Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #15
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

April 15, 2000

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Friday, April 14 , 2000

Deeper Life church prays over Ife-Modakeke feud

THE 35,000 members of the Osun State chapter of the Deeper Life Bible Church will from next week begin "a chain" prayer session for a peaceful resolution of the bitter Ife-Modakeke crisis.

The State Overseer of the church, Pastor Biola Adeniran, told journalists in Osogbo that except God intervened in the crisis, all efforts to resolve it would be fruitless.

Adeniran, who disclosed that the prayer session would run concurrently with the church's Easter retreat which begins on April 20, said all members of the church have been "fully mobilised towards the successful conduct of the programme."

The State overseer, who was surrounded by other regional pastors of the church, stated that the venues of the programme will be Osogbo, Ilesa, Ile-Ife, Ede, Ikire, Iwo, Ejigbo and Ila-Orangun.

He regretted that very many lives and property had been destroyed, saying: "This cannot be tackled by our human wisdom and that's why we believe in the power of prayer.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, April 14 , 2000

Substantiate claim against Obasanjo, George tells Reps

By Chukwudi Abiandu, Political Correspondent

THE National Vice-Chairman (West) of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), Olabode George, yesterday challenged the House of Representatives to substantiate its allegations that the cost of the aircraft requested by President Olusegun Obasanjo for official use had been inflated by N3 billion.

He was fielding questions from journalists yesterday in Lagos shortly after the party's national peace mission to South West, led by Deputy National Chairman Abubakar Iro Dan-Musa.

The House of Representatives in a statement by the Special Assistant to the Deputy Speaker on Media Relations, Mr. Yinka Oduwole, said."

"While reviewing the President's request, however, the National Assembly was privy to privileged information that the cost of the refurbished aircraft may have been inflated by N3 billion ($30 million) by persons anxious to ensure its purchase."

But answering reporters' questions yesterday, George said it was not enough for the House to make just an allegation but that they should substantiate it by telling Nigerians those behind the alleged inflated cost.

"Those making the allegations must come out and tell Nigerians who inflated the cost. Nigerians must know. Let those making the allegations come out with details of the inflated figures," George insisted.

Yesterday's meeting with the PDP national peace committee for the South West also gave grassroots party members the opportunity to call the attention of the party's leadership to their displeasure with the attitude of members of the National Assembly to requests made by the executive.

One speaker, whose name was not immediately known, asked Dan-Musa and his team: "Are PDP members of the National Assembly with us in the PDP?"

He urged the peace committee to let the PDP legislators know that they have to be obedient to the rules and regulations of the party.

Another speaker, who introduced himself as Alhaji S. A. Sanni from Mushin, Lagos, said: "Is it not PDP that rules the Senate and the House of Representatives?

"Why is it that members of PDP in the National Assembly are making things difficult for the President?.

"Why is it that under a PDP government, people are being slaughtered like rams?"

He pointed out that peace could never be achieved unless people allowed for dialogue.

Sanni, who looked visibly worked up and aggrieved, shouted: "Members of the National Assembly are a disgrace to PDP. "Tell these people, one day we will march from Mushin in Lagos and bombard them at the National Assembly."

A unanimous ovation from the PDP members greeted his remarks.

Earlier, Dan-Musa, with whom were Alhaji Mohammed Ibrahim Hassan, George Aisha Abdul Quadri, Chief Adesoro, S. B. Awodiji Joseph, Alhaji Mohammed Muritala Asorobi, told the audience the object of their mission:

"We are here on a peace mission from the PDP. It is to convey PDP's message of appreciation of support for the party so far to you," he said.

He said the problems of this country emanated from long period of military rule, such that people have lost consciousness of democratic values and process. "Some of these problems came from lack of interaction among Nigerians.

"We in Nigeria feel that Nigerians have given PDP mandate to govern, and that Nigerians do understand the problems because of lack of interaction and distortion of facts."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, April 14 , 2000

Olusola launches scheme to aid AIT

By Sola Balogun, Staff Correspondent

NEWLY-FORMED African Independent Television (AIT)/RayPower Dream Alive Project has called on concerned Nigerians to contribute N50 each to rescue embattled Daar Communications Limited over its indebtedness to a consortium of banks. The project hoped to raise a minimum of N1 billion for the organisation.

Chairman of the board of trustees of the scheme, Chief Segun Olusola, a veteran broadcaster, who launched the initiative in Lagos yesterday, urged all patriots, lovers of democratic values and free speech aid the broadcasting outfit.

Olusola said the March 2 closure of Daar Communications did not only sent panic waves among TV viewers in Nigeria and abroad, but that "it soon became clear that the closure followed a legal action by a consortium of banks who had loaned money to the operators of AIT/RayPower."

The veteran broadcaster said the face-off between the organisation and the banks "Is purely a business transaction that should be managed in a manner that should not lead to a dislocation of the social service objectives of RayPower stations and the African Independent Television (AIT)."

On the strategy of collecting N50 per head, Ralph Nwadike and Tunji Bamisigbin, members of the project explained all branches of six banks nationwide - Guarantee Trust Bank; FSB International Bank; Oceanic Bank; Co-operative Bank; Owena Bank and Universal Trust Bank - have been designed as collecting centres. Others are offices of the National Encomium magazine; Fame, Global Excellence at Oregun, Lagos.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, April 14 , 2000

New wage may be out this month

By Prisca Egede, Labour Reporter

ANEW national minimum wage may emerge this month as negotiations between the government, labour and the organised private sector began yesterday in Abuja.

Parties to the parley, said a labour source, agreed to "give the exercise all the seriousness it deserves."

Earlier, government, at the inauguration of a 19-man Wage Review Panel, expressed optimism that new renumeration for civil servants would bridge the gap between their earnings and those of their private sector counterparts.

The source, who added that the negotiations "will continue until we finish," said those involved in the talks are "interested in seeing that it does not become prolonged ... like the one of 1991/92."

"We are all going to give it the seriousness it deserves so that hopefully by the end of the month, we would have something for the workers as their May Day package," he assured.

At the inauguration of the Chief Philip Asiodu-led panel, Vice President Atiku Abubakar observed that the "gap between the renumeration of workers in the public and private sectors" should be minimal.

He restated that the plan to raise the wages was based on government's desire to maintain the policy of "equal pay for substantially equal work."

The Vice President added that the new package would bring back the middle-class which became extinct due to the undue gap between the remuneration of different categories of workers.

Abubakar said that the sustainability of the remuneration package would partly depend on maintaining accurate statistics of the public service staff strength.

He warned that government would not overlook the ploy of some establishments and agencies to overestimate their personnel costs, based on bloated and inaccurate staff strength, in order to jack up their recurrent budgets.

According to him, the budgeting system was being reviewed, to eliminate the negative practice.

Responding on behalf of other members, Asiodu promised that the committee would do its work to the satisfaction of government and Nigerians.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, April 14 , 2000

Christians hold seminar on poverty tomorrow

PUBLIC Affairs Analyst and Director of Lagos Business School (LBS) Dr. Pat Utomi is expected as the key speaker tomorrow at a seminar on "Poverty Alleviation and Empowering Christians in Nigeria for the New Millennium".

According to a statement by Kemi Osasogon, secretary of the group, the seminar is organised by Divine Majesty's Ambassadors, a group of christian professionals led by Air Vice Marshal Osho (rtd), and it will take place at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs at 3 p.m.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Kudos to Lagos

WE commend the Lagos State government for its decision to revisit the Maroko land case and rehabilitate its victims.

The expulsion of 300,000 residents of Maroko by the military regime and the seizure of their lands was an injustice perpetuated by an unfeeling system. It is, therefore, heart-warming that, under the new political dispensation some rectification of that injustice is to be carried out.

For many of the victims, their property in Maroko which the military demolished was all the source of income they had.

Even when the military agreed to compensate the landlords by providing two bedroom flats in Ilasan, the structures were not completed.

Only few landlords were allocated these sub-standard flats.

In deciding to take another look at this case, we hope that the Lagos State government will not only make living conditions of the affected people better, but will also look into the case of those who received no compensation in whatever form.

The state government should also tell the public what has happened to the Maroko lands so callously seized from their owners.

The best form of justice the state government can ensure in this case is to retrieve the lands and give them back to the rightful owners.

In doing so, it should give proper planning guidelines for the rebuilding of the area to ensure that it does not become a slum.

The government can also look into the common cases of seizure of public lands and facilities by the military and their friends who converted such places to private use. Even if such lands are not repossessed by government, the occupiers should be made to pay some compensation.

This is one of the ways we can begin to come to terms with our past.

As the state government begins to rectify the Maroko injustice, it should do all in its powers to ensure that this kind of dispossession does not reoccur again.

Vanguard: Transmitted FRIDAY, 14th April, 2000 

Obasanjo's plane: Nigeria to lose N300m deposit

By Ben Agande, Abuja, Anayo Okoli & Cosmas Okereafor

NIGERIA may lose $3 million (N300 million) by midnight today if it fails to purchase the controversial refurbished plane for the President.

The amount is said to be the non-refundable deposit made by the executive in respect of the plane in expectation that the National Assembly would approve the $80 million (N8 billion) request to buy the plane.

However, two chieftains of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have challenged members of the House of Representatives to present concrete evidence to back up their allegation that the plane’s cost was inflated by $30 million.

A National Assembly source alleged yesterday that the executive had reached an agreement with those selling the plane that it would complete payment for the plane today failing which it would forfeit the $3 million deposit.

More details were not provided.

But an aide to Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yinka Oduwole had said last Wednesday that the National Assembly rejected the President’s request because it had "privileged information" that the cost of the aircraft was inflated by N300 million.

"If we established that the executive actually paid a deposit of $3 million for the aircraft, then we will try to find out where it got the money when no such money had been appropriated for the purchase of an aircraft," a principal officer of the House told Vanguard.

But an aide to the President who does not want his name mentioned dismissed the allegation as a desperate move by the National Assembly to save its face before the Nigerian public.

"Nigerians are suffering because of the non-passage of the 2000 Budget," he said.

"Rather than resort to cheap blackmail, the National Assembly should face their constitutional responsibility and save Nigerians the agony of waiting endlessly for the budget," he concluded.

*PDP chieftains challenge N/A

Meanwhile, two chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Iro Dan-Musa and Commodore Olabode George (rtd.), yesterday challenged members of the National Assembly to present concrete facts to back up their allegation that President Olusegun Obasanjo inflated the price of the aircraft he proposed to purchase by $30 million.

Musa, who is National Vice-Chairman (North) and George his counterpart in the South-West said the PDP would not act on rumour and urged the MPs to release their facts to the party to enable it take necessary action. They advised the National Assembly to try and work in harmony with the executive as their duties are interwoven.

"I cannot comment on what I read in the newspapers. I don’t believe in this question of inflation; one needs to know exactly what happened," Dan-Musa told reporters in Lagos.

George who was with him said as honourable men and women, members of the assembly should bring out all the facts they have so that nobody would be left in doubt.

"Let us know if you have the fact; take it out. If you say somebody has inflated some figures, make it known so that you don’t start giving the impression that there is some secret thing under," George said.

Vanguard: Transmitted FRIDAY, 14th April, 2000 

Ekiti to Embark on Improvement of Water Supply byDavid Atalase, Ado-Ekiti

THE Ekiti State Government, is to embark on the improvement of water supply to the people to solve the perennial water scarcity in the state.
To this end, the government has directed the state water corporation, to extend its Uneje Water Works to Ado Ekiti to be able to carter for the residents of the state capital.
Special Adviser to the state governor, Mr. Ebenezer Alade, made this known while fielding questions at the correspondents forum in Ado-Ekiti.
He said the government, has entered into agreement with WATECO by paying N2 million as counter part fund towards the project.
He said the government has also set aside N2 million for the rehabilitation of Egbe dam in addition to the purchase of 1,100 KVA generator for the dam.
Alade announced that construction work has commenced on the provision of telephone lines to the state secretariat complex recently completed in Ado-Ekiti.
He said the government was concerned about the plight of its officials who found it difficult to get in touch with outside world.
Alade, said that the state government has given approval to the management of its broadcasting corporation to recruit 35 experienced staff as a way of enhancing its operations.
He explained that in a situation where a reporter in the station had to do the work of more than two men was not conducive to the health of the workers.
The adviser, said that government would spent more than N1 million for the purchase of damaged equipment for the AM station of the corporation.

Nigerian Post Express

Governor's Wife Makes Case for Youths
by Abubakar Mohammed, Minna

THE wife of the governor of Niger State, Hajiya Zaynab Kure, has ressorted that the future of Nigeria lies in the empowerment of the youths.
She lamented that adequate attention has not been given to the educations and the social well-being of the youths as leaders of tomorrow.
Mrs. Kure, who was inaugurating a 16-man (sixteen-man) committee for her pet programme, Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), in Minna on Tuesday, disclosed that her desire to initiate the programme was borne out of the fact that little attention was been paid to youth development.
"It is my explicit opinion that most projects that have been pursued before and are being pursued now concentrate more on the mothers, fathers or infants, however those that fall between adults and infants are the ones that are more volatile, she declared.
The vision, she explained necessitated the need to encourage the youth and provide them with the opportunities to develop positively and become useful to themselves and society through YES.
She lamented that due to inadequate attention on the youth, they no longer hold in high esteem the desired societal values as moral decadence has taken over their lives.
According to Mrs. Kure, most of the criminal activities perpetrated by the youths are traceable to unemployment.
She therefore, assured that the scheme, which is a non governmental but philanthropic body, would address all the social values attributable to the youths.
Responding, a member of the committee and a staff of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Minna, Mrs. Vicky Olumide, on behalf of other members of the committee assured that the members will discharged their responsibilities with all seriousness.
Nigerian Post Express

Tuesday April 11, 2000

Democracy not here yet — Enahoro—The struggle continues, he says

By Jide Ajani, Political Editor, Joe Ajaero, Anayo Okoli & John Ighodaro

VETERAN politician and leader of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Anthony Enahoro returned home from a four-year exile yesterday, declaring that the struggle for democracy in Nigeria continues.

"We were wrong in thinking that the struggle was finished, that democracy had come, just as it would be wrong today to think that the struggle is over, democracy is here. We are not yet a democratic country, we are not yet living under a democratic constitution," the 76- year-old journalist and former Federal Commissioner for Information told newsmen, moments after he was given a tumultuous welcome at the Lagos airport.

Reviewing the events that forced him into exile, he said he would have been killed by agents of the Abacha regime if he had remained in the country.

After a brief introduction by Mr. Ayo Opadokun, NADECO Secretary, Chief Enahoro said:

"Ladies and gentlemen,

"I cannot tell you how delighted I am, how grateful I am that you’ve all turned out in such numbers and with such enthusiasm to welcome me back home. Many years ago, I would have been on your side, standing over there with my own camera and taking shots of the great, so I can understand what you’ve gone through, waiting for me all night.

"I will like to take this opportunity to congratulate the media for standing solidly behind us against military despotism. Many of you died; many of you lost your businesses; many of you were detained.

"No sector of our society, no sector of our society paid a greater price than the media for what went on in our country this past sad years.

"It is not often realised that in fighting for democracy, in entrenching democracy, in running democracy, the media has a very important role to play - I would even go further to say that without a solid independent media, democracy cannot succeed.

"I hope that the time would come when leaders of the media, realising this, would produce their own programme for consolidating the media, so that we’ll never again have what we passed through under Abacha

"I’m very happy to be back; I’m delighted to see that you are vibrant as it is obvious you are this morning. Thank you."

And then a brief question and answer session:

"What are the plans on ground for a new NADECO party which we’ve been hearing so much about for some time now?

I’ve not even had any discussions with the NADECO leaders at home yet. Give me some time to consult. I just came in about an hour ago. I’ve not seen them and I’ve not even formally met with them; you have to give me time. I’ve been away for some four years, it doesn’t matter what hopes you have invested in my return; but you must give me time to meet the NADECO leaders who held the forte while I was away

What are your immediate plans for now?

Well, my immediate plan is to hold consultations, wide consultations country-wide before I make up my mind on what I might do or not do.

What’s your feeling on the calls for a Sovereign National Conference and the calls for confederation?

What are my feelings? We started it all. And my feeling is that the seed has germinated. Very many new people have come on board, they are welcomed, it is a free ride and they can ride with us. But we have to be extremely careful that they do not hijack it.

How does it feel that the country whose independence motion you first moved, you had to flee into exile for four years. How do you feel?

Well it just means that the struggle is not yet finished. We were wrong in thinking that the struggle was finished, that democracy had come, just as it would be wrong today to think that the struggle is over, democracy is here.

We are not yet a democratic country, we are not yet living under a democratic constitution; but it has been a major step forward.

So the fight continues?

Well, I don’t know whether you call it a fight.

Okay, the struggle continues?

The struggle must continue.

Does it not bother you that even after the motion was moved it has never been debated?

Which motion.

The motion for independence?

Nigeria is independent.

What major difference have you noticed since you came into the country compared to how you left it?

Well, here we are today; we couldn’t meet like this under Abacha, so I think we have made some progress.

Some people say President Obasanjo is doing his best. How would you describe what you’ve heard about his administration?

I won’t comment on President Obasanjo’s administration.

How did you feel when you heard the death of Chief M.K.O. Abiola?

Very tragic; very, very tragic

Thank God that you are alive today. Now, what fate do you think would have befallen you, as did the late, respected Pa Rewane, had you not voted with your feet?

At least you have read the evidences being given in court now by those alleged to be the killers. You should know that by now I wouldn’t be in the country if I had not left."

He later spoke briefly to members of the Oodua Youth Movement and Oodua Liberation Movement, after they had danced and praised him for his heroic feat. He said: "Thank you very much indeed."

"Fifty, sixty years ago, I was doing what you are doing now. There was an occasion when we were doing it at Oko Awo, Madam Pelewura, the indomitable leader of Lagos Market Women, after I had spoken and spoken and danced and danced as you’ve danced, said: Tani Omo okunrin yi (who is this young man), and they told her his name is Enahoro, she then said: Eniyan soro (ambivalent man)." Laughter.

Speaking at a civic reception for Chief Enahoro at the Onikan Stadium, Vice-Chairman of NADECO, Dr. Arthur Nwankwo eulogised the veteran politician, saying:

"Using his immense personal stature and position as Chairman of NADECO, he tried without success to convince the military to let Chief Abiola head a government of national unity.

"Under the Abacha regime he was steadfast in the struggle for democracy against all odds and at great personal risk and inconvenience. He tried to get Gen. Abacha to release Generals Obasanjo and Yar’Adua, Beko Ransome-Kuti and others. But rather than convince Abacha, he soon realised that his own life was under real threat. He took advice and was persuaded by true patriots who also facilitated his departure to flee the country with final destination in the United States of America. He had begun his second exile for the love of his country.

"We cannot here catalogue all his achievements while abroad. But the following will highlight some of them.

*He galvanised all pro-democracy factions abroad into an effective political fighting machine.

*He led the fight against the Abacha regime to the US congress, agencies and the White House itself.

*He took the fight against the Abacha regime to various European countries, the British Parliament, the Scandinavian countries, Canada and the Commonwealth, and various countries of the African continent.

*He led the "dream team" that testified before the New York City Council to rename the street in front of the Nigeria House in New York in honour of the late Kudirat Abiola.

*He organised several successful conferences to mobilise international opinion against the Abacha regime, which resulted in imposing and maintaining various sanctions against it.

*Above all, he led by example, made sacrifices and lived in a one-bedroom apartment with his wife, and was a source of inspiration to all of us.

Vanguard: Transmitted TUESDAY, 11th April, 2000 

Obasanjo Re-affirms Pay Rise for Workers
by Paul Ohia, with Agency Reports

President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday in London reaffirmed the commitment of his government to pay rise for Nigerian workers.
Giving insight into the new pay structure at a world press conference, he described it as a "living wage" to enable workers afford "two square meals" at least. Already, a panel to work out modalities of the wage structure has been constituted, he said.
According to him, the present administration has succeeded in restoring hope among Nigerians in the country's ability to move ahead.
Obasanjo said many Nigerians now believe that the government's economic and other programmes would take the country out of its economic doldrums.
He explained that hope was an essential part of life without which life may be meaningless.
"If you take hope out of living, it is like taking life out living," he stressed, adding that high hopes had resulted in high expectations by the people from government.
He acknowledged that the availability of food in the country does not mean it is affordable, but expressed the hope that with time, affordability would also be achieved.
He said the wage increase would take into account certain economic indices to ensure that it does not lead to hyper-inflation or affect the value of the naira.
On the crises and violence in different parts of the country, Obasanjo said the situation was part of the "hiccups and bumps" on the road to national development. He said a similar situation occurred in some countries, but noted that unlike in these countries, the unfortunate incident did not lead to irreversible break down in Nigeria. "We are putting the incident behind us," the president said, and called on friends of Nigeria and Nigerians both at home and abroad, to co-operate with the government in its effort to revamp the economy and make the country take its rightful place in the comity of nations.
President Olusegun Obasanjo who left for Cuba, Saturday, aboard a commercial flight, abandoning the presidential jet and rejecting an offer to travel with aircraft sent by Cuban President, Fidel Castro, has described the experience as wonderful."
A British Broadcasting Corporation report monitored in Lagos on Sunday said that Obasanjo arrived London Sunday en route to Jamaica where he is expected to board another aircraft to Cuba.
On how he felt flying in a commercial aeroplane, he said "I am ever delighted about my flight."
Asked whether his motive for taking a commercial flight was to make the legislators be ashamed for not approving money for a new aircraft, President Obasanjo hedged, saying "it is not to make anybody ashamed but to get to where I am going."
Earlier, President Obasanjo had sent an addendum to the 2000 Appropriation Bill on February 20 to the National Assembly through the Senate president asking it to approve N8 billion to purchase an airbus and another N900 million to re-engine a Boeing 727 for the presidential fleet.
In the letter, the president said the airbus "has the advantage of carrying capacity besides its reduced cost, being a special offer from the manufacturers," adding that the purchase of the airbus will make it unnecessary for part of the presidential delegation to travel separately on commercial flights whenever overseas trips are being made.
However, the National Assembly decided against this request but converted the money into what it described as a lifeline to bail out public utilities like the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and water resources.
According to the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation, "we have to decide what is our priorities now and we are looking forward to the things that will give succour to the common man."

Nigeria Post Express

Monday, April 10 , 2000

Obasanjo explains role in Zimbabwe-Britain row

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo at the weekend in London shed light on his role in the face-off between Britain and Zimbabwe, saying he merely acted as a "midwife" rather than as a mediator.

Obasanjo, who also said his government has restored hope in Nigerians, believed that the row between the two countries would be resolved amicably.

" I acted as a midwife and got Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary and Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean President, together to discuss problems between their countries," he said at a press conference.

The President explained that although the two were not strangers to each other, he "sought with reluctance to break the ice on both sides."

Besides, he said that when he brought the two countries to a dialogue, "I was told not to go away, I sat down as an impartial listener."

On his trip to Cuba, Obasanjo said the G-77 meeting would discuss important issues such as North-South and South-South co-operation, globalisation and its implication on development, trade and monetary affairs.

He also disclosed that a roll-back malaria meeting would be held in Abuja later in the year to discuss ways of reducing the scourge in Africa.

The meeting, sponsored by Nigeria, World Health Organisation, some African countries and international organisations, is aimed at curtailing the high mortality rate resulting from this disease.

The President told the audience, comprising mostly foreign reporters, that his administration has succeeded in restoring hope among Nigerians.

Many Nigerians, according to him, now believe that government's economic and other programmes would take the country out of its economic doldrums.

He explained that hope was an essential part of life without which existence may be meaningless.

"If you take hope out of living, it is like taking life out living" he stressed, adding that high hopes had resulted in high expectation by the people from government.

The President acknowledged that the availability of food in the country did not mean it was affordable, but hoped that with time, affordability would also be achieved.

He stated that the government had constituted a panel to work out a "living wage" for workers to enable them afford "two square meals" at least.

The wage increase would take into account certain economic indices to ensure that it does not lead to hyper-inflation or affect the value of the naira, Obasanjo explained.

On the recent crisis and violence in some parts of the country, he said the situation was part of the"hiccups and bumps" on the road to national development.

He said a similar situation occurred in some countries, but noted that unlike in these countries, the unfortunate incident did not lead to irreversible breakdown in Nigeria.

"We are putting the incident behind us," the President said and called on friends of Nigeria and Nigerians to co-operate with the government in its effort to revamp the economy.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, April 10 , 2000

Students protest segregation in Katsina

From Bayo Ohu, Katsina

THE authorities of Federal College of Education, Katsina at the weekend, ordered the immediate closure of the school, following demonstrations by the students over restriction in the relationship between male and female students.

They had frowned at the new policy barring male students from visiting female hostels and vice-versa, and staged a peaceful demonstration to express their displeasure and force the school authorities to reverse the policy.

But the academic board immediately called an emergency meeting and ordered the closure of the institution.

A statement signed by Mallam Mohammed Da'u Adamu, the college information and publication officer, said free access by males into their female counterparts' hostel contravened the rules and regulations of the school.

A committee has also been constituted by the academic board to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the unrest.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, April 10 , 2000

Two smugglers die in gunfight with customsmen

From Charles Coffie_Gyamfi, Abeokuta

A fierce mafia-like gun battle between second-hand vehicle tokunbo smugglers and customsmen from Idiroko Area Command, Ogun State, at the weekend left two of the smugglers dead and eight customsmen injured.

The dead tokunbo dealers during the 30-minute duel which took place along a popular smugglers' bush-path near the border between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin, were simply identified as Gani and Ogboye, both in their late twenties.

The weekend encounter was the second in five months between smugglers and the customsmen. There was a similar battle between the two parties last November, during which a 33-year old customs officer was killed by the smugglers.

The Area Customs Comptroller, Alhaji Hassan Kila, who briefed journalists on the incident at Idiroko, said the dead were among a 20-member gang who attempted to smuggle 20 vehicles into the country from Republic of Benin.

According to Kalu, the smugglers were the first to open fire on sighting his men. "My men who were around fired back and at the end of the 30 minutes' fight, we were able to kill two of them, seized five of the vehicles, while 15 others escaped in their vehicles."

When the abandoned vehicles were searched, he said a "bagful of charms," loaded pistol, axes and cutlasses were recovered.

He said the eight injured customsmen were receiving treatment at various hospitals, adding that one of the injured men had suffered acid burns.

The vehicles seized included a Mecedez Benz 200, Blue Bird, Volvo, Isuzu mini bus and a baby Benz 190 E.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Security men seize N4.5b artefacts at Lagos airport

By Ozolua Uhakheme, Arts Reporter

ABOUT N4.5 billion worth of artefacts were on Thursday siezed from suspected smugglers at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos in what is regarded the biggest single haul of such goods in the country. The artefacts numbering 59 include 39 Nok Tera Cotta, 15 wooden and several brass and bronze sculptures. They were intercepted while a shipping agent attempted to export the items said to belong to a Swiss national.

According to the Director-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Dr. Yaro Gella, the antiquities were to be exported illegally with a fake clearance permit paper initialled by an ex-staff of Kaduna Museum.

The permit, serial number 08923 dated March 3, 2000, indicates that the artefacts belong to one AG Fiacco-Sidler, a Swiss national who was in the country earlier in the year. Also attached to the permit is a receipt, serial number 2301 dated February 26 2000, reading N5,000 being cost of the artefacts, issued to Fiacco-Sidler by a Kaduna based arts gallery.

On interogation, the shipping agent who handled the export of the treasured goods, told museum officials who went to take delivery of the seized items, that he only handled the export on behalf of another shipping agent at the Tin Can Island port in Lagos. He said that he was ignorant of the value of the goods and the laws prohibiting illegal trafficking on antiquities.

Gella confirmed that the officer who initialled the fake permit was an acting curator of Kaduna museum who was retired by the commission in 1996 for offences allegedly relating to connivance with illegal miners and illicit traffickers in antiquities. He however assured that security operatives are already assisting the commission in unravelling the syndicate behind the illegal escavation of antiquities and the traffickers, noting that since most of the works are Nok and mumuye treasures, it was likely that the mines are located in the northern part of the country.

He also explained that all the seized works were fresh excavations and not part of the commission's artefacts in any of the museums across the country.

Last week's seizure has been described as the biggest single haul so far made, and the first time the commission would recover such a large quantity of artefacts not in its custody.

In the last decade, about 429 similar objects have been stolen from 33 museums and institutions nationwide. Decree 77 of 1979, which places a ban on buying or selling of antiquity, states that "no person shall buy any antiquity unless he is an accredited agent or sell any antiquity to any person other than an accredited agent".

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper