Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #18
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

May 13, 2000

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Friday, May 12 , 2000

Conference asks Obasanjo to drop discredited officials

From Emmanuel Onwubiko, Abuja

UNLESS President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration drops corrupt political office holders from his government, the current anti-graft crusade would be an exercise in futility, participants at an international conference have asserted.

The five-day conference, tagged "Corruption and Organised Crimes: Challenges of the new Millennium" which ended on Wednesday questioned the rationale for the continued retention of persons of doubtful character in a government out to rid Nigeria of corruption.

It was convened by the Federal Government in collaboration with the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODCCP).

The conference, asserted that the problem of corruption in Nigeria is real, and poses a threat to democracy and economic development, coupled with its impact on the youth.

A 27-paragraph communique yesterday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Drugs and Financial Crimes, Dr. Ibrahim Lame said Obasanjo had demonstrated the political will to tackle corruption but observed that Nigerians needed to be mobilised to join the crusade.

On the much touted anti-corruption commission, the participants said though the anti-graft law was comprehensive, appropriate and an adequate springboard for combating the scourge and the impact of organised crime on the nation's image abroad is destructive.

Besides, it observed national laws, institutional and infrastructural facilities as well as international legislation were increasingly becoming incapable of keeping pace with the innovations introduced into organised vices.

The forum urged Obasanjo to encourage timely, independent and transparent monitoring of the anti-corruption commission by a free press and an empowered civil society to enhance its effectiveness.

Attended by a broad-based group of national stakeholders, experts from Nigeria and the international community, it asked the President to re-screen his current cabinet, and all political and public office holders to rid the administration of discredited persons.

One of the most workable strategies to combat corruption and organised crime, it said, was the implementation of "sustainable poverty alleviation programme for economic and social empowerment of the people."

Other recommendations are the need for access to information by the civil society and the media in both domestic and international governmental activities to enhance a functional democracy and the fight against corruption; a consistent pursuit and prosecution of those involved in large-scale corruption against the nation and the confiscation of their assets; intensification of the mobilisation of the public against corruption and a re-direction the energies of our youths from crimes, cultism and other vices towards more useful pursuits and other practical endeavours.

It also urged government to establish special anti-corruption courts for speedy disposal of related cases; a quantitative and qualitative assessment of organised crime in the country; beginning with ECOWAS, Nigeria should continue to participate in international activities that would contribute to the reduction of organised crime in the country; and canvass the constitution of a panel of experts from the Presidency, appropriate government agencies and experts from Nigeria and the international community to draw up a credible National Integrity Strategy and an Anti-Corruption Action Plan that would increase the risk, cost and uncertainty for both national and international corrupt officials.

Vice President Atiku Abubakar represented the President at the conference, which was also attended by officials from the International Police Department (INTERPOL), France, and Serious Fraud Office, London.

Friday, May 12 , 2000

I killed Kudirat Abiola with a special gun, says Rogers

By Gbolahan Gbadamosi and Ibe Uwaleke

SERGEANT Barnabas Jabila (alias Rogers) yesterday admitted shooting Alhaja Kudirat Olayinka Abiola on June 4, 1996 with a special Israeli-made weapon, Uzzi while the more popular AK-47 rifle was used in the attempt on the life of The Guardian's publisher, Mr Alex Ibru, on February 2, 1996, to prevent the possibility of identifying the culprit.

According to him, at the renewed sitting of a Lagos High Court yesterday, the AK-47 had become commonplace especially with armed robbers in the country following the illegal smuggling of its brand by returnee-ECOMOG soldiers. Therefore, tracing the gun and the users on that operation would be impossible.

He also alleged that as a member of the late Gen. Abacha's Strike Force, he received a parting gift of N300,000 from former military ruler Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, two days before the May 29, 1999 handover to civilian government.

Asked whether he knew he could refuse an illegal order, Rogers replied that no order from a superior officer could be so regarded in the armed forces.

The proceedings also brought to fore the sensitivity of newspaper reports of proceedings of the celebrated trial, as leading counsel to one of the accused persons Clement Akpamgbo (SAN) complained to the court, an aspect of a report published by The Guardian yesterday.

Rogers, on his third consecutive day of cross-examination by the defence counsel, also explained why he cried on January 11, the first day he started his evidence on the trial.

Former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late Gen. Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and three others are standing trial over an alleged attempt in the life of Mr. Alex Ibru, Publisher of The Guardian and the arson attempt on the Rutam House.

Other suspects are former Zamfara State Administrator, Lt. Col. Jubrin Bala Yakubu, former Lagos and Oyo States Police Commissioner James Danbaba and Chief Superintendent Mohammed Rabo Lawal.

Rogers was answering questions from Mr. Ibrahim Buba, counsel to Yakubu in continuation of the cross-examination he (Buba) started on Tuesday.

When asked to explain the types of arms and ammunition normally used for such acts, Rogers who had earlier in the week stated that he used Russian-made AK-47 rifle to shoot Mr. Ibru, said: "Yes, I used Uzzi rifle in shooting Kudirat Abiola."

On whether he was a privileged member of the Aso Rock Security outfit, Rogers replied: "I did not have any dinner with Gen. Abubakar. He (Abubakar) talked with everybody. He gave all of us money. I was given N300,000."

Akpamgbo , the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister under military President Ibrahim Babangida, before the commencement of the proceedings, drew attention of the court to a portion of The Guardian's story of Wednesday's proceeding published yesterday. Specifically, it was Rogers' reply on N10 million promised by Al-Mustapha through his wife.

The Guardian had reported that "Major Al-Mustapha promised me N10 million through his wife, which she conveyed to me when I went to see her on Mustapha's directive, that if I would agree to tell lies about our activities, I will collect the money from his wife."

The crux of Akpamgbo's complaint was that although Rogers testified that Mustapha's wife offered him (Rogers) N10 million, the purpose for the offer which The Guardian reported in its story, was not part of the court's record of proceedings.

He (Akpamgbo) consequently asked the judge to refer to the records to confirm his position.

Going through the appropriate portion of the record, Mr. Justice Alabi also recalled that the explanation for the N10 million offer was not included. He enjoined the press to be more accurate in reporting the proceedings and specifically advised the journalists, when in doubt, to apply for copies of the court's records through the registrar.

Yesterday's proceeding which started at 10.15 a.m. and ended at 2.03 p.m. with 30 minutes break ran thus:

Mr. Jabila you, prayed this morning?

Yes I prayed.

Did you pray for this court? (Laughs)

Have you been refreshing your memory?

Yes.

You joined the military voluntarily?

Yes.

You have been enjoying your military career?

Yes.

As a result of that your younger brother was influenced to join the military

Yes I influenced him.

Life for you is a normal life of barracks

Yes.

Before May 27, 1999, you were not accused of any offence or crime in Nigeria

Yes.

You told this court yesterday that you saw Mohammed in handcuffs but you were never humiliated, abused, harassed by police, SSS (State Security Service) or any other special services like SIP (Special Investigation Panel)

Yes I was never.

Did you come with your Bible today?

Yes I came with it.

Have you ever come across what is said in Proverb 12:22?

No, Except I check.

Do you want to check it?

Yes, (he opened it and read) Lying lips are abomination to the Lord, but they that deal truly are his delight. Praise the Lord Chorus: Alleluah.

Read also Proverb 19:5

He opened it and read. A false witness shall not be unpunished and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.

Read also Proverb 19:12

He opened and read: The King's wrath is as the roaring lion but his favour is as due upon the grass.

Thank you. Do you believe all these verses.

Absolutely.

While in custody you remember a nice lady who brought you a tooth brush?

No woman brought me any tooth brush.

What about newspapers given to you?

No.

Have you ever been told to be a man and don't cry?

Yes.

Have you ever come across a person called Mrs. A.A. Williams?

No.

Who are the lawyers who said you should be a man?

Prof. (Professor Yemi Osibajo, Chief prosecutor) and others.

Remember the first day you came to this court.

Yes, I remember.

You were crying.

Yes.

Crying has been your habit?

No crying has not been a habit.

Is it true that on the day you attempted on the life of Alex Ibru you cried at Dodan Barracks?

No, not at all.

Do you know Mohammed Aminu?

Yes, I know him.

You were with him at SSS at Abuja?

Yes, but not in the same cell.

Did you cry while with him?

No.

Someone influenced you to be born again when you were in protective custody?

True.

You told this court that you once killed?

Yes.

Am I right to say it was Kudirat Abiola?

The case is not here.

Please answer the question.

When I was coming to testify in this court, I was told to answer questions on evidence before this court.

Who asked you not to answer such questions?

The lawyers.

What are their names?

I don't know their names.

You are to answer my questions.

If the questions relate to the matter before this court.

When I asked you a question relating to your father who was a retired police officer, you answered.

Yes.

Why won't you answer the question on Kudirat which is not related to this case just like your father?

The matter is not in this court.

(Turning to the judge) I insist that the witness must answer a question that is well put to him.

Judge: "I don't know what I can do, I have recorded him as saying that the matter is not in this court.

(Osibajo intervened) I am not objecting to that question.

The person you killed was Kudirat Abiola?

Based on the case before this court, no.

Look at Exhibit P1(a), do you say the exhibit is not true?

Basically, what I said here is not true.

Is it true that you were born in 1969?

Yes.

That is already stated in Exhibit P1(a).

Yes.

Is it true that there was a bomb blast on December 13, 1993?

I cannot remember the dates.

Go through the same Exhibit P1(a).

It is based on the questions asked by the police that it was stated there.

Police supplied the dates?

Yes.

So, it was the police that mentioned the person involved. Ismaila, Shaib. Did you believe the police?

Yes.

You also joined Army in 1987?

Yes.

Is it correctly stated in Exhibit P1(a)?

Yes.

By your oral evidence, you remember the specific date of serving in the Army?

Yes.

Your date of birth was contained in Exhibit P1(a)?

Yes.

You remember that you said you were 29 years, 2 months old in your oral evidence?

No.

You remember you went to Korea in April 1997 and came back in July?

Yes.

You remember the date, year and the month?

Yes.

You also remember you said there was a coup in December 21, 1997?

Yes.

You remember as stated in Exhibit P1(a), you went to India in 1997?

Yes, as an escort to Major Al-Mustapha.

Are you telling the court that Exhibit P1(a) is half true and false?

Some are true and some are false.

Apart from your biography which is true in Exhibit P1(a), other statements you made in the same exhibit are also true?

Some are true and some false.

Do you by any means remember what is called Federal Government wrist watch?

I have not come across that word.

Do you remember one Warrant Officer Bassey?

I cannot remember.

Do you remember Bassey, a Warrant Officer whom you gave the wrist watch and then thrown into Black Maria?

Nothing like that happened.

The meeting of SIP you attended was it at their headquarters? Was it Area 10 Garki, Abuja?

No, the one I attended was at SSS, Abuja.

Do you know one A. Gazama, an SSS director, your tribe's man?

No. I don't know him.

You are working with men of SSS in the Strike Force?

Yes.

When you took coup plotters to Kano, you were also with SSS?

Yes.

You are familiar with men of SSS in Abuja, Kano and other places.

I don't talk to all of them and they don't tell me their names.

All the people on the SSS you met, some speak your language?

We speak English and sometimes Hausa.

You know the chairman of SIP? Let me describe him to you. He is bulky and has a big frightening moustache.

I know of a man with a long moustache. I don't know whether he is the chairman or not.

Col. J.B. Yakubu was not brought face to face with you at the Force Headquarters?

No.

When you made your statement on September 29, the fourth accused (Yakubu) was not around?

He was not around.

On September 9, 1999, you made two statements which took you 45 minutes each?

I cannot remember.

If I show it to you, you will remember.

If I see them, I can remember and if it was my original handwriting and my signature, I will remember.

I remind you again, is the same statement you made you admitted shooting somebody with an Uzzi gun.

If it is my original handwriting, I will remember.

At this juncture, Prof. Osibajo objected to the question.

Buba then cited Sections 199 and 209 of the Evidence Act to argue that he wanted the witness to identify the statement.

"The question put to him is if he made that statement which he admitted he does not, he cannot remember. He admitted that if he sees his handwriting he will be able to identify it''.

Citing Section 13 of the Evidence Act, he submitted: "Having said he can identify it, if he sees it, I have an application to show it to him. It is relevant and within the ambit of the law."

In his short ruling, Justice Alabi said: "The correct position of the law is that if opposing lawyer wants to tender an exhibit through cross-examination, he needs to lead the witness to admit the document. If he admits, yes. If he denies, that is the end of the matter. The only option is to tender it through his own witness. To give it to this witness for identification is against the law of Evidence Act."

Cross-examination continued:

The Uzzi you used does it use 9mm and a silencer?

Yes.

Was that made to the police at Abuja?

Yes.

Was that statement made after Exhibit B1(a)?

Yes.

It was your personal service pistol?

No.

It was your official gun?

As per the nature of the job.

The person you used that Uzzi rifle to shoot was Kudirat Abiola?

Yes.

You remember shooting Alex Ibru with AK-47 rifle so that it cannot be traced?

Yes.

Alex Ibru was shot on February 2, 1996.

As you have said, but I cannot remember.

Kudirat was shot on June 4, 1996.

Yes.

You used AK-47 in shooting Alex Ibru so that it cannot be traced. Why did you not use AK-47 on Kudirat Abiola? So that it cannot be traced?

I don't know, but what I know is that the Commissioner of Police (Danbaba) issued AK-47 to us through Col. J.B. Yakubu.

In the military AK-47 is commonly used?

Yes.

You agree with me that it is easier to trace AK-47 because it is commonly used than Uzzi riffle?

Yes.

When you used Uzzi, it was only you and Katako?

Yes.

Is it true that you sneaked out and left Yakubu, Sani Garuba, Ismaila Shaib, Bello and Mohammed Aminu?

I did not sneak out.

Did you go with them?

I did not go with them because they were carrying girls and the nature of my assignment is not clandestine but to accomplish the assignment.

So, when you used Uzzi to kill Kudirat, Ismaila Shaib, Sani Garuba Sugaba Gambo and Mohammed Aminu, were not with you?

They were not with me at the scene of the event.

As at February 1996 when you shot Ibru, you said you were tired of pursuing man.

Yes.

Then four months after, you pursued Kudirat, and killed her?

Yes, I had no option.

You know the fourth accused person (Yakubu) as the Commander of the 26th Battalion, Bonny Camp?

Yes.

You know that he has not less than 800 armed personnel he was controlling?

Yes.

You don't know how long he has been in Lagos when you met him?

I don't know.

The battalion, you d

Thursday, May 11 , 2000

Obasanjo begins state visit to Canada

CANADIAN Prime Minister Jean Chretien has announced that President Olusegun Obasanjo will make a state visit to Canada from today to Monday, May 15 at the invitation of the Governor-General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson. Obasanjo would be accompanied by ministers and two state governors.

A statement by the Canadian High Commission quoted the Prime Minister as saying that "Canada and Nigeria have close ties as Commonwealth countries, and share similar concerns for international peace, stability and human security," adding: "I had the opportunity to meet with President Obasanjo last November during my visit to Nigeria. I look forward to this follow-up meeting to exchange views on how we can enhance the ties between our countries."

Chretien will meet with Obasanjo in Ottawa tomorrow to discuss trade and investment, co-operation in international fora such as the United Nations and the Commonwealth, peacekeeping and human security. Obasanjo will also meet with Governor General Clarkson.

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/

Thursday, May 11 , 2000

How to resolve Ife-Modakeke crisis, by Soyinka

From Laolu Akande, New York

NOBEL Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has called for a drastic and urgent solution to the Ife-Modakeke conflict.

According to Soyinka: "The rate of casualty and the lack of discrimination which makes, be it governor, VCs, clerics, victims, brings it home to us that this is a festering sore which requires drastic and urgent cauterisation. I believe this is a moment for the exercise of a seemingly absent political will, not only from the government of Osun State, but also the Federal Government.

"It is impossible for any meaningful learning or sense of security to be enjoyed by the student body of Ife University as well, of course, as the entire population of Ife and Modakeke."

Soyinka, who once taught at the Obafemi Awolowo University, noted that it was clear now that "we can no longer treat this conflict as a localised one. A new urgent political initiative is required, back by the necessary forces of law."

Soyinka further expressed hope that the leaders of "our community will find the necessary moral courage to put an end to the dismal history."

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com

Thursday, May 11 , 2000

Airport fire: Tinubu urges urgent privatisation of NEPA

LAGOS State Governor Bola Tinubu, who visited the scene of the Murtala Muhammed Airport fire disaster yesterday, has described as unfortunate the inability of fire fighters to contain the outbreak.

The governor, however, re-echoed his call for an urgent privatisation of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), apparently due to suspicions that the fire was caused by power surge.

Said Tinubu: "I got wind of it (the fire incident) at 2.30 a.m to 3 a.m. Our own fire service joined in the action to work on it. I got another security report at about 6 a.m which said they were fighting the fire. It is rather unfortunate that we have not been able to do much better."

While calling for additional training and facilities for personnel of the fire service, he observed that if the cause of the fire could be traced to an office, then the incident could be following "the same pattern of several disasters in this city," adding that the need had arisen to quickly privatise NEPA and give it to competent hands.

This, he said, would protect lives and property of Nigerians.

"We are not up to the world's standard yet. As far as Lagos is concerned, we have limited resources and so many contending priorities."

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/

Thursday, May 11 , 2000

Obasanjo hints of troops deployment to Sierra Leone

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

THE need to halt further escalation of the conflict in Sierra Leone may have prompted President Olusegun Obasanjo's appeal to Nigerians for "a little bit more sacrifice" to save the embattled country.

Speaking with journalists in Abuja in a voice signposting an imminent deployment of fresh troops to the war-torn nation, the President said:

Already, thousands of Sierra Leoneans in the hinterland have fled their homes to the capital for safety even as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group marches on the city.

" all the sacrifice that Nigeria has made in the past will come to nothing and if it will mean we will have to make a little bit more sacrifice a little more sacrifice to a little more success in Sierra Leone, I appeal to all Nigerians to continue to be good neighbours and their brothers' and sisters' keepers in Sierra Leone."

The President told State House correspondents at a briefing at about 7.50pm at his official residence that although formal request for such a deployment had not been made by the United Nations (UN) authorities, appropriate consultations were on.

"The request has not been made formally and that is why I said we are consulting; and don't forget, we still have troops there under the UN auspices; and also those under the ECOMOG who have not been brought home," he said.

He described the situation in the troubled country as a complete negation of the whole arrangement agreed under the Lome Treaty which he said all the parties including the Foday Sankoli-led Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were signatories.

The President who was billed to depart Abuja late last night for Canada on a state visit, described as "firm and serious" the position which all the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders who met on Tuesday in Abuja took on the situation, stressing that contributions by Nigeria in restoring peace and order in that country had been widely-acknowledged by the international community.

Not just that, but sacrifice. At every stage, we've worked with leaders within the region to find a lasting solution to the Sierra Leonean problem. Collectively, the leaders of our sub-region decided yesterday (Tuesday) at their meeting that we will not allow violence to destroy the goodwork that our sub-regional organisation has done and its members and that of the UN", he said.

He added: "We, of course, because of our special role, sacrifice that we have made in the past are in regular contact with UN Secretary-General, U.S authorities and British authorities to work out a plan to put the Lome Agreement fully back on the rail."

The President further explained that the action of the RUF elements were anti-Lome agreements, adding that the violence which had erupted in the country was not in the best interest of peace-loving people.

Nigeria has about two battalion to the UN force and a handful of logistics personnel for back-loading Nigerian contingent equipment which served under ECOMOG.

Obasanjo's short briefing last night followed consultations he had with military chiefs, including Defence Minister, Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, the Chief of Defence Staff , Rear Admiral Ibrahim Ogolu, Chief of Army Staff Major-Gen. Victor Malu, Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Victor Omba and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Isaac Alfa.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leonea Information Minister Julius Spencer has appelaed to Britain for troops commital to enforce peace in the crisis-prone nation.

Spencer said yesterday that British military intervention would bring a swift end to the crisis.

"If the British government and British military provide significant support with men and materials to the UN force, the whole situation will change very quickly," he told British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Spencer said Britain should take the lead in ending "major discrimination" against African countries when it comes to peacekeeping.

"The Sierra Leone public expects much more than what the British seem to be giving," Spencer said. "It is disturbing for us because it seems like there is indeed some major disrimination in the way world peace is being kept when it comes to African country," he added.

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/

Thursday, May 11 , 2000

Modakeke, Ife defy president, continue warfare

From Sola Shittu, Ile-Ife

DESPITE President Olusegun Obasanjo's intervention in the fratricidal war between Ife and Modakeke, the orgy of violence continued unabated yesterday as youths from both sides defied ceasefire calls from their leaders.

Yesterday, a house behind CSS bookshop along Ibadan road opposite the Obafemi Awolowo University (O.A.U) gate was set ablaze by one of the warring parties.

Armed youths were also seen gathering at an uncompleted building at Parakin along Olatare Street at Eleyele area preparing for another outslaught.

Commercial vehicles were completely off the road leaving only motorcycle operators charging exorbitant fares.

Inter-state vehicles changed their routes to Parkin or Road seven in OAU. Although Mobile Policemen continued to mount road blocks and assured commuters of their safety, many still preferred alternate routes to avoid Mayfair and Urban Day areas considered the most volatile zone.

Wife to the Ooni of Ife, Olori Bisade Sijuwade was seen in the palace at Enuowa leading a campaign against continuation of the fratricidal fighting.

Ooni Sijuwade, according to the Asiwaju of Ife Chief Orayemi Orafidiya also held a meeting with his chiefs yesterday insisting on an end to the carnage.

But the armed youths seemed unperturbed by the cease fire order. They alleged that the policemen were backing the Modakekes against them.

In the meantime, the OAU authorities are still unaware of the fate of the missing Seni Osuade, a part VI medical student of the institution who was kidnapped by one of the warring factions around Sabo on his way to the University Teaching Hospital at Ilesa Road.

The Vice-Chancellor Prof. Roger Makanjuola after a meeting with university officials yesterday left for Osogbo to brief the Osun State governor Chief Bisi Akande and the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. John Nwoye, on the latest development.

He is also expected to meet with the senate council of the institution later in the day on the same issue.

The entire university community was still in mourning mood over the incident which has caused panic in the institution.

Attempts to speak with the university officials proved abortive as they were still making frantic efforts to see if they could still save the student.

A close friend and colleague of the missing Seni Osunade said contrary to some media reports, the missing student had not been found.

He said the police area command at More and the Ooni's Palace had been contacted over the incident but there was still no clue as to his whereabouts.

Seni Osunade, a part VI medical student and son of Professor Osunade, was said to have come from Tonkere, a village around the university said to belong to the Modakekes.

According to The Guardian source, Seni's father, Prof. Osunade, retired from the institution two years ago when his house along Road Seven was torched in the fightings.

Being Anglican Reverend Father, Seni's father was said to have retired to an Anglican church in Ibadan leaving his son in Ife to complete his study in December this year.

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/

Thursday, May 11 , 2000

Govt to probe airport fire, says minister

By Tunji Oketunbi

A PANEL will immediately be raised to probe yesterday's early morning inferno which razed Terminal One of the Murtala Muhammed Airport's domestic wing, Aviation Minister Segun Agagu pledged yesterday.

The minister, who was at the scene with the Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Managing Director of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), John Sule Osenua and other officials said, however, that the FAAN fire service was efficient.

Said Agagu: "No one can say specifically the cause of the fire. All we can say is that the damage we have seen is enormous. Investigations into the matter will start immediately to look into the cause."

According to the minister, the fire started around 2 a.m. from the right-hand side of the terminal and the securityman on duty alerted the fire fighters who, he added, arrived the scene from their base which is about 200 metres away.

He said: "Our information shows that not much time was wasted before the fire fighters got there. In this airport, we have a very efficient water service put in place. There are five water trucks that are loaded at all times with water in this airport and all reported to this point within five to 10 minutes of the moment the fire started.

"Unfortunately, all their efforts in conjunction with the help from the Lagos State Fire Service and the Federal Fire Service outside of the airport area could not help put the fire down."

According to Agagu, although, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) recommended 24,000 litres of water to be at airports always, the MMA had 40,000 on standby loaded into four trucks.

The minister said efforts of the fire fighters to save 10 aircraft parked on the tarmac at the time of the disaster should not be overlooked. "A lot of efforts was put in place and I do not want you to overlook it."

Agagu pledged that within 24 hours, operations would continue at the General Aviation Terminal at the airport to ensure that passengers "do not suffer too much inconvenience."

The Terminal One was renovated only last year, shortly before the World Youth Soccer fiesta hosted by Nigeria.

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/

Thursday, May 11 , 2000

Shock as fire raises Lagos airport

By Tunji Oketumbi, Aviation Reporter

TERMINAL One of the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Ikeja went up in flames early yesterday reducing the over 25-year-old building to rubles.

The fire which began around 2.00 a.m. defied efforts of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) and Lagos State fire fighters who were reportedly alerted about 10 minutes after the fire broke out.

Although many airlines with offices in the building, FAAN and other concessionaries are still computing their losses, the fire consumed cash, valuables and equipment of various kinds running into hundreds of millions of naira.

Lost to the fire were FAAN's electronic screening machine, conveyor belts, public phone boxes belonging to Nigerian Telecommunications Company (NITEL) and Telipoint, Airlines notes, counting machines, scales for weighing luggage, airline tickets and documents.

Others include air conditioners believed to have aided the raging inferno, furniture, books and magazines.

Although no life was lost, organisations affected included Nigeria Airways which lost its multi-million naira VIP Lounge constructed last year, its control room, gadgets and offices.

Others are Inland Bank believed to have lost undisclosed amount and documents relating to customers' accounts, NIPOST which lost its post office, NITEL which lost telephone boxes, about 22 and concessionaries operating newspaper stands, VIP Lounge, restaurants and supermarkets.

Sources said the fire began at the front section of the airport, which was later discovered by a female FAAN security official who went out without her shoes to alert fire officers. When she came back thereafter however, the inferno had consumed the terminal building including the office she just left behind.

No one is yet able to identify the cause of the incident although some suggested high voltage while others suspected sabotage.

Consequently, domestic airline operations have shifted to the abandoned General Aviation Terminal (GAT) which was closed down about two years ago for its poor facilities.

Domestic airline personnel were seen at their various counters even as a hand-held Public Address System was being used to announce flights.

Passengers boarding the first flight to Abuja got to the airport to meet the inferno, while those on a British Airways/Nigeria Airways flight which landed at 4.30 a.m. narrated how they saw the thick flames of the inferno from above.

Domestic airlines had to arrange tables outside, at the Crew Car Park of the Nigeria Airways to attend to passengers.

Officials of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) were also at the airport around 7.30 a.m. to inspect the extent of the disaster.

Passengers were rushing to the tarmac to board their flights even as smoke from the burning terminal building filled the whole area.

Last night, the Federal Ministry of Aviation issued a statement informing the general public that the fire incident occurred at the Domestic Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja.

According to the statement by Sule Ozenua, managing director of FAAN. The combined fire services were able to stop the fire from spreading to the termac, where aircraft were parked, and to the buildings adjoining the terminal building. No life was lost in the incident."

Following the incident, the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Dr. Segun Agagu, accompanied by the permanent secretary, Mr. Sunday Ajulo, top ranking officials from aviation ministry, chairman and members, House of Representatives' committee on aviation, the Nigerian Air Force, FAAN's managing director, Mr. Sule Ozenua and FAAN officials inspected the scene after which the following decisions were taken:

  • operations at the domestic terminal have been moved to the General Aviation Area, in order not to hamper passengers' movement.
  • unserviceable and disused aircraft have been removed from the apron of the General Aviation Terminal, to create space for optimal operation. So far the space now available is about twice the size of the apron of the burnt terminal.
  • for smoother vehicular traffic flow at the General Aviation Area, the access road leading to the terminal has been designated for one-way traffic."

    The statement also said "concerted efforts were being made to ensure that the incident does not disrupt operations unduly. Meanwhile, full investigation will be carried out on the incident."

    http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/

Tuesday May 9, 2000

FG to publicise names of corrupt persons — Justice Minister

By Bukola Ojeme & Chioma Ugwunebo

ABUJA—NAMES of highly placed Nigerians including public officers being investigated for corruption and organised crimes are to be published henceforth by the Federal Government.

Dropping this hint yesterday in Abuja was the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN) at the opening of an international conference on corruption and organised crimes.

He said: "Very shortly, government intends to match words with action by making public names of those that are under investigation for various offences that bother on corruption and organised crimes.

"Some men of grand positions are standing trial for various offences now and a few more will be tried and I can tell you that with time, those under suspicion of corruption will be tried publicly.

"There are many people in our country today who labour under the belief that their private affairs can survive the down fall of the nation and so they undermine public affairs. They pay little or no attention to the responsibilities that have been entrusted to them by the nation.

"They convert the wealth of the nation and render it poor. The land— Nigeria— has been enslaved by corruption. She has been enslaved by violence, religion and tribalism.

"Our responsibility is to purchase her free and that is what this government is doing. The commitment of this government, the commitment of the President, of the Vice President and that of the ministers to the eradication of corruption, to the freedom of the nation from these vices is total. We must be unrelenting. We haven’t had sufficient time, but we are determined.

"Our determination is not in doubt. The fact that this country can call the rest of the world to this building and discuss freedom from corruption is something.

"The nation is not growing by hypocracy or lip service, only by sincerity and sacrifices nor can it be saved by one man. It can only be saved by all of us working together.

"As we embark on this crusade, let us be united by our common experience of the devastating effect of corruption. We cannot afford to be divided. Some people think that it is dangerous to fight corruption. They think that the agents of corruption are not going to give up without a fight. Indeed, they are fighting. Let us be serious.

"Our commitment to the total eradication of corruption as I said before is total. There is no prize that we are not willing to pay and is not for us to count the cost. If our country is going to remain as corrupt as it has been, yes I think it is better to die than to remain as it is. Nevertheless, if we desire our safety we must combat corruption. Consider what the situation could be if we do not do anything at all.

"For many years, we have not been accountable to the nation while putting our various tribes before the nation. We were nevertheless not accountable to our tribes.

"They say that, if every Hausa man in Nigeria, every Yoruba man in Nigeria and every Igbo in Nigeria were as accountable to their various races, we would have a strong virile nation.

"But the truth is that we have not even been accountable to these tribes, so we need accountability and that is what the war against corruption is all about. And very shortly, government intends to match words with action by making public names of those that are under investigation for various offences that bother on corruption and organised crimes.

"We have made some progress in the last10 months in the life of this administration, that we can discuss corruption openly and sincerity is a triumph of the rule of law.

"In those days, everything was done to promote corruption. Today, the complaint is that the measures which have been taken to combat it are extinct.

"Before now, not many were prosecuted for corruption. Some men of grand positions are standing trial for various offences now and a few more will be tried and I can tell you that with time those under suspicion of corruption will be tried publicly."

In an address delivered on behalf of President Olusegun Obasanjo, Vice President Atiku Abubakar maintained his earlier stance that "It is no longer going to be business as usual."

President Obasanjo described political instability, lack of productivity and loss of confidence as spill-over effects of the nation’s records.

President Obasanjo who also maintained that there would be no sacred cows in the fight against corruption stated that corruption had led to loss of revenue and damage to the nation’s integrity.

Vanguard: Transmitted TUESDAY, 9th May, 2000 

Okadigbo pledges to cooperate with Obasanjo

By Anayo Okoli

LAGOS — SENATE President, Dr Chuba Okadigbo says he has taken a personal resolution to cooperate with President Obasanjo in order to move the country forward.

As a first step, he said the disputed areas in the budget would be ratified within the next 12 days.

Dr Okadigbo said that the N7,500 and N5,500 minimum wage for federal and state civil servants as announced last week by President Olusegun Obasanjo were not enough, saying however that it was better than having no wage increase at all.

According to Okadigbo, "well, half bread is better than none".

Okadigbo spoke with airport correspondents at the presidential wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport on his way back to Abuja.

"The Senate will give every possible cooperation to the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo. We are going to work together to see that the budget matter is settled in the next 12 days.

"Already, the Senate has set up, after consultations with the committee of principal officers of the three parties, a seven-man team which will meet with a seven-man team from the House of Representatives. We will expect the presidency to set up its own committee.

"So we will put them in a conference room to work out the grey areas and bring the resolutions before us so the olive branch is out in every respect.

"I came on this private visit (to Lagos) and took that private resolution and I am going to Abuja to implement it to the letter", Okadigbo stated.

He urged his colleagues in the National Assembly "to put all hands on deck now to shift their thoughts to stop all unnecessary bickerings", pointing out that "on my own, I will do my best to bring them together and make sure there is peace again".

"Members of the Senate and the executive will pay more particular attention to what the president said that we should stop going on a war path. Let us go on the path of peace now. I am determined to see that Nigerians live in peace and harmony, and that the three arms of government work together. That is my determination", the Senate President pledged.

Okadigbo maintained that the National Assembly has no problem regarding the president’s announcement of the minimum wage without consulting the assembly.

"There is no problem. We are now cooperating with the presidency. We are trying to do what the president wants and to make the president happy and move Nigeria forward", he noted.

On the alleged presidential pardon given to former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Salisu Buhari, Okadigbo said he did not know about the pardon.

"I was present at the caucus meeting of the party (PDP) last Monday night when the president said that there was no such thing and I will like to believe him", he explained.

Vanguard: Transmitted TUESDAY, 9th May, 2000 


Date of Article: 05/07/2000
Obasanjo Threatens to Resign

IN line with his pledge to bring back transparency and accountability in government business, President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that rather than compromise his stance against corruption and other evil acts in government, he would prefer to relinquish office before the end of his mandate.
"Some say compromise a little, but I will not. And I constantly pray to God that rather than allow me to compromise evil and corruption, he should take me away from this job or take the job away from me," he told a delegation from the Nigerian Insurers Association who paid him a visit Friday.
He stated that he would remain unrelenting in his efforts to entrench honesty, accountability and probity in the management of public funds.
While reviewing its administration's efforts to stem corruption in the country, the president categorically asserted that corruption was no longer a way of life in the executive arm of government as it used to be.
He however challenged anyone with contrary evidence on the claim to bring it to his notice for necessary action.
Noting that there was no country in the world where corruption had been totally eradicated, he stressed that there were many countries where corruption was no longer a way of life. He added that his administration would do its best to ensure that Nigeria joined the league of such nations in the shortest possible time.
As part of its efforts to achieve the objective, he said that his administration will adopt all legitimate means to ensure that the anti-corruption bill is passed by the National Assembly.
He however declared his concern at the high level of corruption and malpractice in the insurance industry and urged the association to make recommendations to government on urgent action to sanitise the industry.
In his remarks, chairman of the NIA, Mr. Bolaji Banjo, urged the president to initiate actions to create a level playing field for all insurers in Nigeria. They also called for the extension of the privatisation programme to the insurance industry and a review of certain provisions of current laws governing the insurance business in Nigeria, especially those which grant monopoly powers to two government owned insurance companies.
Nigeria Post Express

N598b 2000 Budget Signed into Law

THE prolonged dispute between the executive and legislative arms of the Federal Government on the year 2000 budget finally came to an end Friday night when President Olusegun Obasanjo signed into law the appropriation bill.
The total budget outlay signed is N598 billion instead of the N677 billion earlier approved by the National Assembly.
Only the provisions that are not in contention are to be implemented. Implementation of other provisions will await the proposed amendment which the president said would be done in consultation with all the relevant parties on the basis of well established principles.
The president appended his signature on the bill between 6.44 and 6.46 pm in the presence of a large crowd, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali N'abba, Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Haruna Abubakar, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Barnabas Gemade and the Special Adviser to the president on National Assembly matters, Alhaji Aminu Wali.
Others included ministers, presidential liaison officers to the Senate and House of Representatives, Mr. Phil Agbasi and Mrs. Esther Udehi respectively, among others.
The budget, according to the president, in his two-page address entitled "The Triumph of Patriotism" pegged the total anticipated reserve at $11.39 billion with a mandatory first charge put at $6.36 billion which leaves the Federal Government retained revenue at $5.03 billion.
The government, he said, was guided by the general rule that total expenditure must not exceed a permissible deficit limit of 2.5 percent in preparing the budget.
"As agreed with the National Assembly, and because of the time that has already been lost, I intend to move very swiftly in implementing the provisions of the budget", he said.
While stating that the signing of the budget stemmed from the agreement reached between the two arms at their meeting last Monday, he explained that the meeting was extremely useful and productive in several ways.
"But I can confidently affirm today, that the understanding reached at the meeting of May 1 this year represent the triumph of reason, maturity and patriotism over sentiment and undue partisanship. These understandings fortunately indicate that both the executive and the legislators are now convinced that the two branches of govenment need and must work with each other; that mutual understanding and respect are indispensable conditions for the efficient running of our government and that we are all deeply committed to establishing a virile and enduring form of democracy in our country."From our previous misunderstanding, we have also come to recognise the proper limits of each branch's constitutional powers. We have learnt the uses of openness, dialogue and cooperation, and we have come to realise that whenever we put the interest of the nation first, God in His mercy will always give us the will and the wisdom to succeed," the president stated.
To avoid delay in the commencement of the implementation of the 2001 budget, the president pledged to send the appropriation proposal not later than October, adding that the executive would engage in exhaustive consultations with all relevant institutions and persons including the National Assembly before sending in the bill.
Similarly, the office of the budget in the Presidency, he said, will be in constant liaison with the National Assembly budget office to ensure that the budget is signed into law by December 1, 2000.
He, however, pointed out that the budget signed into law was accompanied by a motion passed by both Houses and also a list of the excess appropriations some of which will be the subject of subsequent amendments to the bill to be presented later to the Assembly.
He pledged his commitment to faithfully execute the signed budget in accordance with generally recognised standards of transparency and probity.
On the signing of the Appropriation Bill, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Barnabas Gemade said he was highly elated by the development.
"I'll like to tell Nigerians clearly that this is as a result of untiring efforts of the party. You will recall that the President was making reference to a meeting and agreement of Monday 1st of May. The meeting was convened by the party in caucus and I facilitated that meeting at the height of programmes that had gone on for many weeks in trying to resolve the impasse between the two arms of government.
"Those who have been complaining about the inactivity of PDP are ignorant. They are aware of what we are doing and it is not really in our character to continue to come out into the open and say the things we are doing behind the scene to resolve problems. "We took over the helm of affairs in this party when there was gross indiscipline,improper co-ordination of affairs and we had to put things right and I am very glad that all these efforts have today yielded result and that the party can feel very proud to have midwifed the solution of these problems.

Date of Article: 05/07/2000
Topic: 6000 Nigerians to Be Deported from South Africa

SIX thousand Nigerians are to be deported from South Africa any moment from now over immigration offences, the police announced Friday in Lagos.
Addressing journalists at the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) Alagbon Close, Ikoyi Lagos, the Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) of Police incharge of the department, Mrs Abimbola Ojomo, said the deportees were Nigerians without valid travel documents and sundry asylum seekers.
Only on February 14, this year, 57 Male Nigerians were deported from the same country over the same offences.
Mrs Ojomo who spoke on the menace of human trafficking, noted that it was one of the most lucrative illicit trades which many Nigerians had taken to.
She said that between March 1999 to May this year, a total of 427 Nigerian prostitutes had been deported with 40 of them testing positive to AIDS.
According to her, of the 57 Nigerians deported from South-Africa in February, 26 were from Imo, 23 from Anambra, three from Edo and one each from Enugu, Abia and Bayelsa states.
She further announced that last week, 61 other Nigerians, amongst them, 59 males and two females were deported.
Mrs. Jomo did not give details on those deportees but said three of them were non-Nigerians from Cameroon, Rwanda and Ghana.
The foreigners, she stated, would be sent to their countries through the countries' embassies in Nigeria.
The AIG disclosed that Nigeria and Albania topped the list of countries in human trafficking in Europe while in Africa, Ghana and Nigeria led the ladder.
To checkmake the rise in human trafficking, Mrs. Ojomo said the Nigerian police would soon set up a national committee on human trafficking with sub committees on enforcement, englightenment and Publicity.

Date of Article: 05/07/2000
Umar Recommends Death Penalty for Looters

AMIDST the general outcry against violent conflicts in the country, the former military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Dangiwa Abubakar Umar (rtd) has recommended death or life imprisonment as penalty for looters and arsonists as well as their sponsors.
Umar made the declaration during a two-day workshop with the theme Conflict Management in a Multi-Ethnic and Religious Society jointly organised by Human Rights Monitor and Citizens League for Peace and Democracy supported by the MacArthur Foundation in Kaduna.
The outspoken retired military officer who dropped his military commission as a result of the June 12 struggle, withdrew into his cocoon in recent times as a result of the aspersions he got from his fellow moslems following his comments on sharia and the religious riots in Kaduna. He said that only capital punishments would check the excesses of fundamentalists and elites who sponsor violent conflicts in the country.
Said he, "already there exist provisions for punishing violence, looters and arsonists but I believe that they should be made more severe. Something like the death penalty or at the least life imprisonment could be considered here. More vigorous efforts should also be made to identify the elites behind such disturbances and punish them."
The retired military officer further traced the genesis of the conflicts to the amalgamation of the various ethnic nationalities by Britain in 1914.
"When the British colonialists took political control of Nigeria," he posited, "they decided, for their administrative convenience, to amalgamate the different nationalities into one country. In doing so, they did not consider the distinct cultural and historical backgrounds of the different nationalities. Under this artificial creation, the spirit of nationalism is difficult to inculcate."
It was against this backdrop, he maintained, that the spirited efforts by the successive governments "to hold the union together, including fighting a civil war, that the federating units have failed to imbibe the spirit of nationalism. They still think and act as independent nations who are in the union under duress."
He also stoutly argued that even the creation of more states and local government areas to address the imbalance only exacerbated the imbroglio in the country.
In his thought provoking paper titled: "Confidence Building and Reconciliation in a Post - Conflict Situation," he said that instead of devolving more power to the states and local government areas, "the centre continued to hold on to most of its original responsibilities in a unitary manner. Instead of addressing the yearnings of the different groups for more control of their local affairs, the new structures became divisive instruments used by the centre to undermine and destabilise the major ethnic groups in order to control them."
It is against this background that Umar called for the reduction in the number of states and local governments to facilitate economic development and check the waste of resources.
"Now all states and local governments resemble the amoebae in their splitting. Today it is clear that with the best management our resources cannot cater for the maintenance of even the most viable units. Unless the number is reduced, Nigeria's national development will remain an unrealistic dream."

Monday, May 1 , 2000

The UNILAG Korea programme

THE report of a panel on the controversial University of Lagos outreach programme with the Republic of Korea has laid to rest the festering unease generated by the scheme. The Distance Learning Outreach Centre was purportedly started several years ago in collaboration with a private interest in Korea. So far, a good number of Korean subscribers have allegedly benefited from the programme and "received tutoring" in subjects such as African music and drumming. The "graduands" have been issued undergraduate and post graduate degrees of the university. But as the panel report indicated, the Senate of the university, which is solely responsible for accrediting academic courses and student performance, became aware of the project much later. Following the panel's findings, the Federal Government has ordered a suspension of the programme. This intervention is welcome and timely.

The investigation was headed by Dr. Dipo Kolawole, a Special Assistant to the Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran. Some of the highlights of the findings are clearly disturbing. The most damning is the revelation that the Senate neither knew of the programme nor approved of it before it took off. The Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) did not approve the course. The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Nigeria was not involved. In other words, the governments of Nigeria and Korea were kept in the dark until a crisis erupted. In this age of internet and cyber communication, many wonders can be wrought. But we are not aware of any such site operated by the university for this purpose. There are many unsettling questions which, hopefully, will be answered in the publication of the report.

The reported lack of accountability also contaminates the atmosphere surrounding the deal. From all indications, monies realised from the enterprise were not reflected in the university's account books. The Kolawole panel has, therefore, recommended "a proper auditing of the entire financial transactions relating to the programme" because the panel could not do so owing to time constraint. An independent audit team should handle this assignment and if any university officers are found culpable, they should be prosecuted.

The university authorities will have to work harder to acquit themselves of charges of administrative negligence and condonation of crime. But for the relentless petitions from some academic staff, the whole deal would have been shielded from public knowledge. How can a law-governed citadel of learning permit its time-honoured rules and regulations to be breached for so long without being able to detect the practice? It gives cause for serious concern that the Senate made up of bright and reputable scholars could not notice the abuse and, when it eventually did, acted in a manner that suggested that the distinguished academics did not feel that their collective integrity was being smeared by some clever colleagues. If the case of acquiescence is proved in the matter, it will become increasingly difficult for the public not to nurse doubts about the overall credibility of the academic certification from the institution. This will be truly regrettable because the University of Lagos has made a solid reputation for itself in the 38 years of existence.

This sordid episode raises questions about the quality of governance in our tertiary institutions. As in other sectors of the national life, it is now obvious that the season of anomy engendered by the dark days of Generals Babangida and Abacha reproduced a generation of academic leaders whose temperament needs remodelling for the post-military reconstruction of the society. This situation partly accounts for the unabating crises of confidence in most campuses. The University of Lagos should strive to restore its good name by establishing a Council investigation into all aspects of the Distance Learning Outreach Centre. Chief Afe Babalola, the new Chairman of the Council, is a distinguished legal luminary and democrat. His first task should be to clear this mess.

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