Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #12
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

March 25, 2000

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Friday, March 24 , 2000

Obasanjo urged to defend unity

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has been enjoined by the Cherubim and Seraphim Unification Church of Nigeria to be "decisive in his resolve to protect the corporate existence of the country."

The church, at the end of its ecclesiastical council meeting in Lagos, condemned what it considers as the "unprovoked and unwarranted attacks and killings of Christians in Kaduna and other parts of Northern Nigeria."

Although it endorsed government's political solution to the crisis, it warned that court decision on the controversial Sharia legal code may "create the situation of the victor and the vanguished which can threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria."

Urging sponsors of riot to retrace their steps, the church pointed out that "the fall-out of incessant religious violence in the country may be too grim for Nigeria, especially for the prostrate economy."

It reminded religious zealots that all religions are united in their tenets of holiness and abhorence for hatred, corruption, violence, robbery, murder and indeed any action that can cause pain and distress to fellow mankind."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

 

Babangida 'll not rule Nigeria again — Omoruyi

PROFESSOR Omo Omoruyi, director-general of the defunct centre for democratic studies believes that former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, will not come back to power.

Omoruyi said in an interview with "African & Nigerian Abroad’’ published in New York that Babangida could not lead Nigeria through the ballot box because he did not trust politicians.

"He will never, never come into the leadership of that country through the ballot box because he does not believe that Nigerian politicians can be trusted,’’ he stressed.

The Don, who now lives in Hoston, U.S. after surviving an attempt on his life in 1994, noted that Babangida considered Nigerian politicians too cheap and unprincipled.

"He is very contemptuous of politicians. He knew them very well and they are too cheap for him to buy.’’

According to Omoruyi, "the same politicians who sold the presidential election of June 12, 1993 are now working for president Olusegun Obasanjo."

"They (Nigerian politicians) can be bought any day. They have no principle... And unfortunately, they are still there today,’’ he added.

Asked to review the performance of Obasanjo in the past ten months, the political scholar noted that the president had made mistakes because he was not being properly advised.

Obasanjo, he said, thought government was a security matter, surrounding himself with military people.

But the same people, he said, have not performed, as indicated by the spate of violence that have erupted in different parts of the country without the government being able to nip them in the bud.

On the introduction of sharia in some northern states, Omoruyi remarked that politicians were only playing politics with the sharia issue.

He stressed that the action of the northern politicians must have been informed by failure of Obasanjo to live up to some promises he might have made to them while seeking to become president.

What did General Obasanjo promise them when they came to ask him to become president?’’ he asked, adding, "he promised them somethings. General Obasanjo should answer the question."

Accordng to him, the president might have assured them that he would give them free rein while in power.

But on coming to power, he said, the president changed the tone, to the disappointment of his then supporters who were now reacting.

"Now that he is there, everything has been streamlined. No more cheap money again for anybody. The national assembly is not even looking at the budget because he is not allowing them to have all kinds of money they thought they were going to have,’’ he stated.

In his assessment of the National Assembly, omoruyi said that the legislature in Nigeria had been destroyed by many years of military rule.

Vanguard Transmitted Friday 24,   March, 2000 

Friday, March 24 , 2000

Why healthcare delivery declines

by Lambo, others By Ben Ukjeuoma, Health Correspondent

THE march of modern medicine in Nigeria and attendant positive impact on healthcare are being hampered by the country's lingering socio-economic crises, former deputy director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other eminent scientists and medical practitioners warned yesterday.

Besides, they decried the shrinking allocation to the health sector by successive governments, saying the trend leaves no room for revolutionary advances in the life sciences.

Their views came at the opening of the yearly scientific conference and exhibition of the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners held in Ikeja yesterday.

Lambo said: "Our governments in the past, and as far back as I can remember since independence have been spending on health care in decreasing percentage of their incomes".

Rather than dissipating time, energy and resources in internecine conflicts, the Nigerian people and government, Lambo said, should strive to ensure that the country benefited from the new and ongoing revolutionary advances in the life sciences, where medicine has returned "correspondingly more positive results".

The association's president, Dr. Gabriel Ogah, said what was being practised in Nigeria was a far cry from modern medicine.

According to him, "a lot of problems blamed on witches and witchcraft have vanished in the Western world through the use of modern technology".

He went on: "Where we are struggling with water and electricity, our colleagues in Europe and America are performing surgical operation without surgical incision. The situation in this country is worsened by poor budgetary allocation to health".

He added that the government was still "primitively allocating barely 0.45 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product to health leaving with the resultant deterioration of health care services in the country."

Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, represented by Health Commissioner Dr. Leke Pitan, canvassed the association's assistance to eliminate quakery in the medical profession.

"It is not feasible for government alone to eliminate quakery in a state like Lagos with a population of about 12 million without assistance from a body like yours," he stated.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, March 24 , 2000

United States rules out defence pact with Nigeria

From Anietie Ben-Akpan, Calabar

THE United States has ruled out any defence pact with Nigeria but promised to re-open ties soon with the country's navy.

The deputy commander-in-chief of US Naval Forces, Europe, Rear Admiral Michael Hoskins who stated this in Calabar on Wednesday during a visit to the eastern naval command said the subject of defence pact between U.S. and Nigeria was mooted six to eight months ago by the federal government but was turned down.

"I said as at that time as I repeat today, we have no interest in promoting a defence pact (with Nigeria) and it is not on our agenda. We do not see it in the terms of what we are doing in our cooperative relationship with Nigeria," he said.

The naval chief, however said the U.S. Navy and Nigerian Navy "are in the process of re-establishing ties." The importance of this to both countries, he said, informed his visit to the command.

Rear Admiral Haskins said "if we will be able to help in a smallest way to create a leader that you have here as the commanding officer of eastern eastern command then we as a country and as a Navy have done a wonderful job."

He added that the U.S government is very much interested in the success of democracy in Nigeria (and) one of the lessons that could be learnt in this land is that the Navy of a nation has a very important role to play in the success of its democracy.

"That is what we United States Navy is interested in and that is the reason the United States Navy will assist and hopes to continue to improve the ties with Nigerian Navy".

Also, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. William Twaddel, who was on the entourage expressed concern over the spate of violence in some parts of the country, saying: "me and my embassy, my government like others outside Nigeria are very alarmed and concerned at events a month or so ago."

While noting the agitation of some ethnic groups for improved welfare, he said even tough people have legitimate concerns, "those concerns some how translated into acts of violence and incidents of violence."

He appealed to the Federal Government as well as the Kaduna and Abia State governments which witnessed religious inspired violence recently to play appropriate role in assessing the extent of the violence with a view to preventing a recurrence.

He said issues of national importance should always be understood clearly through dialogue among the interested parties.

Calling on the media to ensure fair and balanced reporting of issues to avoid creating tension, he said the onus is on the media "to seek to use words of precision rather than words that can further stir and excite concerns, fears and suspicions (because) it is important that those who are charged in carrying the news do so in accurate and dispassionate and responsible way."

The Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Commodore Francis Agbiti who solicited assistance in terms of training from the U.S. Navy, assured that his command and indeed the Nigerian Navy will "uphold the ideals of democracy (and) we believe in the performance of our professional calling."

This, according to him, would be enhanced through training and retraining in the profession "we have left behind in a period of over two decades and would be able to retrace our track quickly, regain that track and steady on that track till such a time that every rating, every officer in this command is fully aware and imbibe in the tenets of Navy professionalism."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, March 24 , 2000

Govt defends composition of NEPA board

From Martins Oloja (Abuja) and Abiodun Fagbemi, (Ilorin)

THE Federal Government has explained modalities for the selection of members into the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) technical board, stressing that it was not a management outfit.

Information Minister Chief Dapo Sarumi who explained government's position to The Guardian before he travelled to the United States on Wednesday night, said the nine-man technical board would not play a managerial role but would perform specific functions.

The Federal Government had been widely criticised for including full-time chief executives of some strategic organs such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) as members. Critics argued that the NNPC and BPE chief executives might have divided attention.

But the Information Minister told The Guardian in his office that the inclusion of NNPC chief executive, Mr. Jackson Gains-Obaseki, was informed by the fact that to turn NEPA's installations around, NNPC's input would be needed in the area of gas supply. "The officer who can guarantee this is NNPC's Group Managing Director, that is the reason for the choice of NNPC's GMD˛" Sarumi said.

Similarly, the Information Minister said since the Federal Government had slated NEPA for privatisation after a turnaround, it was necessary that the BPE Director General, Malam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, be included to guide the conduct of the board "in case they misfire".

Sarumi told The Guardian that the same reason accounts for the choice of the technical board's chairman, Mr. Liyel Imoke, who is Special Adviser Utilities to the President. He is the president's pointsman as the board's assignment itself is a special project of the President.

In the same vein, the Permanent Secretary of Power and Steel Ministry, Dr. E.A. Ekerendu, was chosen to provide the supervising ministry's bureaucratic support to the board in his capacity as chief accounting officer.

Sarumi pointed out that all the members were carefully chosen to represent special interests in the efforts to turn NEPA around.

But almost two weeks after its sack, the old National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) management is yet to handover to the technical board.

Although no reason has been given for the delay, the new team has forged ahead with the preliminaries of its assignment by meeting with NEPA's general manages in Abuja.

The meeting, held on Wednesday, was attended by the board's chairman, Gaius-Obaseki, Ekerendu, Alhaji Muktari Bello, Dr. Aako Ugbabe and Alhaji Ahmed Zanna. Two other members, Malam Nasir El-Rufat and Mr. F.A. Shomolu, were, however, absent.

Meanwhile, NEPA's spokesman, Malam Muhammed Mousa-Booth, has appealed to the press to give the new board time to get acquainted with NEPA's workings before speaking with them.

Mousa-Booth said that currently the board was carrying out "consultative meetings with all NEPA general managers nationwide so that they can map out strategies and means toward improving the performance of the authority.

"It is an enormous task; so they are taking their time to study and understand NEPA properly so that they can pursue vigorously the agenda set by President Olusegun Obasanjo to achieve regular and dependable power supply by the year 2001," he added.

He, however, said that the chairman would "definitely" speak with journalists after some weeks on the board's line of action".

The board, according to him has held series of meetings with senior NEPA officials since Monday and described the atmosphere at the meetings as "fruitful and cordial".

However, chairman Consumers Consultative Council, Mr. Shola Olisa has urged President Olusegun Obasanjo to extend the recent sanitisation exercise in the electricity sector to district level to ensure prompt improvement in electricity generation.

According to Olisa during the first quarterly meeting of NEPA, Ilorin district Consumers Consultative Council, in Ilorin, saboteurs still abound in NEPA especially at the districts.

He said: "While to recent purge in NEPA at the top level has led to tremendous improvement in its output of the electricity board, I will say that unless the exercise is extended to the districts, it will be shortlived."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, March 24 , 2000

Domestic airlines to undergo recertification

By Tunji Oketunbi, Aviation Reporter

ALL domestic airlines are to undergo a recertification exercise aimed at sanitising the airline industry which recently witnessed a spate of accidents.

Already, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has grounded the operations of Skypower Express Airways whose aircraft, an EMB 110 Banderante, crash-landed last Friday in Kaduna.

NCAA director-general, Alhaji Zakari Haruna said the airline's operations remained suspended until it has passed the recertification process.

The crash, the second in the year, according to Haruna, informed the exercise which will ensure that all operators comply with the rules governing the operations of their licences.

According to Haruna, the exercise was necessary to assure the regulatory body that the operators were conducting their business according to international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Said he: "By international convention, everybody who obtains a licence to operate an airline or a commercial airline should be certified."

The Airline Operators Certificate (AOC), he said, is different from a licence which only permits one to go into airline business.

The AOC is a confirmation that the airline has the technical infrastructure and capability including a management organisation set up that has management accounting officers who are qualified to carry out the airline operations.

The exercise would ascertain and ensure that operators have maintenance capability or have an arrangement with a certified maintenance organisation for the maintenance of their aircraft.

The AOC, said Haruna, was usually made available to all airline operators and contains all requirements for all airline operations, the compliance with which the recertification programme of NCAA will investigate.

"We must be thorough as we should be according to ICAO guidelines. Now, we are doing this to satisfy ourselves that all who got the AOC before are truly complying. The new entrants will pass it before they get the AOC," he said.

The director-general also referred to the recent reports that the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said it would not allow any Nigerian registered airline to the U.S. despite the lift of the ban on direct flight between both countries as one of the rationale for the exercise.

According to him, "what they are saying is that basically they want to see how the NCAA is enforcing safety oversight. The programme is there, but we are trying to improve. We want to admit that there is room for improvement as per guidance materials containing the ICAO annexes."

Haruna, however, assured that by the end of the exercise "you shall see better performance by airlines and the aviation industry that we can be more comfortable and proud of."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

March 23, 2000

Truce in Ife/Modakeke community as Obasanjo visits

By Demola Akinyemi, Osogbo:

COMBATANTS in the war-torn Ife and Modakeke communities seemed to have decided to embrace a truce 48 hours to the visit of President Obasanjo which is expected to cost the state government N30 million.

Vanguard investigations revealed that contingents of plain clothes security officers deployed to the area, Monday night have been keeping vigil in the Egbedore, Isare-Agbara, Omifunfun and other traditional flash points.

As at Tuesday afternoon, there was a semblance of normalcy as people went about their normal business.

Commercial activities in Lagere and Idiomo up to Mayfair areas have started picking up as few shops were seen transacting business.

People were seen discussing in hush tones the expected visit of President Olusegun Obasanjo to the state, while efforts to get Ogunsua of Modakeke, Chief Francis Adedoyin, and spokesman for Ife community, Chief Oreyemi Orafidiya were abortive.

The President is expected to meet the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade in his palace, and thereafter visit the leaders of Modakeke at the residence of Ogunsua of Modakeke, Chief Francis Adedoyin. Meanwhile, the N30 million earmarked by Osun State government for President Olusegun Obasanjo’s visit, according to Vanguard investigations was meant to beef up the security and ensure that the visit is "successful, eventual and hitch-free," said a top government official.

Vanguard Transmitted Thursday 23,  March, 2000 


03/23/2000
Chairman Defends Poverty Alleviation Programme
by Clement Shima, Makurdi

THE controversy generated by the alleged hijacking of the President Olusegun Obasanjo poverty alleviation programme in Benue State is not yet over going by recent pronouncement by the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Michael Idoma.
Idoma stunned early morning listeners of the state radio, Tuesday morning when he announced that the party had submitted 5000 PDP membership names to the state chairman of the programme and controller of the federal ministry of works in the state.
The announcement did not go down well with a section of the populace who accused the party again of working towards the establishment of a one party state in Benue, a situation many described as not only regrettable but capable of undermining the current rating of the state governor, Mr George Akume.
Iduma while announcing the submission of the names, defended the position of the PDP on the poverty alleviation programme as he categorically stated that it was a PDP programme enshrined in the PDP constitution.
According to him, the Poverty Alleviation programme (PAP) was a PDP programme and nothing short of that "If you read through the constitution, you will see that those who fashioned the PDP constitution, enshrined the PAP there and with the election of president Olusegun Obasanjo under the great party PDP, it believes on him to implement it as a state policy and as part of the PDP programme, that is all," he stated.
The poverty alleviation programme brought intense debate on the floor of the Benue State House of Assembly last month where the rival APP members of the house accused the PDP in the state of hijacking the programme to enhance its membership drive as well as endear itself to the populace.
Nigerian Post Express

Thursday, March 23 , 2000

Kaduna group proffers solution to future crises

From Saxone Akhaine, Kaduna

"FOR the Kaduna State Police Commissioner to have regarded a peaceful demonstration by members of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as illegal was clearly partisan, more so as similar rallies and protest marches by pro-Sharia groups had been held prior to CAN's."

With this position a group which answers "True Concerned Indigenes of Kaduna State," urged the Federal Government to review the policy of posting police officers to their states of origin as a way of putting a permanent stop to religious and ethnic crises in the country.

The group at a press conference at the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Secretariat yesterday in Kaduna also urged the dissolution of Kaduna State House of Assembly which, it alleged, had fuelled the recent religious crisis in the state, as a way of preventing a repeat in future.

According to the group, if the Kaduna police chief were an indigene, he would not have allowed the bloodshed in the state. "He did not even deem it necessary to offer protection to the family of Governor Makarfi who was outside the country."

According to the group's president, Mrs. Asma'u Hadassah Usman, "the police commissioner, on that fateful Monday, was heard on BBC Hausa service that there was slight trouble in Kaduna State, even when he knew that the Kaduna metropolis was burning."

She said the coup's statement was quickly refuted by a BBC reporter, Umar Faruk, who told the story as it is 'that Kaduna was on fire.'

She pointed out that though the Deputy Governor, Stephen Shakari, was the state Chief Security Officer, "he still had to get security situation report from the Police Commissioner who failed to release his men to stop the crises."

She said: "The deputy governor had to get in touch with the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Ground Training Group who immediately drafted Air Police to quell the crisis, seeing that there was no help coming from the Nigerian Police."

Mrs. Usman argued that the deputy governor "was not alone in this," adding: "Even the Speaker of the State House of Assembly was nowhere to be found. But we were happy when on Tuesday, February 22, the Nigerian Army stepped in and took control, because of the S.O.S. sent by the acting governor to the Presidency."

She went on: "Because of this dereliction to duty, we call on the Nigerian Police Council to dismiss Police Commissioner Hamisu Isah, arrest and try him for the role he played in the Kaduna crises."

With Mrs. Usman, were Mallam BG Jatau, Yakubu Chori, Danladi Yakubu, Reverend Yakubu Anto, Mr. David Mataimki, Ezekiel Sani and Mrs. Angelina Gana, who supresented different areas of the state.

The Kaduna indigenes alleged that Alhaji Isah abandoned his responsibility to provide security to the then Acting Governor, Mr. Shakier and Governor' Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi's family while the protesters invaded the government house, before the crisis erupted.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, March 23 , 2000

Half of Nigerian hospital tools can't function, says WHO

By Ben Ukwuoma, Health Correspondent

ABOUT 50 per cent of medical equipment in state and teaching hospitals in Nigeria are dysfunctional, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank report.

The report which has been sent to the Federal Ministry of Health blamed the sorry state of health equipment on lack of purchasing policy, leading to purchase of inappropriate health equipment, lack of maintenance culture and well-trained technical personnel which reduces the equipment's life span.

According to the report, "Nigeria has to adopt policies and strategies specifically related to healthcare equipment. Consequently, the hospitals and health institutions in Nigeria are full of different types of dysfunctional medical devices and plants imported from different parts of the world.

"Most of these medical devices were not ordered according to needs while some of them are sophisticated devices which are very sensitive to harsh tropical climate, dust, unreliable electricity and water supply."

It added: "These sophisticated equipment only serve a small proportion of the population in the cities. Moreover, purchase of most of these devices were made without consultation with professional users."

The report disclosed that a lot of aid in terms of health equipment and apparatus from donor countries and agencies were accepted without scrutiny with regard to standard, brand names and recurrent cost implications.

Another problem identified by committee is the over-dependence of the nation on imported medical devices.

The current data on medical devices gathered by The Guardian indicated that 72.2 per cent of the medical devices in Nigeria originate from Western Europe, 7.3 per cent from Eastern Europe, 6.9 per cent from Japan and 13.6 per cent from United States of America.

The report prescribed an explicit policy that will provide guidelines on selection and procurement of medical devices, encourage standardization of health equipment and promote indigenous manufacturing and servicing capabilities.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, March 23 , 2000

Govt urged to establish reconciliation committee

THE Federal Government has been urged to set up a reconciliation body to ensure that Nigerians from different ethnic groups discuss and resolve their differences.

The advice in a sermon came from Senior Pastor T. B. Joshua, General Overseer, The Synagogue, Church of All Nations, Lagos who said it was important for Nigerians to reach an agreement on the way forward for the country in order to end the present crisis.

He said that a greater Nigeria would emerge after the the crisis but the situation must be handled with God's wisdom to enable the country sail through it.

He also advised President Olusegun Obasanjo to "be focused on the mission given him by God without giving in to unnecessary influence."

His words: "Obasanjo is God-chosen to lead Nigeria now and if he carries out the assignment given to him by God without fear or favour, he will get to the promised land. God chose Moses with a commission. Therefore, if Obasanjo carries his assignment well, he will get to the promised land."

He, however, stated that if anyone is determined to do good, he should also expect attacks.

There are still more hurdles to overcome, according to him, imploring all Nigerians to intensify prayers for the country, especially next month and May.

He also urged the people to express true love for the country instead of for material things.

He linked the problems facing Nigeria today to the condition of the average homes of most Nigerians. The "crisis facing Nigeria as well as the world today started from the home units," he remarked.

He called for a new beginning among Nigerians who should reconcile with one another in their homes as well the nation. "A husband who is not honest in dealing with his wife and family at home cannot be honest at his place of work," he remarked.

He added that although the road to a greater Nigeria was rough, "God will see the country through the crisis if the people retrace their steps by repenting."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, March 23 , 2000

Pipeline fire claims 50 lives

ABOUT 50 people, including women and children were yesterday killed in a raging inferno at the site of an allegedly vandalised Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline, reminiscent of the 1998 Jesse Delta State fire incident.

A report said yesterday that the fire broke out following the vandalisation of some NNPC pipelines at Nnejiji and Umugbede, both in Isioma Ngwa Local Council Area of Abia State.

The fire which was said to have started at about 3.30 a.m. was still raging as at press time. Charred bodies of the victims burnt beyond recognition, including varying sizes of jerry cans, bicycles and motorcycles were still lying at the scene.

Efforts of the combined team of fire fighters from Umuahia, Abia State capital and Aba to put out the fire proved abortive.

The deputy zonal commander of the Aba fire station, Mr Augustine Amgbala regretted that they had already exhausted their fire fighting materials without extinguishing the fire.

He said his men had been sent to NNPC depot at Osisi Oma to collect additional materials.

Meanwhile, the state police commissioner, commenting on incessant pipeline vandalisation, said 28 suspected vandals had been arraigned in court while 17 others were still being interrogated.

Items recovered from the suspects include three oil tanker vehicles, five mini buses and three cars.

Others are pumping machines, two motorcycles, bicycles and heavy jerry cans filled with fuel.

The police commissioner blamed the intermittent fuel scarcity in the south eastern states on the "persistent vandalisation of NNPC oil pipelines in the zone."

He appealed to traditional rulers and community leaders to co-operate with law enforcement agents by enlightening the people on the dangers inherent in such acts.

Similar incidents had occurred in the past. In 1998, about 1,000 people were burnt to death in Jesse, a village in Delta State.

The incident which was blamed on alleged vandalisation of pipeline and neglect of the system by officials of the Petroleum Industry, left many children, women and teenagers dead.

Notable Nigerians had then called on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to avoid future reoccurrence.

Late last year, another pipeline got burst in Ekakpamre, a village in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, which left no fewer than 12 people dead. The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), owners of the pipleline, had in its response blamed it on sabotage.

But the communities, represented by the Urhobo National Assembly (UNA) led by Senator David Dafinone, called for a N100 billion compensation to the host communities "for the destruction of the entire ecosystem and destruction of vital natural resources handed down from many generations."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Maritime chiefs meet Obasanjo on reforms

By David Ogah, Maritime Correspondent

AS the committee on ports reforms winds up its activities, President Olusegun Obasanjo has summoned heads of maritime agencies under the Transport Ministry to a discussion on the workability of the panel's proposals.

The proposed reforms are to ensure a 48-hour turn around time for vessels at the sea ports in line with the requirement of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

It would usher in new clearing order by the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigeria Customs Service which are expected to streamline their process of cleaning and delivery of goods at the ports.

Among those summoned by the President are Dr. Mbanefo George Eneh, director-general of the National Maritime Authority (NMA); NPA Managing Director, Malam Bello Gwandu; and Managing Director of Nigeria Shippers' Council (NSC), Mr. A.B. Sarumi.

As part of the preparation for the expected reforms, the Federal Government has released ú4 million (about N7 billion) to procure cargo handling equipment to facilitate the evacuation of goods, especially containers.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

I'm ready to inject myself with AIDS virus —ABALAKA

By Sam Eferaro, Health Editor:

Dr. JEREMIAH Abalaka, the Nigerian surgeon who claims to have developed a preventive and curative vaccine against HIV, the virus which causes AIDS says he is ready to publicly inject himself with the dreaded virus to prove the efficacy of his vaccine.

In an exclusive interview with Vanguard at his Medicrest Specialist Hospital, Gwagwalada, Dr. Abalaka said he had used his vaccine to immunise himself against HIV infection and was therefore sure of full protection against the virus.

"I’ve thrown a challenge to the NMA (Nigerian Medical Association) and the Ministry of Health. I’ve taken it (the vaccine) and I’m protected. Just arrange a public forum. You journalists can arrange it. Identify a person with HIV, I’ll take his blood and give it to myself. If I don’t get HIV, it means there’s a preventive vaccine against HIV. It’s easy."

Dr. Abalaka said the challenge had become necessary because the ministry seemed to have ignored his claim on the preventive vaccine and had shown more interest in the curative vaccine which he described as a mere "back bencher".He disclosed that officials from the ministry had written and visited his hospital many times but had not shown any interest on the preventive vaccine.

"That’s the more important vaccine I have because we want to stop the spread of HIV. The thing is spreading like wild fire. Thousands are getting infected everyday," he said, adding that the new vaccine was capable of protecting an individual for years "if not for life."

According to him, just as the curative vaccine could eliminate the HIV virus from the human blood, the preventive vaccine offers total protection such that anyone who receives it would not be infected even if he has contact with the virus.

Like most vaccines which are prepared from the organisms they are being made to prevent, the HIV preventive vaccine, according to Dr. Abalaka was developed from HIV-infected human blood. According to him he vaccinated himself in February last year after developing it and had been exposed to the virus since then.

Vanguard Transmitted TUESDAY, 21 March, 2000 

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Nigeria, others seek debt cancellation

AS debtor countries groan under the burden of foreign debts, the ministers of education of the world's nine most highly-populated countries (F-9) have appealed to the international community to facilitate reduction or outright cancellation of their debts to enable them develop the education sector.

The group recently met in Recliff, Brazil, to assess their progress in improving education since its inception in 1991 under the aegies of UNESCO. It appealed to donor agencies to support each member state's national plan to develop basic education.

Agencies, the F-9 said, should redefine their roles and strategies to conform with national plans and priorities. They should also evolve a more co-ordinated scheme for providing international assistance for quality education.

The group in a declaration acknowledged the support and assistance offered at the national level by UNDP, UNESCO, UNEPA, UNICEF, the World Bank and bilateral donors in pursuing the goals of education for all (EFA).

They, however, urged the organisations to provide technical assistance to improve educational statistics and information systems and strengthen evaluation for quality education.

The ministers urged the international community "to promote advocacy and awareness on the benefits of literacy in alleviating poverty, promoting help and mitigating social tensions in order to attain sustainable development".

The group, which met under the auspices of UNESCO, commended the member states for their efforts at educational development since the Thailand Conference in March 1990 and EFA summit of heads of states of the F-9 countries held in New Delhi, in December 1993.

They suggested that further achievements could be made if resources were adequately mobilised in pursuit of the ideas of EFA.

Earlier, the host minister, Mr. Paulo Souza, had praised the efforts of UNESCO in re-uniting the positions of the F-9 countries and making them adopt policies that would foster changes in the educational sector.

"We have to look ahead at the future and see how we can carry on the progress we have made and speed up even the process of educational improvement in our countries," Souza said.

On the imperatives of such improvements, the minister said: "We should have in mind the enormous transformations the world has gone through especially in the acceleration of technological evolution. The world is more globalised today and the action taken by a country necessarily influences the whole world's population.

"We have to look ahead and search, before this new national situation, for the peculiarities that should help us to improve the educational process in each of the F-9 countries".

The F-9 countries, which account for more than 50 per cent of the world's population, are Nigeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Pakistan.

Seven ministers of education were present at the meeting, while the other two sent representatives.

In the declaration issued at the end of the meeting, the F-9 reaffirmed their pledge to "sustain, intensify and accelerate their efforts and policies" in pursuing education for all.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Obasanjo faults EU aid, seeks investments

From Emeka Nwankpa Arthur Obayuwana and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)

THE pattern of European Union's (EU's) development assistance to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries yesterday received knocks of President Olusegun Obasanjo who described it as lopsided.

According to him, an evaluation of the implementation of the Lome I-IV agreements of the ACP-EU partnership shows a bias for development assistance as against trade investment and private sector development.

The president's remarks came at the opening of the ACP-EU joint assembly in Abuja.

He pointed out that development assistance was indeed tied to EU countries with the result that 70 per cent of it was recycled to Europe.

This, he said, breeds the growing disenchantment on the part of donors and recipients of aid on its effectiveness in achieving the objectives of socio-economic transformation of the latter.

The president said there was now a general feeling of "aid fatigue" on the part of donors as a consequence of their inability to arrest the disillusionment of recipients following the apparent failure to achieve rapid growth and development in spite of decades of cooperation with their development partners.

Obasanjo noted that the strings attached to development assistance as well as the relentless movement of the terms of trade against primary producers over the decades, have constituted significant constraints to balance of trade.

He charged participants to give attention to the need for equitable market access for value-added processed and manufactured goods from ACP countries to the EU.

On corruption and good governance, the president said: "It is my sincere belief that the Lome Convention will have little or no impact on ACP countries in the absence of good governance. If the successor agreement is to have the desired impact, member countries of ACP and EU would necessarily demonstrate good governance in their management of public affairs˛ They must strengthen their contributions for combating corruption."

Stressing that corruption distorts the outcome of internally accepted competitive arrangements and practices, the president added: "I believe that the transparent and accountable management of scarce resources and the fight against fraud and corruption are among the most essential conditions for development. In my own country, Nigeria, these subjects are high on the political agenda.

"If the twentieth century was the era of colonialism following the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, let the first decades of the 21st century be one of genuine partnership for African, Caribbean and Pacific renaissance and the full restoration of human dignity universally."

In his remarks, the EU co-president, Mr. John Corrie, disclosed that a new development platform embodying the progressive opening up of markets was being worked out for ACP countries as a viable strategy for sustainable growth.

Implementation of new trading arrangements will be spread over a 12-year period beginning from 2008 AD while existing trade preferences will be rolled over for eight years.

Besides, new trading arrangements compatible with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are to be negotiated, and they could take the form of regional economic partnerships.

Corrie regretted that the assembly has not been accorded specific responsibilities in the sphere of good governance which is essential for the socio-economic programme of ACP countries.

Pledging the EU's support for President Obasanjo's anti-corruption drive, he said: "Corruption is frequently the result of a political culture that condones or at worst encourages corruption. Political elements, political cultures are the domain of the joint parliamentary assembly. To separate democratisation from good governance would be unrealistic. We must define our working methods and shape the new assembly in such a way that it can effectively address its new responsibilities".

He also noted that the new partnership agreement, shortly to replace the Lome IV convention, was necessitated by changing times portending that "new instruments" for development needed to be devised.

While consoling the government and people of Mozambique and Madgascar for their unprecedented losses to ravaging flood, he also announced the floating of a mutual Aids Fund (MA) by the ACP group to help the distressed countries.

He maintained that one good way the international community can express solidarity is through the cancellation of debts owed by Mozambique and Madagascar.

Obasanjo's Chief Economic Adviser Philip Asiodu, who is also the national authorising officer of EU grant to Nigeria, painted a deplorable picture of Nigeria's human and development indices.

He lamented that African countries' participation in ACP-EU trade mark which was 60 per cent in the '60s has today declined to a mere two per cent.

House of Representatives Speaker Alhaji Ghali Umar Na'aba said Nigeria would exploit the on-going ACP-EU Assembly to ensure the repatriation of the country's wealth stashed in foreign accounts.

Besides, the problems of HIV/AIDS, children soldiers and endless conflicts raging Africa will be the major issues to be put forward by the country during the session.

The 30th session is the first meeting after the conclusion of the rounds of negotiations of the successor agreement to the Lome IV convention.

The successor agreement as jointly negotiated has now been accepted. It is slated to be signed in Fiji in the Caribbean in June.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Four die in fresh Kaduna violence

From Saxone Akhaine and Agaju Madugba (Kaduna)

TENSION heightened again in Kaduna State yesterday as residents of Rigasa, a suburb of the capital, protested alleged extortion by armed personnel, leading to the death of about four persons.

The resurgence of violence came just as the state government constituted a panel to probe the recent crisis over Sharia.

Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, yet again, attributed the crisis to antics of fifth columnists plotting to derail Nigeria's civil rule. He ordered a review of the subsisting curfew on the state, following the recent religious uprising to between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m, from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Makarfi, who told community leaders of the area that he could identify the anti-democracy forces, declined naming them in the presence of journalists.

The protest started as a rejection of the alleged extortion but later assumed religious dimensions when some placard-carrying youths demanded the imposition of sharia rule. The placards read: "Sharia mu ke so," meaning we want sharia and "sharia dole," meaning sharia and nothing else.

Residents said the soldiers made some arrests which further raised tempers, while the deployment of anti-riot policemen aggravated the crisis as shooting into the air. In the ensuing melee, no fewer than four people were killed, The Guardian learnt.

Some of the protesters said the securitymen had resorted to blackmail in their extorting bids. One of them told The Guardian: "they visit our houses asking us to pay between N2,000 and N5,000 to avoid being arrested.

"They say anybody who is arrested will be implicated in the recent riots and prosecuted. Some people have been paying and those who cannot pay are arrested."

Chief Press Secretary to the governor Lukeman Musa said indicted soldiers were now being investigated.

A statement by him yesterday read: "The soldiers who carried out illegal arrest of civilians in Rigasa in the wake of recent disturbances have now been apprehended by the military authorities in Kaduna.

"Meanwhile, the police authorities in Kaduna are investigating the shooting incident in Rigasa which led to some deaths.

"Those found to have carried out the act would be subjected to police disciplinary action.

"Good citizens of Kaduna State including uniformed personnel are requested to help in keeping the peace and avoid any acts capable of destabilising the current normalcy in the state."

According to the residents, "when the anti-riot policemen came, after some arrests were made by the soldiers, the armed police shot into the air to disperse some gangs who were trying to foment trouble. In the process four people died."

On getting security reports of the violence, the governor went to the trouble spot, but his convoy was pelted with stones by the irate protesters.

Makarfi, who later calmed frayed nerves and addressed the community leaders, summoned an emergency meeting with all traditional rulers and local government chairmen on how to ensure a lasting peace in the state.

He also made a radio broadcast in which he announced extension of the curfew.

The governor acknowledged that "some illegal arrests have been going on there by the militarymen."

He added: "Such incidents happened twice and the people did not do anything. Today again, some militarymen went and arrested some people and the people rose up and resisted.

"Before you know what was happening, the whole town had gathered and the militarymen had to take cover in the house of the village head.

Emphasising that the arrests by the militarymen were illegal, he said: "We quickly called the General Officer Commanding (GOC) First Mechanised, Nigerian Army and the Commander of the Operation, showed that none of them is aware of any order to arrest anybody. So we can say it is illegal activities by some militarymen ... may be at the instance of somebody."

Addressing the rulers, council chairmen and Minister of State for Works, Isaiah Balat, Makarfi noted that even he was not spared by the rioters.

He said: "The situation was getting out of control, even my official car was smashed but at last, nobody harmed anybody and it would have been unfortunate if that had happened."

Residents of the state capital were thrown into confusion as reports of the violence filtered in. The bodies of the victims were brought to the Government House (Sir Kashim Ibrahim House) by the aggrieved persons for the governor to authenticate.

Makarfi stated further: "As I was coming out, the people came to the Government House with the corpse and we had to order the military to escort them back to Rigasa, because before you know it you (will) start seeing corpses in different pictures."

He attributed the crisis to "the wicked plans of some people who are being used either in the name of religion or pursuing the self-determination of their people."

According to the governor, "some of these people are here, we have it on tape, I will leave it behind, if you want to hear you will hear". He further urged the people to be wise to the antics of such persons.

He said: "Most of you here who feel you are pursuing your societal or community efforts, those who are acting to be ... we have it on tape, they are using you, they don't even hold you in any regard and what is being planned, is tantamount to rebellion."

"We are handing the issue to the federal authorities to interprete it, for whatever purpose and definitely we expect them to do something about it."

The governor spoke further: "Except we are able to weed out this kind of people, Nigeria will never be at peace," adding: "The essence is to cause a state of war because they feel they will be safe."

Attributing the religious crisis to spent forces who were only out to seek relevance after losing out politically in the country, Makarfi said: "The truth of the matter is that people who have lost out politically or who feel that they should have something, which God has not given them, have now come to use religion, to use ethnic sentiments, to use communal sentiment, to use people and so many of you have been mentioned.

"How you are going to be used or what irrelevance you have and how you are treated depends on them. That is the truth of the issue."

According to him, masterminds of the crisis were at yesterday's parley, saying: "I am happy that the principal actors to the discussion are also sitting here. When the gentlemen of the Press go I will point them out and if they dispute, you will hear."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Govt may deploy troops to Ife, Modakeke From Seun Adeoye, Osogbo

THE fueding Ife and Modakeke communities in Osun State may soon have a bite of military action as they have continued to unleash mayhem despite pledges at the weekend to sheathe the sword. The Guardian learnt that the action is imperative as President Olusegun Obasanjo is billed to visit the feuding communities on Thursday. No fewer than 10 people were feared dead as the combatants reportedly defied the ceasefire pact signed with Governor Adebisi Akande on Friday. A competent government source told The Guardian that troops deployment "has been considered the best option for now", noting the "incapacity" of police to arrest the crisis and "refusal" of leaders of the communities to "check their youths who commit these atrocities". According to the source, reports have shown that both communities were using sophisticated weapons and seemed to be pursuing an objective to annihilate each other. "For almost three weeks now, these senseless killings continue. The government won't fold its arm again," the source pledged. The planned troops deployment, he argued, "is government's way of ensuring that calm prevails during the visit of President Obasanjo to the state. Peace has to reign in that place before the president could tour the area". He added: "Soldiers would be expected to comb that area before the president can make an assessment tour of the area and this I think has to be done tomorrow (today) and Wednesday. President Obasanjo will spend two days in the state according to the official itinerary. He will first visit Ile-Ife and confer with the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade and his chiefs at his palace in Enuwa after which he will tour the crisis zone. Thereafter, he is to visit Ilesa and be received by the Owa Obokun of Ijesaland, Oba Adekunle Aromolaran. The visit is also expected to take the president to two moribund government firms in Osogbo, the state capital - the Nigeria Machine Tools (NMT) and Osogbo Steel Rolling Mill (OSRM). The Modakeke traditional ruler Chief Francis Adedoyin said sporadic shooting still continued in border lines of Akarabata, Ilaye, Oke-Eso and Oke-Yidi although no casualty was recorded yesterday. Reports from villages also showed that situation remain calm but majority of farmers have fled to neighbouring Ijesa farmlands. Adedoyin accused the police of bias saying both the police commissioner and area commander visited his palace only once since the crisis erupted. Bodies of victims in villages could not be retrieved for burial, because the police had refused "to give us adequate protection", he added. Efforts to get in touch with the spokesman of Ife community, Chief Orayemi Orafidiya proved abortive but an indigene told The Guardian that there was a "general peace". "Well there is a general peace but we are all waiting for the arrival of President Obasanjo. May be his coming will bring peace to us", he added.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper