about 156 kilometres from Kaduna.

FCT Police Commissioner Alhaji Hamzat Ahmed, who announced this while answering questions from officials of the American Embassy in Abuja, urged Americans and other residents of the territory not to panic. According to him, police authorities have sufficiently made contingency security plans to head-off the bloody conflict in Kaduna.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Kaduna bans movement, death toll hits 50

From Saxone Akhaine, Kaduna

AN all day restriction on movement within Kaduna metropolis was imposed by the state government yesterday, among drastic measures to curb raging violence over the Sharia in which death toll is believed to have exceeded 50.

Deputy Governor Stephen Shekari, acting for Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, said it was apparent "the senseless destruction of lives and property would not ordinarily abate," hence, more drastic measures to restore order were being adopted.

The violence which erupted on Monday between Sharia proponents and opponents persisted overnight, in defiance of the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the government.

In places like Malali village, Angwar Sarki, Narayi, Tudun Wada, Angwar Sanusi and Angwar Rimi, more persons were reckoned to have died. At Malali village, for instance, at least six bodies were taken for burial by residents.

The villagers were reported to have fought to repel an attack by youths from Badarawa who invaded Malali and Angwar Godo, torching buildings. Premises set ablaze included churches, mosques, hotels and residential houses.

One eyewitness cited a victim of the crisis as a Ghanaian headmaster residing in Lafia Quarters, Malali Village, whose house and newly bought Toyota car were set on fire.

Some residents of Malali, Angwar Godo, Tundun Wada and Angwar Serki began emigrating to safety zones yesterday. Some were noticed heading for the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) located opposite Badarawa, the 44th Army Barracks, the Reference Hospital and police stations to seek refuge.

Streets in the metropolis were deserted by late afternoon, with most business premises under lock.

Hospitals in the state capital continued to receive casualties yesterday. At the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), ambulances mostly those marked with the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) logo conveyed bodies of victims to the morgue.

There were no taxis plying major roads of the metropolis, especially at Rigasa, Kabala West, Kano Road, Ibadan Street, Katsina Roundabout and Jos Road where the crisis recorded high casualty figures.

Early yesterday morning, militant youths surged along Ahmadu Bello Way, Ali Akilu Road, Malali, Tundun Wada and Angwar Serki. They ignited bonfires with old tyres at strategic locations, preventing the passage of vehicles.

Deputy Governor Shekari met with security chiefs, including Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone One, Mr. Tarfa Balogun. He earlier led a convoy of police and government officials to assess the situation. The convoy was stoned by irate youths at Malali, Tudun Wada, Angwar Seriki and Kawo.

The acting governor said in a statement that more drastic measures were warranted to arrest the rage. He had on Wednesday announced a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on the city.

Yesterday's statement said: "It has become absolutely necessary for the people to be cautioned again. It is disheartening to observe that in spite of the passionate appeals made on the need to eshew violence of any form, there are strong indications that the senseless destruction of lives and property would not ordinarily abate...

"In view of this, government has taken more drastic measures to restore order. Concerted efforts are being made by security agents to deploy more troops throughout the metropolis and environs. I have accordingly directed the closure of all offices and businesses forthwith. No movement will be allowed into and within the metropolis, with effect from 12 noon today (yesterday).

"Agencies providing essential services such as water, electricity and telephone must make adequate arrangements for movement of their personnel with the police.

"Anybody who flouts this order would have himself to blame. People should remain in their residences until further notice."

An eyewitness told The Guardian that in Kawo, violence began yesterday afternoon at about 1.30 p.m. About six persons were reckoned dead, and several others injured.

"We have been keeping vigil on this area since the government announced that nobody should come out from noon today (yesterday). This is because we want to safeguard our property and goods," he said.

At Ahmadu Way and Constitution Road, major dealers and owners of business premises lost several vehicles and other goods such as electronic items to the violence. For instance, top motor, electronic dealers and those involved in other merchandise lost their goods to hoodlums who exploited the crisis to loot.

At ABUTH, a mortuary attendant who wanted anonymity told journalists that since the crisis erupted in such suburbs as Kabala West, Rigasa and Badarawa, at least 30 bodies had been deposited at the morgue.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

FG to eradicate malaria in current tenure - - - Abubakar

VICE-President Atiku Abubakar, has said that the present administration intends to eradicate malaria in the country during its current term.

Addressing Nigerians in Washington, Abubakar said government, in pursuit of this goal, was hosting a summit on malaria that would be attended by leaders from across Africa.

This summit, he said, would be followed next year by another summit on hiv/aids.

The Vice-president said that government was taking the problem of aids very seriously and had set up the National Council on AIDS chaired by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Abubakar said that the administration had embarked on economic reforms to create the right environment for private business.

Part of this reform is a programme for the privatisation of state enterprises that have been bedeviled with corruption and inefficiency, he said.

The Vice-President, who was in Washington to attend a conference on Improving u.s.-african relations, said that the administration had also come up with programmes for the revival of national infrastructure and improvement of education and agricultural production to ensure food security.

He expressed the government’s determination for fight corruption, citing the Anti-Corruption Bill now before the National Assembly as one of the steps to ensure the successful implementation of the project.

In the meantime, Abubakar noted that the administration was ready with the structure and personnel for the Anti-Corruption Commission.

On the Niger-Delta, he said that the government was poised to address the real problems of the area while at the same time ready to deal with criminal activities, like abduction of oil workers prevalent there.

With government’s crackdown on criminality in the region, there now appeared to be some calm, he remarked. On efforts to combat crime, the Vice-President said that the government had taken action against Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), a militant Yoruba organisation, which had been perpetrating violence in Southwest Nigeria.

In the case of Arewa Peoples Congress formed in reaction to the activities of the OPC, he said that it was not yet on the ground, stressing: "government is not going to tolerate ethnic militancy."

In a similar vein, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dubem Onyia, who was also at the meeting, appealed to Nigerians to build on the achievement of the Obasanjo administration in bringing some sanity into governance in the country.

He urged Nigerians to respect the Nigerian passport and ensure that non-Nigerians had no access to it, pointing out that in a number of cases, some non-Nigerians involved in drug pushing were caught with Nigerian passports.

Vanguard Transmitted TUESDAY, 22 February, 2000 

 

Odi victims demand N20b compensation

By Sam Onwuemeodo, Port Harcourt

VICTIMS of the recent devastation of Odi, Bayelsa State by soldiers, are demanding a joint compensation of N20 billion from the Federal Government.

This is without prejudice to "what the Odi community might demand from the Federal Government at the appropriate time," the Association of Victims of the Military Operation in Odi (AVMOO) said in Port Harcourt.

According to the coordinator of the group, Mr. Carnice Assoh, victims of the operation including those who lost relations, bodies and other valuables decided to demand the compensation in view of Federal Government’s continued silence on the destruction of the town.

Mr. Assoh said apart from the monetary demand, the victims also wanted the immediate release of "more than 200 corpses of Odi people killed and taken away by the soldiers that invaded the community."

He said the people had "been able to recover a few bodies buried in a mass grave on Odi/Kaiama Road."

He added: "Our people are still in hiding. The armed mobile police men have refused to go. People going to Odi have either been flogged, robbed, raped or beaten mercilessly. We are waiting for the Federal Government to make an open statement.

"We expect the Federal Government to declare Odi safe. We want it to ask Odi people still on the run or in hiding to go back to Odi. We want houses where our people will stay when they go back. Because our people have not come back, it is very difficult to know the exact number of Odi people that died in the military operation.

"The people demanded a probe panel into the whole matter to find out whether those killed by the soldiers were innocent of the killing of the 12 police men or not.

"Remember that the police had taken some Odi youths to court as suspects for the killing of the police officers. Remember also that they were arrested a week after the soldiers had bombarded Odi town. So, the police knew what they were doing. Having arrested those suspected to have killed the police officers was enough reason to say that those killed in Odi by the soldiers or those whose houses were burnt were innocent people," he stated.

Asked whether the N20 billion compensation was realistic, he noted: "If the invasion of a town in a peace time was realistic, the payment of the N20 billion compensation to innocent people who suffered from the invasion should also be realistic."

Vanguard Transmitted TUESDAY, 22 February, 2000 

Monday, February 21, 2000

Why Obasanjo goes on foreign trips, by Sarumi

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo's foreign trips are to smoothen Nigeria's re-entry into the global community and attract trade and investment, Information Minister Chief Dapo Sarumi, said in Johannesburg at the weekend

"The greatest asset Nigeria presently has is President Obasanjo and the country should take full advantage of his global personality to reposition the country to enable it regain the glories it lost during the many years of military misrule," he remarked.

"President Obasanjo is well known and respected across the world and this personal influence and respect should be translated to trade and investment for the country's economy in the overall interest of the country."

"We need to take the benefit of his position as president to get the best deal possible to address our serius debt situation," he added.

Sarumi explained that Nigeria's per capita income was very low and the country needed debt cancellation from the Paris Club and other multilateral financial organisations.

He said Nigeria should be classified as a highly indebted and poor country due to its debt burden and its huge population.

He said that the World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions must assist Nigeria in the rehabilitation of its infrastructure, stabilisation of the economy and employment generation.

According to him, enormous resources are being spent to service debt rather than for national development, while millions of Nigerians are suffering because of the debt burden.

Sarumi added: "Nigeria needs enormous support from the international community for pressing national problems like HIV/AIDS, malaria, education, housing, health and other social problems after many years of retrogression.

"Those who think he is travelling too much, perhaps do not understand what it requires at this time to jump-start the Nigerian economy and the decayed system which the administration inherited."

The fallout of the visits should convince anyone of their relevance, he said, pointing out that the president was a widely travelled man who would not "travel for fun."

Sarumi who was in Johannesburg to assess the relocation of the Nigerian Information Service Centre from Harare, Zimbabwe, to Johannesburg said it was moved there rather than Pretoria because it was the country's economic nerve-centre, and has the largest concentration of the media.

He said the relocation to South Africa was due to the growing relationship between the two countries and meant to correct Nigeria's poor image.

On salary increase for workers, the minister said that a wages and salaries review commission had been set up to recommend and continually look at inflation and other factors to determine the appropriate salary to pay civil servants.

The minister said the National Assembly had allocated some funds for the committee to carry out its duties, but "I am not in a position to confirm when salaries will be reviewed and to what extent, but I expect it would be soon."

On privatisation of state assets, he said the first phase which involved banks, cement companies and other such establishments was almost completed. He said the government was committed to the implementation of the other phases, to ensure the re-activation of ailing state-owned companies.

The minister praised the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa, stating that both countries had the potentials to stimulate the continent's economic development.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, February 21, 2000

Inflation decelerates, stands 6.6 per cent

By Tola Akinmutumi, Staff Reporter

NIGERIA'S average inflation rate as at last December stood at 6.6 per cent down from the 7.6 per cent level attained in the preceding month, indicating one percentage point drop during the 30-day period.

The 6.6 per cent figure was the lowest rate recorded during the year and concluded a six month decelerating growth rate trend that hallmarked the second half of the year. The highest rate of 12.4 per cent was recorded in May at the end of which the now democratic political leadership came on board.

Analysts have hinged the decelerating growth trend to some fiscal and monetary policies which the new government put in place and strictly implemented. Besides, they noted that the frugal style of the government may haver accounted for the sustained declining rate.

According to the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) consumer Price Index (CPI) Report for the month, despite the slide in the growth rate, the CPI overall "All Items" index, which reflects changes in the average level of retail prices paid by consumers at urban and rural areas, inched up marginally by 1.1 per cent from 3261.8 figure in November to 3299.2 during the month.

Similarly, the "Food" and "All items less farm produce" indices rose from the respective levels attained in the preceding month (November).

The Report states: "The average annual rate of rise of consumers retail prices in 1999 was 6.6 per cent. This means that a fixed market basket of consumer goods and services purchased with N100 on the average in 1998 sold for N10.6 on the average in 1999".

The official statistics report also stated that the increase or change in composite CPI between November and December was cased by upward movement in the prices of beef, fowl, drinks, clothing, footwear, kerosine and cost of services. It also added that "the urban and rural indices went up by 0.4 and 1.3 per cent respectively."

Amplifying, it states further that "the average consumer price level between December, 1998 and December 1999 several showed any charge as the composite CPI only rose by 0.2 per cent over the period."

At the composite food index level, the rate rose by 0.4 per cent between November and December, a trend which, it stated, was due to increases in the prices of beef, fowl (live) and fish which was considerably offset by decrease in the prices of staples, edible oil, vegetable and fruits".

Similarly, the "All items less farm produce index" advanced by 2.3 per cent between the two months period. In the 12 months to December 1999, the index rose by 1.4 per cent and rose between 1998 and 1999 on the average, by 15.7 per cent.

Painting a picture of the overall inflation trend further from January 1999, the report noted the "prices increased moderated considerably during the year.

"Gains such as millet and guinea corn and tubers such as yam were purchased below their corresponding prices in 1998. Relative prices stability was observed both in urban and rural areas. The urban and rural indices rose by 8.1 and 6.3 per cent respectively between 1998 and 1999," the report stated.

Expatiating, it stated that "the applicable decrease in the rate of consumer retail prices in 1999 were attributable to a number of factor. Some of them include the continued pursuit of good macro economic policy of government in 1999.

"The favourable weather witnessed in the just two years which enhanced the improved production of local agricultural farm produce.

"Reports from most of our price collection centres indicate that the prevailing poverty in the country was affecting the aggregated demand for goods and services as many consumers lacked the purchasing power," the report stated.

As the nation waits for the approval of the Appropriation Bill now before the National Assembly, economic and financial experts have continued to express doubt on the capacity of the government to keep the growth rate at the 6.6 per cent level given the reflationary N440 billion budget the government had packaged for this year.

For instance, vice president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CTN), Mrs. Bimpe Balogun, had in a paper presented to the National Assembly committee members recently in Abuja expressed doubt as to the capacity of the government to sustain the inflation rate at a single digit level.

She said: "The year 2000 budget, with an estimated expenditure of N480 billion, (about 40 per cent over the figure for 1999), is clearly an expansionary budget.

"It has been pointed out that it is quite difficult to keep inflation at a low level with the current level of government spending. An expansionary budget can hardly sustain any effort at keeping inflation low," Mrs. Balogun said.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, February 21, 2000

Akume urges churches to defend democracy

RELIGIOUS organisations should lead campaigns in the defence of democracy. Whenever it is threatened, Benue State Governor George Akume has urged.

He also tasked new churches to emulate the older ones in the health and educational sectors where missionaries performed excellently.

The governor spoke when members of the Deeper Life Bible church, led by its State Overseer Pastor Christopher Ogbaji called on him at the Government House, Makurdi. He commended the church for its continued quest for moral uprightness, expressing the hope that government and the church would remain partners in progress.

Speaking earlier, Ogbaji had urged Akume to remain dedicated and committed to the service of God and mankind.

While assuring the government of the continued support of the church, he prayed for the success of both the Akume and President Obasanjo administrations and appealed to the governor to assist the church in its quest to acquire land for its projects.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Lawyer petitions Obasanjo, Okadigbo over alleged inhuman treatment

by By Kayode Matthew

A LAGOS-based legal practitioner Mr. Fred Egbe has petitioned President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo alleging that he has been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment repeatedly over the last 12 months for criticising a judgment of the Supreme Court.

The judgment in question is suit number SC/188/92 Mrs. Alero Jadesimi Vs Mrs. Victoria Okotie-Eboh & others delivered on February 6, 1996.

The lead judgment of the suit was read by Chief Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais.

Mr. Egbe said: "The present problems began in 1996 in a related case between the same Okotie-Eboh family members who had gone to court again in order to enforce the terms of a settlement agreement. I had been sued by the children as a stakeholder of the subject matter of the settlement agreement."

Mr. Egbe explained that in the matter which came up before Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour of Lagos High Court, he objected to reference being made to the supreme court judgment by Mr. Kehinde Sofola as authority to the case before the high court adding that "I went on to criticise the reasoning expressed in the judgment and the conclusions reached thereat."

Mr. Egbe started that: "It has since become clear that the friends of Chief Justice M.L. Uwais including the then Attorney-General of the federation Mr. Ibrahim Abdulahi, were highly incensed at my criticism of the judgment and on February 22 1999 at about 10.15 a.m. in my office at Itiku House, 28/30 Macarthy Street Lagos, I was arrested by two policemen from the Failed Bank Tribunal, Abuja. The warrant stipulated that I should be produced on February 24, 1999 at Abuja to face charges of conspiracy, theft and other charges under the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debt) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Decree Number 18 of 1994.

"Seven of the eleven counts on the charge sheet served on me, which referred to me contained allegations of theft, conspiracy and malicious damage. There was no allegation concerning any indebtedness to any bank, or any financial malpractice in any bank - whether failed or active.

"I protested at once that I was a victim of a conspiracy, especially as I was charged to court without the prior opportunity of seeing or hearing or denying the allegations against me.

"To this day - nearly one year after my initial appearance in court in Abuja, I have still not been invited by the police to make a statement in response to the spurious allegations contrived against me by Mr. Ibrahim Abdulahi, Mr. Aliyu Salman and some police officers.

"The charge sheet, contains charges alleging the theft of a 5000 tons cold store - an impossible structure or the allegation of the theft or conversion of a three-storey building - structures that the law stipulates, cannot be stolen."

Continuing Mr. Egbe said "after a short time at Failed Banks Enquiry Annex, on February 22, 1999 I was taken to Alagbon Close where I was locked up in a cell, in inhuman conditions.

"The following day, February 23, 1999 I was taken to Abuja, under escort, without being allowed any change of clothing and without food. I was driven around Abuja for a while after which I was locked up in a tiny little cell at Wuse Central Police Station with about 8 other persons in insanitary and dehumanising conditions.

"On February 24, 1999, I was taken from the cell and brought before Justice S. Idajili of the Failed Banks Tribunal and upon my arraignment I complained to the judge that I was the victim of a conspiracy. The judge however showed no interest in my complaint but ordered that I should be remanded in prison custody until I was able to meet the bail conditions which he stated to be cash deposit of N5 million; deposit of Title deeds to property worth N5 million situated in Abuja and deposit of my International Passport.

"I was then promptly carted off to Kuye Prison where I was again locked up in a congested cell for the night of February 24, 1999. I had by that time, spent three nights in three assorted police and prison cells. I was able to satisfy the bail conditions and was subsequently released on bail."

Mr. Egbe submitted that "right thinking people everywhere will find it inconceivable that a person can be charged with criminal offences under the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Decree Number 18 of 1994 when there is no allegation about the person’s involvement in any financial malpractice in any bank.

"In the second place, every school boy knows that Attorney-Generals, do not prefer charges against people, for the theft of immovable objects or things that the law declares cannot be stolen.

"The law does not permit the trial in Abuja, under the penal code for offences of malicious destruction of property allegedly committed in Lagos."

Vangard Newspaper

Monday, February 21, 2000

National identity card coming this year, minister assures

NIGERIANS will begin to receive their national identity cards from this year, Internal Affairs Minister of State, Mohammed Shatta, assured at the weekend.

Speaking during a courtesy call on the Plateau State Deputy Governor Michael Boetmany, he said the ministry had taken delivery of the computers and other equipment required for the issuance.

Pledging that the process would soon begin at the eight zonal offices of the Directorate for National Civic Registration, he said he was happy that the issuance was going on smoothly at the Abuja centre.

He tasked Nigerians, especially state governments, to support the government for the programme to take-off at the zonal centres as planned.

Noting that the six prisons in the state, which had the capacity for 1,840 inmates were currently holding 1,058, he said this showed that the level of crime in the state was low.

According to him, the prison authorities had embraced reforms in order to meet the United Nations minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, adding that they were now being well-fed in addition to the provision of skills acquisition programmes.

Shatta said: "I believe people have observed noticeable changes in the condition of inmates as a result of improvement in their welfare," adding: "We are still going to do more to make them feel and behave like normal human beings."

He said more cells had been constructed in prisons, while old ones had been renovated, adding that the supply of potable water and proper sewage management were being given the desired attention.

Responding, the deputy governor said modern prisons should be made reform centres, and that the old practice where convicts ended up becoming hardened criminals on their discharge should be discouraged.

He called for the establishment of a prison at Bokkos, the headquarters of Bokkos Local Government in the state, so that inmates on remand from the area would not be taken to other prisons, which were far from the place.

Acknowledging that crime rate in the state was low, he attributed it to "the state government's own way of dissuading the people from crime".

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, February 21, 2000

Okadigbo promises equity, fairness to all ethnic groups

From Sunny Igboanugo, Enugu

"JUSTICE, equity and fair play will henceforth determine the sharing of the national cake and no ethnic group in Nigeria will be allowed to dominate the other in the scheme of things from now on."

This was the solemn declaration of Senate President Chuba Okadigbo at Nri Anaocha Council of Anambra State, where he was given an Ofo the symbol of authority that would guide him in his assignment as the head of the National Assembly.

Okadigbo received the instrument of authority from the Nri Monarch, Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh, Nrienwelani II, Ezenri at 4.10 p.m. on Saturday. The brief, but highly traditional ceremony took place inside the main arena of the Eze's palace.

Holding the Ofo which also symbolises truth and fearlessness, justice, equity and fair play, Okadigbo declared that Nigeria was going to start experiencing a new lease of life where equality would reign among its nationals.

The Senate president who first spoke in Igbo before switching to English was particular about the alleged marginalisation of the Igbo, saying he would no longer agree to such a treatment for his people.

He, however, explained that fighting for the cause of Igbo does not mean denying other ethnic groups of their own shares or cheating them out of it.

We have come to the era of democracy, the time of peace. We shall use this Ofo to bring peace, love and good things of life to this country. We are now telling the people of Nigeria, those in the executive and legislature and those in business, that if you treat one person as you treat the other there will be no problem.

"Live and let live. Whatever we have, we must share very well in Nigeria. You take this to the Hausa, take this to the Igbo, you take this to the Yoruba, and you take this to the minorities. It must go round. It will be good. But, if you share wrongly I will not agree O!," he said.

Switching to English language, the Senate president explained that the Ofo symbolised peace and justice. "It is to be used in the pursuit of justice and not in the pursuit of bad objects. It is to be used to promote equity and fair play, not to promote disunity and disequilibrium, he added.

Lamenting the place of the Igbo in national affairs, he said the Ofo would be used to get a secure place for them wherever they might be in Nigeria.

"Whatever are their due in the polity in economy, in the scheme of things in the federation, based on the principle of equality and fair play, the principle of live and let live, the principles of natural justice .... Our late father, the Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in building the University of Nigeria gave it a name, a motto: To Restore the Dignity of Man. "Upon the moment which he was being made the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria he read a speech entitled: Respect for Human Dignity. That dignity of man to man as opposed to indignity of man to man is what we preach to the Igbo nation. He ask other Nigerians wherever they may be to confer and oblige us with these elemental principles of equity and natural justice," he said.

Preaching peace for Nigerians and praying for the will of God to be done in the country, the Senate president, still lamenting the lot of the Igbo gave what he said was his message to the other parts of the country.

He said: "The war ended in 1970, why are they still fighting the war that ended? We the Igbo have accepted the end of the war and gone into all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, showing good faith, building houses, marrying across the land, trading and working. Why are they still fighting the war that has ended. Stop this war. That is my plea."

Besieged by reporters to explain his comments, Okadigbo said: "Marginalisation is a continuation of the war that ended over 30 years ago. Destruction of properties of strangers wherever it may be in Nigeria, be it in Kano, Lagos or anywhere is a continuation of that war that ended violence of Nigerians against fellow Nigerians, based on their ethnic considerations, is a continuation of that war. Burning down of markets, just because a set of people from other places are making some profit, that is war.

"Failure to promote people from Igboland for jobs which they are qualified and removing them from their jobs just because they are Igbo, that is continuing the war. Failure to give Igbo a place in Nigerian military in proportion to their population and ability, that is part of the war.

He continued: "Failure to include them in the security arrangement of this country, intelligence arrangement of this country inspite of their qualifications and ability, that is a continuation of the war. All these, we want discontinued. The war has ended."

Okadigbo had arrived at the arena at about 2 p.m. boosting the already charged atmosphere and quickly went into the main Obi from where he emerged five minutes later with the Nri monarch whom he saw to his seat at a specially decorated part of the square.

Shortly after the welcome address from the traditional ruler read by Mr. Emeka Onyesoh, Okpala Ezenri, yams seedlings decorated with traditional white chalks, Nzu were consecrated and distributed to the dignitaries after Okadigbo had been presented with one.

The yams were meant for planting, a major part of the Iguaro ceremony (Proclamation) of the Igbo calendar.

The Nri had after listing the importance of the ceremony urged the Federal Government through the Senate president to take over the Nri Odinani Museum established by University of Ibadan and list the town as one of the tourist centres in the country.

Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Minister of Culture and Tourism acknowledged the Nri Kingdom as one of the oldest throne and one of the most revered in Africa, through its mystical and temporal powers, shrines in Igboland and the proclamation of Igbo calendar.

Assuring that the people and their culture would be included whenever a national cultural and tourism map was produced, he urged Nri people to always preserve their traditions by promoting brotherliness, oneness and unity.

Among those who accompanied Okadigbo to the occasion were: Senators Victor Oyofoh, Mike Ajegbo, Bala Adamu, John Nwannunu, Dabu Zang and Wahab Dosunmu. There were also Chiefs Okey Ude and Obi Anosike from the House of Representatives as well as former Information and Culture Minister, Chief John Nwodo.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, February 21, 2000

Community petitions Obasanjo over school's relocation

From Ifedayo Sayo, Ado-Ekiti

ONE of the two communities locked in battle over the siting of the Federal Government Girls' College (FGGC) in Ekiti State, Aramoko has called on President Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene in the matter.

The Aramoko community in a letter to Obasanjo accused the Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran of causing disunity in the state by relocating the college from Aramoko to Efon-Alaaye.

According to the letter by the traditional ruler, Alara of Aramoko, Oba Oluwole Amele and two community leaders, Chief Fola Alade and Chief S.O. Apetuje, the minister refused to reason with both the state government and eminent citizens of the state who pleaded with him to allow the school remain in Aramoko where his predecessor had sited it. They alleged that instead, Adeniran used his influence to relocate the school to another community.

The community, which put its total investment in the facilities handed to the Federal Government for the school's take-off at N6 million, maintained that the school had in actual fact taken off with the posting of its principal, Mrs. A.K. Adebiyi to Aramoko in May last year.

The matter, however, assumed another dimension when Adeniran took over as education minister, saying he did not only relocate the school to Efon-Alaaye but also ordered its principal to report at Efon-Alaaye to supervise the renovation of facilities for its take-off.

Describing the manner in which Adeniran relocated the school as disappointing and unjust, the community said it would not sit by idly and allow the minister to continue to undermine it.

The community said a promise by the minister to clarify the issue of siting of the school during a meeting with its representatives at the Presidency had not been fulfilled.

While appealing to President Obasanjo to call the minister to order, it added that "whatever belongs to Aramoko can not but remain with Aramoko."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper