Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #16
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

April 22, 2000

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Nzeribe not a threat —Obasanjo lAPP disowns him

By Anayo Okoli, Rotimi Ajayi, Ben Agande, & Cosmas Okereafor

LAGOS—PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo seems not to want to be dragged into the controversy triggered off by Senator Arthur Nzeribe’s moves to get him impeached.

The President in Lagos yesterday on his way to Abeokuta declined to comment on the matter or Nzeribe himself.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) which met yesterday in Abuja declared that the Federal Government was not worried by the Nzeribe action, while the senator’s party, All People’s Party (APP) said Nzeribe was on his own on the impeachment issue.

President Obasanjo who arrived the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja at 3.05 p.m. on his way to Abeokuta to attend the convention of the Baptist Church was in no mood to talk on the impeachment moves by Senator Nzeribe.

The following dialogue ensued between the President and reporters:

Reporters: What is your mission in Lagos?

Obasanjo: You no wan make I come Lagos?

Reporters: How is Nzeribe?

Obasanjo: I should ask you.

Reporters: What is your reaction to his (Nzeribe’s) impeachment motion against you?

Obasanjo: I de kampe.

He later departed for Abeokuta at 3.15 p.m. accompanied by aides.

Earlier in a chat with reporters, his spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe had said it was a shame for the Senate to allow Chief Nzeribe to table the motion in the first place.

"Nzeribe is dubious. It is a shame. He should not be allowed to speak. We undermine the interest of Nigeria by creating instability in the country," Okupe said.

Actions like the Nzeribe’s, he said could only scare investors from Nigeria.

He said: "Nigeria cannot really develop on our resources alone. It is paramount to get foreign investors.

"Nobody should be allowed to toy with our national interest. Collectively, we must protect Nigeria’s interest and we should woo investors to this country," Okupe said.

He stressed the need to explore other revenue sources instead of the nation’s sole dependent on oil.

According to him, Nigeria’s yearly earning from oil is $10 billion while Cuba earns $9 billion from tourism, adding that President Obasanjo has been trying to open a lot of avenues abroad to enable the country enjoy goodwill.

Okupe noted that the process of democracy was usually slow and gradual, pointing out that it would take six to seven years for a true democracy to evolve in Nigeria.

*Fed Exco deplores Nzeribe’s action

Rising from a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in Abuja yesterday, Information Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana said Senator Nzeribe was out to trivialise the principles of democracy.

"The executive arm of government is unperturbed by Senator Nzeribe’s moves," he said.

"Given the senator’s antecedents and his obvious attempt to trivialise the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, neither President Obasanjo nor the executive arm of government which he leads is losing sleep over this non-issue.

"The spirit of Nigeria and the commitment of Nigerians to democracy are resolved towards entrenchment of good governance, probity, accountability and the rule of law under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

"Given the purposeful and bold national policy thrust of the President aimed at improving the lot of the average Nigerian, given also the rising international profile of Nigeria and President Olusegun Obasanjo as evidenced by unanimous election as Chairman of 133-member nation G-77 up until 2002, Nigerians are today of the clear view that what their country needs is stability in government."

Prof. Gana urged Nigerians not to mistake the teething problems of the first 11 months of the nation’s democracy for a serious illness.

According to him, the country and its democracy are in good health and in good hands.

He commended the members of the National Assembly for the manner they handled the notice of impeachment served by Senator Nzeribe.

He added, "more heartening to all Nigerians is the cross party nature of the unanimous condemnation of Chief Nzeribe’s move."

*Nzeribe is on his own - APP

Meanwhile, the All People’s Party (APP) yesterday disowned Senator Arthur Nzeribe, saying the impeachment move was not its (APP’s) position.

Vanguard: Transmitted Friday,  21st April, 2000 

Date of Article: 04/20/2000
Obasanjo Sues for Truce

HERE are strong indications that the logjam in the smooth running of the nation's administration will soon be over, as President Olusegun Obasanjo has sued for truce in the face-off between the executive and the National Assembly.
This was the outcome of the four-hour meeting on Monday night at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa between President Obasanjo, the leadership of the National Assembly and chieftains of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).
The meeting, however, continued on Tuesday to work out a blueprint on how to resolve the festering crisis.
The meeting which discussed issues such as the grey areas of the 2,000 Appropriation Bill, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Bill, the frosty relationship between the executive and the legislative arms, among other issues were discussed.
Though, final resolutions could not be reached at Monday night's meeting, it was agreed by all the parties that there should henceforth be a cease-fire in the media war.
Tuesday nights meeting was expected to take far-reaching resolutions that would lead to rapproachement.
Both the Deputy House Leader, Chief Mao Arukwe Ohuabunwa and the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Alhaji Jibrin Barau confirmed to The Post Express that the meeting held and their (legislators) resolution to broker peace in the interest of the citizenry.
The leadership of the House had on Tuesaday afternoon, met at the office of the Majority Leader, Alhaji Mohammed Wakil to map out their strategies for last night's meeting.
In obedience to the resolution of the Monday night's meeting, the House Committee Chairman on Appropriations, Alhaji Barau who was scheduled to be the guest of the House of Representatives Press Corps had to be called off.
The delegation of the National Assembly to the parley was led by the Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. Others included Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Haruna Abubakar, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Prince Chibudom Nwuche, House Leader, Alhaji Mohammed Wakil, etc.

Nigeria Post Express

Khobe, Sierra Leone's Defence Chief, Dies in Lagos
by  Philip Nwosu, Defence Reporter

HE Chief of Defence Staff of the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone, Brigadier General Maxwell Mitikishe Khobe is. He died on Tuesday in Lagos as result of wounds sustained during the liberation of that country from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).
General Khobe, who hailed from Adamawa State, fought for the liberation of Sierra Leone as the ECOMOG Taskforce commander.
The country's High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Joe Blell said that the former ECOMOG commander died at 10.00 a.m of cardiac arrest at the St. Nicholas hospital in Lagos.
He was admitted into the hospital last week in a deteriorated health condition resulting from an attempt to extract shrapnel lodged in his body during the battle for the liberation of Freetown in February 1998.
Khobe had earlier undergone treatment on related matter in Freetown before, and had collapsed in that country before being flown to Lagos for urgent medical attention.
The Sierra Leonean high commissioner said President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah's government has declared a seven days of mourning in honour of the late chief of defence staff.
According to Blell, the Sierra Leonean government has also forwarded a condolence message to Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo on the loss of the Nigerian -born defence chief.
Kabbah in the letter, expressed willingness to participate fully in the burial arrangements for Khobe, pointing out that "Khobe's name will be etched in gold when Sierra Leone's history is written.
Blell, however, said all Sierra Leoneans would miss the late general whose singular effort saved democracy in that country during the 1997 invasion by the combined forces of the AFRC and the Revoluionary United Front.
The high commissioner said "Khobe was a man we held in high esteem, he was a fine soldier and a soldier's soldier-whose dedication to duty and service was legendary."
Khobe, an indigene of Numan in Adamawa State would be the fourth general from that state to be buried in less than five months.
Earlier, General Gibson Jalo, AVM Friday Dilli and Air Marshal Ibrahim Alfa who were all from Adamawa had died between January and March.
While the Sierra Leonean government has opened a condolence register for Khobe in the seat of government in Freetown, it also directed that flags in the country would be flown at half mast.
In a chat with The Post Express in 1998, Khobe narrated how the country was liberated, saying "it was an operation we never used heavy weapons and would not have used them if we had for the simple reason I would not like to mention."
He told The Post Express that "the rebels fired heavy weapons and even burnt down buildings which their guns could not demolish."
Nigeria Post Express

Tuesday, April 18 , 2000

Nigeria, South Africa plan military pact

NIGERIA and South Africa are considering modalities for possible military cooperation to cub incessant conflicts which have become the most visible drawbacks to the continent.

As a first step, South Africa yesterday expressed its willingness to establish military relations with Nigeria.

Visiting Chief of Defence Intelligence of South African National Defence Forces, Lt.-Gen. Johannes Morett Motan gave this indication in Abuja yesterday during a meeting with Nigeria's Chief of Defence Intelligence, Rear Admiral Joseph Ajayi.

Motan who arrived in Nigeria on Sunday to begin a five-day official visit, said: "We want to forge a military relationship with Nigeria so as to bring a lasting solution to the myriad of crisis and conflicts affecting some African countries, as well as ensure stability and peace in the continent."

Motau also called on sub-regional organisations on the continent to always cooperate work out areas of assistance that would bring about growth and progress to Africa.

According to him, the continent is witnessing a lot of instability and problems associated with development.

Motau, therefore, implored the frontline states in Africa to strive toward achieving "purposeful progression."

The Defence officials, however, praised Nigeria's concern and efforts of peacekeeping missions in different parts of the world.

He also acknowledged Nigeria's support to the liberation efforts in South Africa that contributed in dismantling apartheid.

Motau, told the Nigerian military officials that his country would soon post a defence attache to its embassy in Nigeria to foster better "military-to-military relationship".

While welcoming the South African Defence Intelligence chief, Ajayi hoped that the visit would serve as a foundation to build bilateral relations between both countries.

He said that Nigeria was determined to enter into any area of military cooperation that would help integrate African countries, stating that it had keen interest in developments in South Africa due to its potentials and strategic importance to the continent.

Ajayi further asked Motau to asist Nigerian military intelligence instructors to benefit from the South African Intelligence Training Centre, to boost their knowledge.

Last year, Nigeria and South Africa declined to join the U.S.-sponsored African crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) meant to mobilise forces from countries on the continent to intervene in areas of conflicts.

He will today hold discussions with Nigeria's Chief of Defence Staff, Rear Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi also visit the National War College (NWC) in Abuja.

Motau would also visit the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, the Command and Staff College at Jaji, (TRADOC) and the Hydro-elect Power Station, Shiroro in Niger State, before on Saturday for Johannesburg.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Tuesday, April 18 , 2000

Yemen buys controversial jet, Obasanjo leaves issue to God

From Emeka Nwankpa, (Abuja) and Nkechi Nwosu, (Lagos)

YEMENI President Ali Abdallah Saleh has bought at a higher price the contentious Airbus A-340 over which the row between the executive and the National Assembly deepened last week.

President Olusegun Obasanjo's Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Dr. Doyin Okupe, last night confirmed the sale of the aircraft to the Yemeni leader.

According to him, the controversial aircraft was bought at over N8 billion ($80 million) with an additional $10 million as sundry charges. Nigeria had sought to buy it at $80 million (N8 billion).

Okupe, speaking with State House reporters, regretted the impression created in some quarters that the Presidency had already made a U.S. $3 million non-refundable advance payment for the aircraft, noting that the latest development had put to rest the controversy which had trailed moves by President Obasanjo to buy the aircraft.

He insisted that the cost of the plane was not inflated by U.S. $30 million by the president as claimed by the House of Representatives and challenged those with contrary information to make it public. "If anyone has any information that is contrary to the fact, he should come up. This kind of plane cannot be sold in the dark. They are not secret deals. It is an international issue," he said.

Dr. Okupe said he had advised the president to take those persons insinuating sharp practices on the aircraft issue to court to clear his name. But he said the president preferred to leave it to God.

Speaking on the just-concluded G-77 Summit in Havana, Cuba, he said: "Believing that the resolution of the debt problem is crucial and requires more imaginative solutions that those hitherto proposed, the G-77 leaders mandated President Obasanjo to convey the gravity of their situations and depth of their feelings on the matter to creditor-nations and international financial institutions".

He disclosed that in order to fully carry out this mandate, the president would later in the year attend the next summit of the group whose membership included China, in Tokyo, Japan, to brief its members on the consensus of G-77 nations and initiate the much-needed dialogue among countries of both organisations.

According to him, President Thambo Mbeki of South Africa, current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria would accompany Obasanjo on that mission.

Meanwhile, President Obasanjo yesterday received in audience President Migel Travoada of Sao Tome and Principe.

Okupe said the visit was in connection with the forthcoming summit on malaria roll-back holding on April 25.

President Obasanjo has also maintained that globalisation was "irreversible" and cannot be "wished away".

The chairman of the Group of 77, the umbrella organisation of developing nations with 133 members, stressed this in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) broadcast yesterday.

Speaking on the focus of deliberations at the just-concluded G-77 summit held in Havana, Cuba, Obasanjo mentioned globalisation, gender inequality and the proper perspective of World Trade Organisation as well as technology.

"We are saying that when the Seattle ministerial conference was aborted, the issue of what should happen to WTO (World Trade Organisation) must be taken up in such a way to get a surer deal that we have got now".

"As you probably know, the technology and knowledge are two sides of the same coin. It was one of the issues discussed at the summit and we are saying that, yes, when you are talking about globalisation, we know that it is irreversible it is a thing that we cannot wish (it) away. "We are saying that so much as it is desired, we want those who are controlling and those who are influencing the direction of globalisation: whether globalisation in technology and knowledge or globalisation in financial transactions, they should realise that we are handicapped".

"We don't want to only bear the disadvantage of globalisation while the North bears only the advantages of it," he added.

Taken to task on raising the status of women in the developing nations to contribute to economic progress, the president said the gender inequality should be abridged.

According to him, women for instance form 50 per cent of the Nigeria population, so if they are not empowered, the group cannot contribute meaningfully to the economic development of the country.

But he regretted that often than not, women for cultural or religious reasons or whatever, shy away from contributing their desired quota to economic development.

As a solution to the gender inequality problem, President Obasanjo suggested breaking the jinx by offering educational opportunities to both female and male children.

He stressed that once women get qualitative education just as their male counterparts, the issue of gender inequality would be brought under control.

For Obasanjo, exclusion of women from playing a role in economic development of a country is like deliberately shutting out 50 per cent of the nation's progress in that direction.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Tuesday, April 18 , 2000

Nigeria records boom in air traffic

By Sola Dixon, Aviation Reporter

INTERNATIONAL passenger traffic between Lagos and the rest of the world has risen by 16.77 per cent since the return of democracy in Nigeria on May 29, last year.

Independent aviation authorities predict that the traffic volume will hit 32 per cent at the end of this year, as foreigners demonstrate more confidence in Nigeria.

International air traffic data in the latest edition of Skywatch, published by Aerocontrol Limited, show that passenger volume between Lagos and the rest of the world rose from 376,721 in 1998 to 439,886 at the end of 1999, an increase of 63,165 passengers.

Further breakdown of the data showed that British Airways (BA) led other airlines in passenger carriage on the Lagos-Europe route, as it lifted a total of 102,952 passengers out of the 439,886 that passed through Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

BA was thus responsible for lifting 23.4 per cent of the Lagos international passenger volume.

The statistics showed that 32,342 passengers flew on the Lagos international route in January 1998, compared to 39,591 in the same month of 1999.

February of both years had 24,431 and 26,336 respectively, while March had 27,817 and 34,233 for 1998 and 1999 and 29,825 for April 1998, rising to 36,221 passengers for April 1999.

The months of May and June 1999 recorded 31,614 and 34,585 passengers respectively compared to 29,407 and 30,075 in the same months of the previous year.

July and August, 1999 witnessed a leap of 45,550 and 46,774 passengers as against 32,418 and 39,808 that passed through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, in the same months in 1998.

There was an increase from 32,184 and 32,022 to 36,538 and 33,334 in the months of September and October from 1998 to 1999, while November and December 1999 passenger turnover stood at 34,346 and 40,765 respectively, as against 30,231 and 36,161 turnover for 1998.

In the market share analysis which saw British Airways leading with a 23.40 per cent, in 1999, KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline, came a distant second with 11.91 per cent, lifting a total of 52,381 passengers compared to BA's 102,952.

Ghana Airways came third with 8.35 per cent of the market share and a total of 36,717 passengers. Air France came fourth with 33,218 passengers or 7.55 per cent of the market share.

The other airlines came in order of Swiss Air, fifth with 5.69 per cent shares; Lufthansa sixth, 5.68 per cent; Sabena Air, 4.34 and Ehiopian Air eight with 4.31 share of the market.

Nigeria Airways came a distant 11th with 3.95 share of the market and 17,395 passengers to its credit.

Bellview Airlines came 13th with three per cent of the market and 13,195 passengers to its credit.

South African Air Gabon, Egypt Air Middle East, Balkan Air, Aeroflat, Air Djibouti and Air Congo followed in the order of 15th to 23rd.

Incidentally, British Airways was 2nd on the foreign flight ranking into and out of the Lagos airport in 1998, in spite of a 14-month long absence from Nigeria because of the then subsisting Lagos-London Air-ban. That year (1998) KLM led with 16.05 per cent of the market share. BA garnered 9.6 per cent and Air France followed with 8.92 per cent.

The three leading airlines had got 60,485, 36,249 and 33,619 passengers respectively.

Swiss Air, Lufthansa, Ghana Airways and Sabena came fourth to seventh in that order.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Tuesday, April 18 , 2000

NLC warns govt against ignoring workers' welfare

From Sunny Igboanugo, Enugu

NIGERIA Labour Congress (NLC) has warned that any government which ignored workers' welfare in this dispensation would be courting failure.

President of the congress, Adams Oshiomhole, in Enugu yesterday told thousands of workers at the Freedom Square not to despair or be dampened in their struggle for improved welfare package as no government could survive without their co-operation.

Oshiomhole was in the state to meet with Governor Chimaroke Nnamani over the lingering workers' crisis.

The NLC boss, whose speech was regularly interrupted by thunderous ovation, assured the workers of improved standard of living as negotiation over the proposed "living wage" has already begun.

He told them that the new wage might take off on or before May Day and the nature of their new earnings likely to get would made be known.

"We are rushing back now because tomorrow morning (today), we are resuming our negotiations on this minimum wage in Abuja. We are hoping that we will be through with this, because we will continue the meeting, we won't finish; we won't adjourn until we are through with it, God helping us.

"We want to see if we can finish before the end of April so that on May Day, there will be something beyond long speeches, in the pocket of workers," he said.

The labour boss disclosed that a new approach where government would be reviewing workers' remunerations upward yearly to avoid the usual uproar or sweeping increases in prices of commodities was being worked out.

He decried the practice of government waiting for up to five years before increasing salaries by 100 per cent, saying in other countries, salaries are increased between five or six per cent yearly to avoid hiccups in their economies.

"But here, we do one and sleep until our pockets begin to dry and we say ha!! we need to go back again. I think we've got to regularise it. And when we do that, it is not going to make headlines in our dailies."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Bayelsa Commissioner Lauds Obasanjo over Derivation Revenue

Willie Etim, Yenagoa
THE Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Inuro Wills, has commanded President Olusegun Obasanjo for approving the 13 per cent derivation revenue for oil exploration and other revenue generating activities. According to the commissioner, the gesture was a healthy development which will go a long way to improving the lots of the oil bearing states and other such revenue yielding states.
The commissioner, however, said that it would have been more applicable if the president had approved the payment of the 13 per cent to take effect from May 29, 1999.
He noted that the money if eventually paid, would assist in the rapid development of the Niger Delta.
Wills, while also commenting on the NDDC's bill which had just been passed by the arm of the national assembly said that the legislators had done well by amending some sections of the bill.
Nigeria Post Express

Japan Resumes Aid for Increased Rice Production in Nigeria

JAPAN has re-established grant-in-aid for increased food production in Nigeria through its international corporation agency, sources told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja at the weekend.
he assistance, which was suspended in 1997 following the international isolation of Nigeria, was restored during the year to accelerate the special rice roject jointly sponsored by the Federal Government and Japan, the sources in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture said.
They said that under the programme, Japan would provide Nigeria with rice mill destoners in the country's effort to eliminate the problem of stones in locally produced rice. NAN learnt that rice farmers under the special rice project partnership between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Japanese government are being organised into groups of 10 each.
The sources further said that the farmers' group were organised in contiguous plot areas to enhance services, such as demonstrations, extension and land preparation. They also said that rice traders were being encouraged to engage farmers in contract farming to cultivate large acreages to boost domestic production.
"As a necessary input, these contract farmers are also being educated on the marketing of their products as is being done internationally," the sources said.
They spoke of the need for government to implement necessary tariffs to encourage and boost the local production of rice.
Nigeria Post Express

FG insists on proof of Abalaka's HIV vaccine

By Sam Eferaro, Health Editor

LAGOS, 16-04-2000 — The Minister of Health, Dr. Tim Menakaya said, weekend that the ministry had written to the military authorities for details over the 30 military personnel reported to have been cured of HIV after receiving Dr. Jeremiah Abalaka’s treatment.

The Chief of Air Staff, (CAS), Air Vice-Marshal Isaac Alfa had disclosed last week that the military men who were found to have been HIV-positive on their return from ECOMOG assignment had reverted to sero-negative after being treated with Dr. Abalaka’s vaccine adding that the air force was also sending five of its personnel for the new therapy.

The minister, however, said on FRCN phone-in programme Radio Link, that his ministry had not been informed of the development. According to him, he could not draw any conclusion on the report because the air force chief who made the announcement was not a medical doctor but a lay man.

"I’ve not heard even in the newspapers or the radio from any army doctor, air force doctor or navy doctor. The person who spoke, as far as I’m concerned, is a lay man, not a health person and from what I’ve heard in the papers, I cannot draw conclusions from that statement," he said.

Dr. Menakaya said contrary to speculations, his ministry was not biased against Dr. Abalaka. According to him, all the ministry wanted was to verify the surgeon’s claim scientifically so as to be able to tell the world whether or not the vaccine could cure HIV as claimed.

"I’m not engaged in any controversy with Dr. Abalaka. My responsibility is to have a proof of what (he) is doing ... What is essential is that Dr. Abalaka should subject his drug to scientific proof and scientific proof (is based on) what you have done . We have no record of what he has done, so if we send a case to Dr. Abalaka with HIV positive and after the treatment he tell us ‘I’ve completed what you asked for’ this will be verified by our own scientists.

"(If) at the end, one (the patient) comes back and it’s negative, I’ll be the first to call a world press conference and announce the discovery of Dr. Abalaka and we will make sure (that the drug) is patented in his name and all the glory about this will go to him. The glory will come to Nigeria also because he is a Nigerian."

The minister who appeared on the programme along with Dr. Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, the National Coordinator of the National AIDS/STD Control Programme (NASCP) accused Dr. Abalaka and the Nigerian public of being too hasty, adding that the ministry would not be stampeded into endorsing the surgeon’s therapy until it had been scientifically evaluated.

However, in swift reaction, Dr. Abalaka again denied the ministry’s allegation that he did not cooperate with the committee set up to investigate his drug.

"I am completely surprised because there is just no basis for the allegation. The Hon. Minister of Health has given me audience just once and that was on 9/9/99. That audience was at my instance and pressure. Despite the Hon. Minister’s promise on 9/9/99 that patients would be sent to me for treatment urgently and at least two written reminders to them to send their patients for treatment, the ministry did not send any until 15/2/99 when they sent only one patient who I have been treating.

"Dr. Gwarzo confirmed (on the radio programme) that they sent 10 patients to me for preliminary screening, and not for treatment. That is correct, but it contradicts what Prof. Akinsete and Prof. Onyemelukwe had told the public."

He further said that the ministry had not informed him that another committee had been set up to investigate his claims while the ministry had also chosen the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development, University of Ibadan and a centre in the US to help authenticate the vaccine.

"The ministry has not communicated with me on all these developments. After the minister had given a press conference and used a ghost patient to declare my vaccine useless, has he any moral or scientific justification to set up another committee to investigate my claim?"

The minister, however, pledged that the ministry would support Dr. Abalaka provided he (Dr. Abalaka) was prepared to cooperate with the scientists that have been mandated to investigate the vaccines. Here are excerpts of the interview:

On the announcement by air force chief that 30 military men had reverted to sero-negative after receiving the vaccine:

A: For now, I’m number one health officer of the country. I have no information whatsoever about what happened in the army. The officers in the army never reported to me and I cannot draw conclusions from the pages of the newspapers or from the radio. I’ve not even heard in the newspapers or the radio from any Army doctor, Air Force doctor or Navy doctor. The person who spoke, as far as I’m concerned, is a lay man, not a health person and from what I’ve heard in the papers, I cannot draw conclusions from that statement.

Presenter: We are not saying that you should draw conclusions but we are saying these men are men in high government positions, Federal Government key positions. If you read something like that, one would have thought that it will at least make you curious. You don’t have to interact with them but one would have expected you (to ascertain) what is happening because when you talk about government, the whole government would be seen as one, working for the success of government:

Minister: We have already done that. We have written a letter which I’m sure they have not received ...

Caller from Enugu: I only want to make an appeal. I’ve heard what you have been and I want you to be sensible over this issue. You want Dr. Abalaka to prove himself and you want the procedure. I can refer you back to what happened when Prof. Njoku’s yellow fever issue in the early 70s and everybody was shouting. (There was) another doctor who had chloroquine and then there was Dr. Ugo’s test tube baby issue, the whole thing generated so much noise ... why can’t you people do this thing silently?

Minister: You are saying exactly what we’ve been saying. I have never challenged Dr. Abalaka, Rather, It’s (him) that has been challenging me for not accepting his discovery. I have never replied this. What I’ve been saying (is) why can’t we sit down quietly and look into what you are saying? That is exactly how it is done. We should not have discoveries on the pages of newspapers and in the media. We don’t publicise things without proof and the only way out is to follow the proper principle set up quietly. If it’s done the way it should be done, I repeat, it will be a glorious thing for Nigeria when the results are out.

Presenter: Dr. Wambebe, the chief executive officer of the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development wrote a letter on the February 28 this year to Dr. Abalaka stating that two patients treated became about 97% (down loaded?) after just two weeks of vaccination. Are you aware of this and were further investigations carried out on the two patients by your unit for verification Dr. Gwarzo?

Dr. Sani-Gwarzo: The letter written by Prof. Wambebe was written directly to Abalaka. We got to know about it after it had been released to the press by Dr. Abalaka. We contacted Prof. Wambebe, on the directive of the honourable minister, who told us that he was also surprised that (the) letter went out that way. It was specifically a collaboration between NIPRID and Abalaka to further investigate (Abalaka’s claim) and they are doing it independently. He (Prof. Wambebe) said he had already written a refutal and the refutal was in most of the dailies. No, what we want to do, under the minister’s directive is to call both Prof. Wambebe and Dr. Abalaka before the new committee that has been constituted. They were to appear on Wednesday last week (but didn’t) apparently because of some logistics. They probably didn’t receive the letter. But we are going to hold a meeting with them very soon and each of them is going to make a submission ...

Caller from Kano: What are the specific proof you want Dr. Abalaka to produce?

Minister: It’s a long process ... in a simple way, there are known things that should be done. The toxicity of the drug must be tested (and) the efficacy must be known. Let me tell you and let me make it abundantly clear, we cannot assume anything in science and that is what people find difficult to understand. There’s no argument about what we are doing. There’s a bias we want everybody to wipe out of their minds. No single person in the ministry of health is biased against Abalaka. People talk about being jealous of what he’s doing. We are proud of any Nigerian that discovers anything. This present administration will like to put Nigeria as number one in the international map and one way to do that is from scientific discovery. We are going to support Abalaka 100 per cent, provided Dr. Abalaka will cooperate with everybody.

Presenter: ... The man seems to be afraid ... when we remember the yam powder issue ...

Dr. Sani-Gwarzo: Can I tell you one thing, we have never asked Abalaka to give us the substance of what he uses. The committee constituted by the honourable minister first of all sat down with so many stake holders and almost 15 people came to that meeting and the committee independently recommended that the ministry should go ahead and investigate Abalaka’s claim and (suggested) that (certain) lengthy procedures of testing should be overlooked because of the severity of the problem of AIDS. The honourable minister approved that (and also approved) that N2.8 million should go into the research. I have the receipts here if you will like to check them. When this approval was given, the minister announced it and the press carried it. Abalaka himself received N800,000 out of this to do preparatory tests for patients so that they can go into the treatment. We commissioned NIPRD, UI and another outside institute so that we can balance thins thing. As I said earlier, if the ministry quietly approves Abalaka’s claim today, it will not be in the interest of Abalaka. We want to involve as many partners as possible , as many verifiable reputable tests as possible so that when we say ‘Abalaka, you have a clean bill of health,’ we can repeat that process anywhere in the world and we can stand tall and say what we have from him is genuine, we are not just cooking it in the kitchen.... Abalaka’s claim will be a matter of time to verify.

Presenter: He held a world press conference in which he said you had referred one patient out of the ten promised by the ministry, He said the N800,000 you mentioned now is already being used for series of lab tests and treatment for the woman you sent ...

Dr. Sani-Gwarzo The collaboration between us has been very smooth. It’s the media that has been over blowing the issue. Ten patients have been sent and the money given to him was for him to assess these people and categorise them based on the treatment schedule they are supposed to go through. The next batch of money will be sent to him to treat these people. Like I said, when we are embarking on a trial protocol, we don’t just send them (patients) and start treatment. We need to identify their HIV sero status, document their clinical status before the onset of treatment and then during the treatment, we monitor other parameters and after that if he says he has finished the cure, we now test them again independently. We have made all the efforts to commission NIPRD, UI and another centre in the US so that this claim can be verified. Unless we have these things set and ready, the clinical trial will not be completed. What we are saying now is there’s a lot of impatience on the side of the public (and) there’s a lot of impatience on the side of Dr. Abalaka. Let the process go on as it is so that at the end of the day, we are not hurried into taking a step that we, as health officials cannot even present to the world as proof of Abalaka’s treatment.

Presenter: have you seen the lady (sent to Abalaka) lately?

Dr. Sani-Gwarzo I will not comment on her clinical improvement because we are in a trial and I’m not the person conducting the trial. It’s a panel that is doing it. Until we finish, we will not be able to divulge (information). We want to be able to give a statement that is final and authentic.

Caller from Abuja: Honourable Minister, in handling this Dr. Abalaka’s claim, it’s like you are not very objective. Why I’m saying so is because you’ve just told a caller who claimed Dr. Abalaka cured someone he knew that it was still not a proof of Abalaka’s claim. Why then did you bring someone on TV some time ago to prove that Dr. Abalaka’s claim was not right. That is an issue that is of interest to all Nigerians and It’s like the ministry is not an objective arbiter in this matter...

Minister: Let me say this clearly. I never brought and will never bring anybody to the television. I’m not engaged in any controversy with Dr. Abalaka, My responsibility is to have a proof of what Dr. Abalaka is doing so if anybody appeared on the television after I’d made a statement, it was during the time I had a press conference with Peter Piot who is number one man on the fight against AIDS in the world ... and during the question and answer session somebody came out and made a claim. I did not invite him. I did not know him. I met him for the first time that day and it was not my responsibility to stop him from making any statement he wanted to make. Let me appeal to you and every other person, there is no other way to have a dialogue with Dr. Abalaka other than to invite him to work with our scientists to know what he’s doing .

Vanguard: Transmitted MONDAY, 17th April, 2000 

Nigerians 'll resist attempts to destroy democracy —Kokori

By Kolade Larewaju, ABEOKUTA(15-04-2000)

FORMER secretary general of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) Chief Frank Kokori declared weekend that any attempt to truncate the nation’s nascent democracy would be resisted with guerrilla warfare.

Chief Kokori spoke in Abeokuta while receiving an award for his struggle for the enthronement of democracy from the correspondent’s chapel of the Ogun state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

He said "the only message I have for people today is that anytime this democracy is to be truncated again, we shall go back to the bush.

"I will say that this freedom of democracy that people struggled for people died for, people went to prison for shall not be allowed to be truncated again. Drawing huge applause from the audience, Kokori who was accompanied to the award ceremony by his wife and members of his family said that his coming out of jail alive was a miracle. He said that having been released he had thought that the late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola would also be released within seven days lamenting that it was sad that Abiola died in detention.

Chief Kokori who said that he was already building a political structure in the Niger/Delta maintained that Abiola would have been the greatest African president.

He then commended the Nigerian press "especially the press usually referred to as the Lagos/Ibadan axis" for their commitment to the enthronement of democracy and good governance.

Former Editor of Diet, Mr. Niran Malaolu the other recipient of the award said that the nation’s democracy "will survive."

Speaking in the same vein with Kokori Malaolu contended that any attempt to truncate the present democracy would be resisted by the people

Vanguard News

Vanguard: Transmitted MONDAY, 17th April, 2000