Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #11
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

March 18, 2000

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March 17, 2000

NCP asks Ige to resign or be fired

By Sina Babasola, Ibadan:

THE unregistered National Conscience Party (NCP) led by Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, has asked Power and Steel Minister, Chief Bola Ige, to resign honourably after the current electricity crisis in the country.

It called on President Olusegun Obasanjo to fire the minister should he refuse to quit.

The NCP made the call yesterday in a statement amid reports that the President had turned down Chief Ige’s resignation letter.

The NCP in its statement said:

"By seriously indicting the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and reconstituting its Board which will now report to the President over the head of Chief Bola Ige, the Power and Steel Minister, the President, General Olusegun Obasanjo has abundantly made it clear that Chief Bola Ige is irrelevant and does not enjoy the confidence of the Presidency in finding solution to incessant epileptic power supply.

"The authority that the Ministry of power and Steel exercises over NEPA is about half of the responsibilities delegated to Chief Bola Ige. By the President’s statement on NEPA, 50 per cent of the responsibilities assigned to Chief Bola Ige has been taken away in the most disgraceful manner. In the words of the President, ‘NEPA has failed, and failed woefully,’ the President has indirectly stated that ‘Chief Bola Ige has failed, and failed woefully.’ If there is any iota of honour left in Chief Bola Ige, a lawyer, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), an ‘intellectual,’ and a former governor, he ought to throw in the towel and resign. Otherwise, for every day he stays in office after the inglorious indictment by the President, he does so dishonourably.

"Since the last eight months when Chief Bola Ige took over as Power and Steel Minister, Nigeria has never had it so bad. We have been experiencing unprecedented humiliating, disgraceful and shameful power outage on a nationwide basis. Twice, within four (4) days, precisely on Friday, March 10, 2000 and Monday, March 13, 2000 the entire nation was paralysed domestically and industrially by Bola Ige’s NEPA. Even during the 22nd African Nations Cup, on Tuesday, January 25, 2000 there was a power outage that disrupted the Morocco versus Congo match for more than fifteen (15) minutes. International Television Satellite Stations had to beam a national shame of Nigeria throughout the world.

"Chief Bola Ige likes making pledges and setting targets. But experiences have shown that he hardly does his homework to take necessary action in order to actualise his target. Upon assumption of office, Chief Bola Ige promised to perform the magic of the millennium. He pledged that power failure would be a thing of the past after six (6) months. On the sixth month, he admitted a colossal millennium failure and apologised. On the same day that he apologised, precisely on Tuesday, January 18, 2000, he issued fresh six (6) months promise to perform another magic, to quote him, ‘on my honour.’ The nation now knows better that Chief Bola Ige’s promises are always a catalogue of woes, failures and miseries.

"The only path of honour left for Chief Bola Ige is to resign. If he does not resign honourably, the President must remove him publicly and immediately. With the President’s statement on NEPA, it is ironic that Chief Bola Ige, the Power and Steel Minister, can no longer make policy statements or give directives on NEPA that is a part of his ministry.

"To solve the problem of NEPA and retain it as a public good instead of privatisation, all NEPA’s obsolete equipment and machines should be overhauled and its management democratised."

An associate of Chief Ige confided in Vanguard that Chief Ige actually sent in his resignation letter which the President turned down.

According to him, the President rejected the resignation letter because the President still believed in the ability of Chief Ige to handle the ministry.

The associate told Vanguard that "Chief Ige is still a member of the Federal Cabinet"

Asked to comment on Chief Ige’s purported resignation, Justice Adewale Thompson (rtd), another close associate of the Minister told Vanguard: "There is no iota of truth in the news. What I am telling you is the truth, the news is a blatant lie, I don’t know where they got their information from."

At the Bodja residence of Chief Ige, the minister was said to have travelled to Lagos for an assignment and would be back last night.

No member of the family household was willing to comment on the report.

Vanguard Transmitted Friday, 17 March 2000

March 17, 2000

Gov Akande begs FG on Ife, Modakeke war...Obasanjo visits next Thursday

By Sina Babasola, Ibadan:

THE Osun State Government has sought the intervention of the Presidency in the raging communal war between the Ifes and the Modakekes following the failure of every step to resolve the crisis so far.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has already accepted the invitation and will be visiting the war zone next Thursday.

The state government was said to have submitted a proposal on the issue to the Presidency.

Gov. Bisi Akande was in Abuja last Monday to brief the Presidency on the crisis which has claimed nearly 100 lives in the last two weeks alone.

Gov. Akande was said to have persuaded the Presidency to intervene in the crisis as all peace moves initiated by the state government had failed.

The Modakekes, according to a Government House, Osogbo source are not ready to listen to the state government "because they felt Iyiola Omisore, an Ife man as deputy governor is influencing government’s decision on the crisis."

"Can you believe it? The state governor, Chief Akande has not been able to visit the areas owing to the position of the Modakekes," the source said.

It was gathered reliably that the President may be accompanied by the two ministers from the state, Chief Bola Ige (Power and Steel) and Chief Sunday Afolabi (Internal Affairs).

The President, it was learnt, is likely to announce Federal Government’s position on the age-long communal war after meeting with representatives of the two communities.

The state Council of Obas and Chiefs, Vanguard learnt would also meet with President Obasanjo on the issue.

Sources hinted Vanguard that though the state executive council was yet to deliberate on the communal war, members of the state cabinet believed that only Federal Government’s pronouncement would provide a permanent solution to the crisis in the area.

The state Health Commissioner, Mr. Niyi Owolade confirmed to Vanguard yesterday that the state government was working seriously towards getting a permanent solution to the perennial communal war in the area.

Vanguard Transmitted Friday, 17 March 2000

Friday, March 17, 2000

Two firms may refund N86.3m to govt

From Sunny Ogefere, Asaba

TWO firms indicted by the Delta State Contract Review and Debt Recovery Committee may refund about N86.3 million to the state government if Governor James Ibori endorses the committee's report.

Major-Gen Paul Omu (rtd), the committee's chairman who presented the report to the state governor in Asaba, alleged that the two firms _ Messers Alpha Technologies and Greenfield Properties swindled the government of the said amount.

According to Omu, Alpha Technologies should be made to refund N60 million and Greenfield Properties, N23 million.

He explained that Alpha Technologies, over priced the contract for the supply of two units 5KV tons transmitters to cost N189.9 million instead of N72.9 which included the profit margin.

He claimed that Greenfield Properties on the other hand influenced the government to pay N25 million into an escrow account with Citizens International Bank in 1994, to meet some conditions for Nigerview International Hotel Limited's proposal to build a hotel in Asaba.

He disclosed that while the amount accumulated interest to the tune of N26.6 million in 1997, by February 2000, only N3,525.28 was left in the account.

The committee however said it succeeded in reducing the debt burden inherited by the present administration in the state from N1.9 billion to N1.275 billion.

It also suggested that henceforth, heads of government parastatals and departments should be enlightened on the need to provide information to investigating panels and the need to be prudent in their spending.

Receiving the report, Ibori said that his administration had fashioned out a debt management policy to handle such cases in its agencies, parastatals and departments.

He said that the committee's report would be examined critically to ensure that the right decisions were taken in the interest of the state.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, March 17, 2000

Anglicans to pray for Nigeria April 21

From Emmanuel Onwubiko, Abuja

NEWLY elected Primate of the Anglican Communion Rev. Peter Jasper Akinola has declared April 21 as national day of prayer and fasting for the more than 10 million members of the Anglican Church in the country.

The day according to him, would be dedicated to special prayer for Nigeria in the wake of the recent sharia induced violent clashes in some parts of the country.

Archbishop Akinola, who spoke at a recent provincial Council of Province 3 in Abuja, also said that the prayers would focus on


bulletpreservation of the secular provisions of the Nigerian constitution,;
bulletremoval of every obstacle to the unity of Nigeria;
bulletthat God should help Christians holding public offices to stand for Jesus Christ as they perform their official responsibilities;
bulletPeace should reign in the land;
bulletGod should strengthen Christians in Moslem -dominated states so they can be courageous and steadfast in their faith; and
bulletthat God should giant President Obasanjo governance wisdom, knowledge understanding.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, March 17, 2000

Joint trade fair begins March 25

THE 10-day trade fair by Osun, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti states will begin on March 25 in Ibadan, the President of the Ibadan chapter of National Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Chief Dele Oderinlo, has said.

Addressing reporters on preparations for the fair, Oderinlo said that locally-fabricated agricultural equipment would be highlighted.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Nigeria, Ghana propose energy masterplan

GHANA and Nigeria have recommended a nine-point programme for the accelerated implementation of a masterplan for the proposed power pool for West Africa.

The power pool project is intended to help re-distribute electricity supply to ensure a more comprehensive electricity coverage in the sub-region.

The proposal, contained in a report at the end of a meeting by energy ministers of the two countries, called for the accelerated implementation of the 330KV interconnection between the two countries.

The ministers also called for an effective technical working group at the secretariat of ECOWAS to co-ordinate the project.

Besides, the ministers urged collective approach in the mobilisation of funds for energy infrastructure projects in the sub-region.

The funding options, being considered by the ministers, include the build, own and operate (BOO) and build, own and transfer (BOT).

They agreed to meet quarterly to review the progress in the implementation of the electricity masterplan.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Obasanjo takes over NEPA

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

EMBARRASSED by Nigeria's nightmarish power supply problem, President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday sacked the management of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) headed by Bello Suleiman and placed the authority directly under his supervision. Indeed, a nine-man board to be headed by him will soon be constituted.

The development came just as Power and Steel Minister, Chief Bola Ige while in Lagos, held a meeting with major consumers, apologising to them and Nigerians over incessant outages.

Obasanjo, addressing journalists in Abuja, also apologised to the country for the dismal performance and said the nine-man technical board would soon be constituted. With the development, the authority may, therefore, have been excised from the Ministry. of Mines, Power and Steel headed by Ige.

Presidential spokesman, Dr Doyin Okupe who later shed light on the briefing said the development meant that Chief Ige who is expected to be named as a member of the board, could freely contribute to discussions on the organisation at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) level. He reiterated that the board had taken over the ministerial supervision of the authority.

President Obasanjo also tendered an unreserved apology to all Nigerians who had expected so much from NEPA but had been disappointed.

He gave year 2000 as deadline for an end to epileptic power supply in the country and declared that the new board would be constituted immediately to assume total executive powers.

Obasanjo said: "The technical board will report directly to me, and I assume full responsibility for the effectiveness of its decision."

Its membership, said to be under close scrutiny as at last night, is expected to be announced today in Abuja.

President Obasanjo said the board would be made up of hand-picked individuals whose reputation and ability he could vouch for.

"Apart from restoring sanity to power supply in the country, the technical board will also put NEPA into a suitable shape and condition for privatisation, as stated within the government's broader policy," he said.

He said it was with a heavy heart and deep regret that he addressed the press on the problem noting that at the inception of his administration, it prioritised the issue of NEPA and fuel shortage, with the latter having now been finally solved

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Fresh tension in Sokoto; Xtians get April 1 to quit

By Aliyu Askira, Sokoto & Brimah Kamara:

THE Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido and second republic President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari moved yesterday to douse fresh tension in Sokoto arising from a letter circulating in the state that all Christians must leave not later than April 1 or be killed.

The letter also alleges plans by Christians to burn down the Sultan Bello Mosque on Sallah day.

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar speaking on BBC last night dismissed suggestions that the Federal Government had lost control of security in the country.

The Sultan together with Alhaji Usman Jumaidu and one-time Agriculture Minister, Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau met with religious and community leaders and asked them to ignore the letter and its content.

According to Alhaji Maccido, Muslims and Christians have been living together in the country for over a century now and wondered why the sudden mistrust between them.

"Nigeria belongs to all of us. Nobody can change that. We have no alternative than to accept to live together in peace, harmony and understanding," he said, adding: "No true Muslim or Christian will burn places of worship like mosques or churches.

"The unfortunate incidents in Kaduna, Sokoto, Aba, Umuahia, I can tell you were plots by mischief makers against democracy, I therefore urge you to monitor your subjects closely to avoid any breach of peace," he said.

Describing peace as key to success, development and happiness which must be embraced by all Nigerians, the Sultan pleaded with all Nigerians to continue to live together in peace irrespective of religious or ethnic differences."

The letter issued by a group which calls itself, "Sokoto Jihadists" calls for the dawn of Nigeria and the emergence of a Danfodiyo Republic. Non-indigenes have been fleeing the state.

Communications Minister, Alhaji Muhammadu Arzika speaking to newsmen also yesterday in Sokoto blamed some Northern governors for allegedly politicising Sharia.

"Sharia has been with us since the arrival of Islam, so what are they introducing?" he queried.

The minister who visited the Baptist Church in Sokoto burnt on Sunday by some Muslims vowed that government would deal with those whose pronouncements on Sharia allegedly incited the students of Usman Danfodio University to riot.

*VP on security situation

Answering questions yesterday on BBC on the Sharia issue and its security implications for the country, Vice-President Abubakar said government was in control of the situation.


The perception among many people is that the government has lost control of security in the country ...?

It’s totally unfounded and untrue that we’ve lost grip of the security situation in the country. Afterall, these crises have erupted and we have dealt decisively with them in some cases. In fact, you should expect these sorts of crises to erupt in a country that has found democracy after about 16 or 17 years of military dictatorship.

Still people are accusing the government of ineffectiveness when such crises occur ...?

Then, the government has acted within the constitution as far as the issue of law and order is concerned. We are a federation and according to the constitution, the Federal Government cannot just interfere in a state in a conflict situation unless it is requested to do so by that particular state.

Don’t you think that it is a long process, the bureaucracy involved, before the Federal Government can be allowed to be involved in such situations? Don’t you think the constitution should be amended?

No. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the provisions of the constitution. We have a better equipped police force and I think that is what we need and not an amendment of the constitution because if you amend the constitution again and give the Federal Government more powers, then you are undermining the autonomy of the states.

Then, what is the position of the government on Sharia, because the Northern governors have denied that this issue wasn’t discussed with the government?

Not all the Northern governors, but some of them. It’s wrong to say all of them. Only a couple of them came up with this denial. But, all I know is that when the issue was discussed at the Council of State, none of them moved an objection to the decision that was taken.

What is your reaction to the call by the South-Eastern state’s governors that the country should be a confederation?

I think it was a most unfortunate call because crises have erupted in different parts of the country. The Ijaws have died in Lagos. They have even died in their home state, Bayelsa, yet, they did not call for a confederation. The Yoruba have died in Kano, the Hausas have died in Sagamu, yet none of them called for a confederation. The Igbos died in Kaduna.

Vanguard Transmitted Tuesday, 14 March 2000

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Britain stresses need for dialogue

By Uduma Kalu, Staff Reporter

THE British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Sir Graham Burton has described the recent Sharia riots as a reminder that there are more conflict resolutions to be undertaken in Nigeria.

Burton, who was represented at the public presentation of the book, Community Conflict in Nigeria by Laure-Helene Piron, Governance Officer, Department for International Department at the high commission, said through meticulous planning and careful selection of trusted mediators, such as the youth, clergy and elders, many conflicts considered intractable could be achieved.

According to him: "The recent outbreaks of unrest in the North and South-East, as well as the recurring communal conflicts in such places as Ife and the Niger Delta remind us that many more challenges lie ahead."

He went on: "While each conflict has its own particular dynamics, the case studies which are profiled contain a wealth of material which can be used to complement other people's efforts to restore peace and harmony in and harmony in areas of conflict."

However, former Nigerian envoy to Ethiopia, Chief Segun Olusola urged his compatriots "to develop mediators for peace at national and international (levels)."

He said that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should cooperate in this regard.

Chairman of the event, former Ambassador Akporode Clarke in his remark, said stability did not mean the absence of conflicts, rather it is "the capacity of the parties concerned to address their conflicts with a view to avoiding violence and unnecessary acrimony."

Professor Onigu Otite, who edited the book, while defining conflict as a form of reclassification and continuity, also identified eight areas of conflict which include: disputed jurisdiction of traditional rulers; creation of local councils and their headquarters; individual and group conflicts; micro and systemic conflicts; perception of local culture, which he said react out of symbols and are very attractive in mobilising people to do certain things.

But Dr. Reuben Abati who reviewed the book, said there were conflicts on a large scale in Nigeria "because this is an insecure land. Nigerians feel to be so unaccommodative of conflict because it is a state that is structured against the individual. It is a state that both the colonists and their post-colonial successors structured to fail. Conflict is part of life but a society that is built on the foundation of conspiracy is bound to make conflict even more inevitable."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Mysterious death of Nigerians in U.S. causes worry

THE mysterious death in the United States of three Nigerians has raised fears about the safety of Nigerians in that country.

In one of such incidents, Ishola Giwa, said to be a Lagos State indigene, was buried in New York after his body was exhumed from a mass grave.

According to Mr. Jumoke Ogunkeyede, a leader of the United Committee to Save Nigeria, Giwa, 59, who died on February 3, was not discovered until the stench from his decomposed body alerted his neighbours. who called the police.

On being informed, Ogunkeyede said that he intervened to save him from such an ignoble burial and arranged a more decent burial for Giwa as contained in a letter to Nigeria's Consul-General in New York.

In the letter, he wrote that an assistance was necessary because a mass grave was "not a good way for one of us to be buried," pointing out that burial in a marked grave cost $5,000.

The body of 33-year-old Bankole Omi, another Nigerian, who died in his house last week, is lying in a mortuary.

Omi's body was discovered on March 8, when his employers sent policemen to find out from his house why he had been absent for three days without notice. The consul-general in New York is currently working with some Nigerians to get him a decent burial.

In another case, a Nigerian, simply identified as Alhaji Lawal from Ogun State, died in December in his house without the body being discovered for a long time.

Lawal, a tax accountant in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City, had called a taxi to take him to the airport on his way to Nigeria. Before leaving, he went into his house where he collapsed and died.

Like the other case, Lawal's death was only discovered when his neighbours had to call the police to report an odour emanating from his apartment. It was learnt that the Ijebu Organisation in New York raised money to give him a decent burial.

The developments have raised concerns about Nigerians in the U.S. who live all by themselves and keep very minimal contact with other persons.

"There are so many Nigerians here who do not want to identify with other people," remarked a Nigerian who asked not to be mentioned.

Most Nigerians in the U.S., it has been learnt, are not registered with the Nigeria's diplomatic mission in that country.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Ekwueme, Ojukwu, others insist on confederation

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

IGBO leaders, under the umbrella of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, a pan-Igbo socio-political group, have opposed agitation for secession of the East from Nigeria. They, however, insisted on a national conference where the terms for the continued corporate existence of the country would be exhaustively determined.

They maintained that secession was not part of the agenda of the Igbo Ndi Igbo but endorsed the position recently pronounced by the five South-Eastern state governors for a confederation.

The Ohaneze also called for a referendum to ratify the decisions or constitution that might arise from the national conference.

The group, made up of former First Republic Vice President Alex Ekwueme, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Sonny Odogwu, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Prof. Ben Irukwu and Mr. John Nwodo Jnr., said that there was no need for a sovereign national conference as there was already a sovereign government in place.

In an address presented to President Olusegun Obasanjo by the group's leader, Dr. Ekwueme at its closed-door meeting at the Presidential Villa, the 40-man Ohaneze delegation said that all the recent tragic incidents arising from the Sharia crisis were manifestations of a fundamental problem concerning the terms and conditions for association of Nigerians as a nation.

It was for this reason, the group explained, that they endorsed the stand of the five governors on the political future of the country if this unfortunate trend was not halted.

It declared: "We must stress that if this blood-letting continues, Nigeria affords us no alternative."

The group expressed support for the decision of the National Council of State on the Sharia controversy, and observed that any authority or personality in the country, that failed to support that decision was placing the continuation of the Nigerian state into question.

It further remarked: "Mr. President, we have consistently supported the unity of this country. This explains why we encourage our men and women to live anywhere they desire in Nigeria and to invest freely in all parts of the Republic.

"For this purpose, we urge your government to do all within its power to ensure adequate protection of the lives of our people and of all Nigerians wherever they may find themselves in the sovereign territory of Nigeria.

"Furthermore, it must be emphasised that the firm, uncompromising and unconditional enforcement of citizenship and residency right is fundamental to the organic evolution of our Nigerian federal community."

They accused law enforcement agencies of doing little to protect the Ndi Igbo during almost all the riots, wondering whether it was not yet time to determine whether they were full-fledged citizens of this country or cannon fodder.

They also contended that what was being projected as a Sharia crisis was a smokescreen for political ends.

The group went on: "Competent observers are puzzled why a society that has lived all these decades, in religious tolerance should suddenly go up in flames. Competent observers are convinced that the current crisis is political, not religious, as nothing justifies the furious urgency of the imposition of Sharia or the inconsiderate recklessness of its implementation.

"No, Mr. President, it is your government that is being questioned. It is democracy itself that is under assault. Mr. President, it is Nigeria that is under siege. Your excellency, having been democratically elected as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after nearly 30 years of military rule, we expect that all Nigerians irrespective of their religions and ethnic affiliations should give you the support enjoyed by your predecessors in office."

They called on the government to immediately raise a commission of inquiry to establish the immediate and remote causes of the incidents to apportion blame where necessary and bring the miscreants to justice and compensate the innocent victims of the tragic events.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, March 13, 2000

Nigeria-U.S flight resumes June, says Agagu

DIRECT flights from Nigeria to the United States will resume by June, Aviation Minister, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, assured at the weekend.

Agagu said in Abuja that Nigeria had met some of the conditions demanded by the U.S. before flights were suspended in 1997.

This, he said, was underscored by the Federal Government's plan to spend about N1.5 billion to provide airfield lightings in the nation's 17 airports. The airfield lightings would work in conjunction with the internal landing systems at the airports, "to ensure that aircraft can land at short or low visibility."

Agagu also said that the government would install landing facilities at the four international airports to ensure that aircraft could land under any weather condition. The minister affirmed that Nigeria's airspace "is very safe," adding that "it ranks amongst the best in the world."

He said: "When compared with the rest of the world, our airspace is quite safe. This can be empirically demonstrated by the fact that if you look at the number of flights we have everyday, compared with the number of accidents we have had in the last 10 years, one can say that our airspace is very safe."

But "this impressive record, notwithstanding, the aviation ministry will not rest on its oars", said the minister, adding: "Our target is to achieve 100 percent safety record."

Besides, he said the ministry had embarked on the total overhaul of the air safety system at the nation's airports. "We started by looking at the structure of the government's outfits that were saddled with the responsibility of looking after our air space, to justify the kind of importance we attach to this all important issues of safety," he stated.

Agagu also said: "We have created out of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) a separate division, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), which is saddled with the responsibility of taking care of our air traffic control system."

As part of the safety measures, the ministry, he said, had also established the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to look into the airports, airspace, and the total operation in the aviation industry.

"With these two agencies, NAMA and NCAA, and the safety regulation department of the ministry, we are sure we have the basic structures on the ground to sustain our current drive to make our airspace very safe," he said.

He commended President Olusegun Obasanjo for "his interest in matters of the aviation industry," saying that "he has demonstrated by creating the enabling environment for the ministry, that by the end of the year, all our 17 airports will get internal landing systems."

The Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, according to him, was being worked upon to meet the safety standards, adding that "when this is achieved, we hope to begin full operations".

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, March 13, 2000

Obasanjo asks youths to ensure unity

From Adamu Abuh, Abuja

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo at the weekend admonished youths in the country to work towards the peaceful co-existence of Nigerians.

Speaking at the launching of the book titled Called to be a Doctor: The story of Dr. Vivian Uduehi, he said the quest to develop the country's human resources could only be realised under a peaceful atmosphere.

Represented by the Minister of State for Works and Housing, Isaiah Balat, he restated the administration's commitment to the provision of healthcare facilities to all Nigerians.

He extolled the virtues of excellence and dedication to the practice of medicine by the late Vivian Uduehi - daughter of Dr. Esther Uduehi, presidential liaison officer to the House of Representatives and urged youths in the country to emulate her.

In an address, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, represented by Minister of State for FCT, Chief Solomon Ewuga, described the death of Vivian as a sad loss to the country and called for concerted efforts at sustaining the medical foundation to be established in her memory.

Highlights of the occasion attended by Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mrs. Pauline Tallen and eminent personalities was the donation of N3 million by Mr. B. I. Mahtani, Chairman, Churchgate Group of Companies, among other cash donations.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Don't tamper with my immunity, President Obasanjo sends bill back to assembly

By Jide Ajani, Political Editor

There are strong indications that the Anti-Corruption Bill passed by the two Chambers of the National Assembly would be returned to the Federal Legislative House by President Olusegun Obasanjo, as a result of two major amendments to the original Bill proposed by President.

This hint was dropped by a House of Representatives Committee Chairman in Abuja last week.

One of the grouses of Mr. President, which remains the major one any way, is the insertion of the clause making provisions for the appointment of an Independent Counsel to investigate allegations against the President, his Vice President, Governors and their Deputies - the 1999 Federal Constitution had hitherto provided immunity for these categories of officers in Section 308.

The other grouse, Sunday Vanguard has been authoritatively briefed, is located in the wordings of the area that deals with the appointment of members as well as the Chairman of the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission.

The president, it was gathered, is returning the bill with a plea that the lawmakers should rethink the amendment. In short, Obasanjo is seeking a deletion of the two areas.

Last Thursday, Sunday Vanguard learnt from sources in the National Assembly in Abuja that the Presidential Liaison Officer for the Federal House of Representatives, has already started drawing the attention of the legislators to the incongruity between the provisions of Section 308 and the proposed appointment of an Independent Counsel to investigate the President and the specified categories of other officers.

However, the feeling among the legislators last week was that the immunity provided for Mr. President by the constitution covers the institution of legal proceedings viz:

"Not withstanding anything to the contrary in this constitution, but subject to sub-section (2) of this section,

(a) No civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person to whom this section applies during his period of office

(b) A person to whom this section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise and

(c) No process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies, shall be applied for or issued."

But members of the National Assembly insist that the introduction of the provisions for the appointment of an Independent Counsel is meant to show that there should be no sacred cow.

Section 52 of the Bill, which was introduced by the Senate, reads:

"When an allegation of corruption or anything purporting to contravene any provisions of this act is made against the President or the Vice President of Nigeria, or against any state governor or Deputy Governor, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court shall, if satisfied that sufficient cause has been shown upon an application on notice supported by an affidavit setting out the fact on which the allegation is based, authorise an Independent Counsel (who shall be a legal practitioner of not less than 15 years standing) to investigate the allegations and make a report of his findings to the National Assembly, in the case of the President and Vice President, and to the relevant State House of Assembly in the case of the State Governor or Deputy Governor.

"The Commission shall be enjoined to fully co-operate with such Independent Counsel and provide all facilities necessary for such Independent Counsel to carry out his functions."

It was further gathered that the peculiar nature of corruption in the past, which had always been at the very highest level of governance, makes it compelling to find a way round the immunity provided.

A Committee Chairman in the House of Representatives told Sunday Vanguard that "since the constitution says no legal proceedings can be instituted against them, then let someone merely investigate and submit to the Assembly and let the members determine if the findings are enough to impeach the President. The fact that Obasanjo is there today does not mean anything; some other people will be there in future and we need safe-guards."

Sunday Vanguard discovered that Malaysia and Hong Kong also have their own form of Anti-Corruption Commission. The highest government official ever to be tried in Hong Kong is said to be a Superintendent of Police.

Vanguard Transmitted Monday, 13 March, 2000 

Monday, March 13, 2000

20 engineers for satellite technology training in Britain

From Segun Ayeoyenikan, Abuja

NO fewer than 20 Nigerian graduate engineers are to be trained in Britain within 15 months as part of the working agreement between the Ministry of Science and Technology and its British technical partner on the launching of Nigeria Sat: 2.

Science and Technology Minister, Chief Ebitimi Banigo, who declared this at the weekend in Abuja said: "The preparation for the launching has attained its peak," while seeking the cooperation of the media to enlighten the public about its benefits.

The training, according to him, is to enable indigenous engineers participate in the design and launching of the Nigerian satellite programmes.

"The present administration is determined to stop the habit of making Nigerians perpetual consumers of foreign technologies," he said, adding that: "If we cannot catch up with the first phase of any new technology, we should be able to participate in the second generation of such technology."

About N1.8 billion ($20 million) was said to have been earmarked by the Federal Government for the project's execution. The minister, who described the project as "first generation Nigeria Sat programme," said there was no going back on the issue.

SST Marketing Manager, Dr. Wei Sun, at a joint conference with the minister said: "The Nigeria micro satellite project is the latest technology now available in Surrey's stock."

While listing the advantages of the project, Banigo said: "The mandate given to the ministry by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is principally to redeem Nigeria from the environmental degradation it has suffered for the past 15 years or more. The infrastructure will enhance conceptualisation and innovative scientific ideas for the development and discovery of higher grounds by Nigerian youths."

In monitoring the satellite in orbit, the ministry has proposed a ground station to be called a Satellite Block within the site of the proposed Abuja Science and Technology Park.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, March 13, 2000

Youths rally for peace in Abia

A ONE-DAY one million-man rally would soon be staged in Umuahia, Abia State by a group, the Democratic Youths of Nigeria (DEYON) to pray for the peace and traquility of the state.

Tagged "one-day one million-man peace and unity rally" the youths, in a statement by Ferdinand Ekpe, acting chairman, Tony Udemba, director of publicity, and Banji Osanyingbemi, director of mobilisation said peace and unity remained the only panacea for a rapid socio-economic development of the state.

The rally, the statement said, would usher in a new order, peace and unity needed for the rapid development of the state. It would be held against the backdrop of the on-going bickering between Governor Orji Uzor Kalu and his deputy, Enyinnaya Abaribe.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper


Gowon hails democracy, warns against coups

By Nkechi Nwosu, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

FORMER Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, yesterday in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, hailed Nigeria's current democratic dispensation and cautioned the military against truncating the democracy.

Reminiscing on his days in office, Gowon who foreclosed staging a return to power, regretted that he was not "given a chance" to handover to a true democratic government.

Cornered in Burkina Faso by the British Broadcasting Corporation, Gowon said: "The military should not be involved in government in the first place.

"For that reason, I can assure you, now I am more than delighted that I am watching what I ought to have done."

"When I was Head of State, I always said that this is what I wanted to do. But I was not given a chance to do it the way I wanted to do it; to make sure that it is a democracy that would be respected, that would be able to help the country to move forward."

Asked if he regretted contributing to the long period of military rule in Nigeria, as one of the leaders in the early coups, Gowon quickly rejected the tag of "coup leader."

"I refuse to be called a coup leader. That I was involved in a military government, yes.

"I think the gold should be given to those who staged the first coup against the democratic government".

On the possibility of his staging a come back to power, like his "younger brother", the incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gowon said no.

"If I were a politician, I will give you a politician's answer. I am now old, at 66, I should leave younger people to do it, but be there as a father-figure to advise. I think all of us can play a part in other ways other than this inordinate ambition of a political power," Gowon said......

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, March 13, 2000

Afolabi urges peace in Ife, Modakeke

From Seun Adeoye, Osogbo

THE Federal Government yesterday expressed concern over the protracted communal crisis between the people of Ife and Modakeke Osun State, advising the combatants to embrace peace.

Internal Affairs minister, Chief Sunday Afolabi, in a telephone interview said the combatants are members of the same family, adding that as brothers and sisters, they should be able to engage in dialogue "so as to end this bloody clash" which has claimed several lives and valuable property since it reared its head again a fortnight ago.

He wondered what has been the gains of both communities in the killings and destruction of valuable property which trailed the mayhem.

The minister lamented the crisis, including the recent - Kaduna religious riot saying the entire citizenry was expected to support the present democratic dispensation and not to cause confusion.

Peace, according to him, is the panacea to growth and development and without thorough dialogue. We don't need to kill ourselves before our rights could be made known. It's unfortunate that inspite of appeal by President Olusegun Obasanjo, some still believe they should be killing themselves," he said.

The minister urged community leaders in the area to call their people to order, to avoid further bloodbath as "violence cannot yield any fruitful result".

Also, the legislator representing Ife central constituency of Osun State House of Assembly, Mr. Odunayo Olagbaju who described the crisis as unfortunate said "the whole world will not stop for us to catch up from the problem of our self destruction".

He called on all suppliers of arms to both sides and their financiers to desist from such act.

Olagbaju alleged that there was plan to move in men, arms and ammunition through "Orile-Owu-Oyere road and Akinlalu" to the warring communities which will further aggravate the already tense situation.

The latest fighting which is still raging was allegedly sparked by a disagreement over the ownership of a piece of land bordering both communities. Heaving presence of anti-riot policemen was at the weekend noticed in areas like Lagele, Akarabata, Ondo road, Egbedore, Oroto Owode and Oke-Eso.

Students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, however, had a near clash with a faction of the combatants.

A faction of the warring parties that reportedly went to Ede road to set some houses being occupied by the students ablaze were resisted by the students.

The Ogunsua of Modakeke, Francis Adedoyin and Asiwaju of Ife, Chief Orayemi Orafidiya claimed that there was a relative peace in the area now.

Adedoyin said although five persons were killed on Wednesday night at Aba Ogunsua two of them were indigenes of Modakeke, others were from Ede and Okulen.

To Orafidiya, "peace is gradually returning as there is no more gunshot and I am not sure there is burning of houses again. The curfew is also effective"

Although no government official has visited the area, Governor Adebisi Akande said government was doing everything possible to restore peace to the feuding communities.

He expressed confidence that the "two brothers" will eventually settle the grievances "and we are also trying our best to see that normalcy return to the area".

Monday, March 13, 2000

Kaduna Governor urge vigilance against coup

By Oma Djebah, Political Reporter

NIGERIANS must be vigilant to the antics of some powerful forces plotting to pull the nation back to the military era, Kaduna state governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi warned yesterday.

The governor in whose state the recent religious upheaval began, also dissociated himself from the "wild utterances" of some Northern leaders over the crisis, saying: "We are already examining ways to deal with such people whose utterances only cause more confusion and uncertainty".

Speaking with media executives in Lagos last night, he blamed the Sharia controversy on the military which inserted contradictory provisions in the 1999 constitution "as a trap for politicians and the democratic system".

He urged his South Eastern colleagues not to fall victim of the trap, noting their recent call for confederation.

According to him, any attempt to alter the country politically would be an opportunity for ambitions soldiers to stage a comeback in the guise of her enforcing unity.

He said: "We did not make the constitution. The military made the constitution. But we should begin to fear our lessons, so those that handed over power to politicians: government of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, were the ones that blended politicians with religion. It was a trap since we now know that it was a trap, why are are playing into it?".

To him, the Kaduna riots was part of the calculated attempt to distabilize the government of president Olusegun Obasanjo government whom, he added, "is trying to do something good".

He said any negative remark against government would only amount to an "indirect way of inviting opponents of democracy"

On stringent calls Sovereign National Conference (SNC), Makarfi insisted that such calls were unnecessary "since the National Assembly is in place with daily elected representatives from all part of the country" to address any national issue.

He said: "We don't need it now because we elected people into the National Assembly. They are capable of doing the work. Their people (electorate) should tell them what they want" the 1999 constitution is not the best constitution we don't want it but if we want to change it, we have to do it constitutionally".

He added: "Not everybody likes democracy even now that we have democracy, some people do not want it to stay. I believe that this is what is happening because sincere politicians will not mix politics with religion. It was a complete madness. The target was the federal government not even the (Kaduna) state government, they just want to distabilize the federal government.

Insisting that the target was the the federal government, urged the East to shelve their call for a confederation. Saying such move would amount to acting the prepared script of the military.

He said: "If the Eastern government errors tie their calls for it (Confederation) to the Kaduna crisis, they are wrong. The military cannot be ruled out of this. They are merely acting the script of the military.

"We should not play into the hands of the military because they will come back to tell us that they want to save this country".

He exonerated his administration of blame over the riot saying as at the "time the crisis started the legislators (state House of Assembly) were not propsing a bill (on Sharia)".

"It was intigated by enemies of the country to cause chaos in this country. It is basically not religious".

He added: "There were not target killings in Kaduna. Igbos were not targeted. Igbos didn't open their shops that day, people were asked to go and set these houses on fire.

In Kaduna, were houses were burnt, the people were still there. So if the target was to kill the people, then about 99 per cent of the population wont be there. Even some of these killings were by the Army and security agencies, in their attempts to quell the riots religious bodies are meeting to forge harmony"

On Sharia he said: "It is subject to different interpretations, which I don't want to go into. But this is not the time to go into all that now. The situation in Kaduna now is calm and peaceful", warning that there were "still mischief makers go around but we are doing everything to calm the situation".

In Kaduna at a meeting with the Igbo community also yesterday, he said Northern Governors would meet at a later date this week to discuss the development.

He said: "The security of these states is in our hands and we (governors) must take everything boldly, to ensure nothing gets out of hand".

He was responding to protests from Igbo I faders, over last week's press conference, in which former transport minister, Dr. Umaru Dikko, reportedly accused them of meeting in January with former Biafran War Lord, Chief Emeka Ojukwu, in a Hotel in Kaduna, where they concluded modalities for the Kaduna riot.

Eze-Igbo Kaduna Igwe Cyprean Ihejiahi who dismissed the charge, described the former transport minister as a "spent force, who must not be allowed to confuse issues, to seek relevance".

But Makarfi, in his response, distanced himself from the news conference, saying that state governors were already working out ways to stem such utterances from politicians and opinion leaders.

He said: " I did not mandate him to speak on my behalf and in fact, we are already examining ways to deal with such people, whose utterances only cause more confusion and uncertainty".

The governor, who said that it was high time governors took the bull by the horns, to maintain law and order, as the chief security officers of their states, advised leaders "To always weigh their words during social stiff, as careless utterances can create fears in the public".

Makarfi also appealed to Journalists to always exercise caution while reporting crisis, saying that "They must resist the temptation to exaggerate the issues, as such could only worsen an already bad situation".

He urged journalists "To always confirm whatever information they have," saying that "They must also take into cognisance, the security effect of their reports, before going to the press".

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, March 13, 2000

Govt explains preference for political solution

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

THE festering crisis over the contentious issue of Sharia can only be solved through political action as against legal option being canvassed by some people, the Federal Government restated yesterday.

"It stands to reason that a legal solution may carry in its wake chaos, pandemonium and further communal hostilities which are undesirable, whereas a properly packaged and transparently honest and sincere political solution will end up without any victor or vanquished," presidential spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe said.

Plans to introduce the strict Islamic code sparked violence last month between Christians and Moslems in the northern city of Kaduna. The violence spread to other parts of the country, leaving at least 1,000 people dead.

Following the recent adoption of Sharia in the northern states of Zamfara, Niger, Kano and Sokoto, there were calls for the government to seek judicial interpretation of the Islamic code to determine its legality.

But Okupe said at the weekend in Abuja that in settling for a political option, the Federal Government considered a legal option as counter productive and undesirable in view of the prevailing circumstances.

"Some schools of thought have, as is to be expected, proffered several solutions to the crisis, one of which is the legal option, that is, for the Federal Government to go to court to demand an interpretation of the constitution to determine the legality or otherwise of some state governments' intention to institutionalise Islam as a state religion. This, on the surface may seem an easy way out of the debate", he said.

According to him, President Obasanjo considers a political process far higher and more desirable than the legal based on his belief that the Federal Government should maintain its fatherly role to all.

Besides, he said there was no basis whatsoever for legalism to arise over the matter as the last National Council of State meeting which ended on a consensual note, was devoid of any disagreement between the Federal Government and any of the states.

President Obasanjo, according to him, believes that religion is a personal and spiritual matter and that rather than being decisive, religion ought to have "a unifying influence on us as a people by bringing us closer to the Creator, who through his infinite mercy and grace radiates love and benevolence to all mankind irrespective of their station in life, creed or even disposition to the Almighty Himself."

"It is in the spirit of such considerations that President Obasanjo would rate a political solution to the problem much higher than a legal one. The government, like the father it is to all, definitely does not have any anxiety or premonition on the outcome of the court case as it remains essentially neutral on this matter. However, the government believes that the Supreme Court decision, in the final analysis, may be a 'no-win' situation or a 'head or tail you lose' situation, and therefore undesirable", he said.

Okupe also said that on the other hand, the government believes that the need for a legal interpretation of the situation could only arise when and if there was conflict between the Federal Government and any of the states on the matter.

"As of the last Council of State meeting, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest a difference of opinion between that of the Federal Government and any of the states. In fact, what became apparent was a consensus that emerged which formed the basis for the announcement made by the Vice President. And up till today, none of the governors who are the sole chief executives of their states, as recognised by the constitution as the properly elected leaders of their various states, has controverted this nationalistic and peace-inspired position", Dr. Okupe stated.

Besides, he said the government was against the legal option based on its belief that it could trigger chaos, pandemonium and further communal hostilities which he described as undesirable.

Noting that the nation had shed enough blood, he advised all Nigerians, including the media to desist from making provocative pronouncements capable of setting one group against another, arguing that empirical evidence had shown that Nigerians of various religious beliefs had lived and co-habited in stable and peaceful communities for hundreds of years.

The government, he reiterated was unshaken in its belief in the unity and indivisibility of the nation which he said had started to receive global attention recently.

"The enemies of this administration who hide under the cloak of religious piety to try to destabilise it will fail collectively as it is not in the manifest destiny or this country that it should disintegrate. There is a great future for Nigeria in the collective will and aspirations of the people. There are bundless of potential and energy in us to make our nation one of the greatest in the world. We must now put all these sordid events of the past few weeks behind us, reconcile our various communities, and rally quickly around the President and his administration to continue the path which will lead us to progress, prosperity, growth, development and greatness," he said.

But he reminded the administration's detractors that though the government had shown remarkable conciliation, understanding and restraint in the circumstance, its actions should not be read as weaknesses.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, March 13, 2000

Five feared dead in Seme border clash

By Ben Akparanta, Police Affairs Correspondent

ETHNIC tension flared again at the weekend following a dispute over toll collection at a privately owned motor garage at Seme, Nigeria's border town with Benin Republic.

The death toll according to Lagos State police Commissioner Mike Okiro, was five. Other sources, however, said the fracas claimed no fewer than 15 lives.

About 200 shops and 19 commercial vehicles were torched as two rival factions clashed at the park called 'J.5 Garage.' Machetes, bows and arrows were reportedly, freely used while scores of people sustained serious injuries.

In the resultant stampede, the neighbouring Beninoise government shut its border with the country and drafted in legionaires. Also, about 60 anti-riot policemen in six vans were deployed from the Lagos command.

Two truck loads of soft drinks caught up in the violence were lost to the fight with the bottles freely used by the touts, while many shops were looted by miscreants who took advantage of the development.

About 100 persons have been arrested, according to police sources; several others, including the traditional chief have been questioned while the owner of the garage, one Alhaji Mohammed Garuba is believed to be at large.

Trouble reportedly started when a commuter questioned the rationale of paying toll at the ''Alhaji Garuba garage" and charged the collectors to go to their "home states" to collect such tolls.

At the border yesterday, The Guardian saw about 200 shops and homes smouldering in smoke. as the Egun, the majority residents of the area have returned to their homes after seeking refuge in Benin.

Chief David Ndukwe, an Igbo community leader told The Guardian that majority of those who participated in the violence were hoodlums whose main objective was to loot.

A female restaurateur wept inconsolably when she discovered that all her life savings had been stolen. Another, Mrs. Martha Nwankwo of Imo State, a garri trader had her shop burgled and N20,000 stolen.

Mr. Emmanuel Adebayo, a deputy commissioner of police, Lagos Command arrived the scene at about 8 pm on Saturday night.

There were anti-riot policemen extorting money from vehicles passing their numerous stop and search points yesterday.

No fewer than 100 persons have been arrested and were still at the Badagry Police Station yesterday evening.

The streets of the usually busy border was a ghost of its self yesterday.

Broken bottles littered the highway and different ethnic groups gathered in restricted domains.

Passersby were ordered by the police to raise up their hands as security checks continued.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper