Nigeria Weekly News Highlights                                    

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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

November 14, 1999

News Highlights #2

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Sunday, 14 November, 1999  

PROSECUTION OF MUSTAPHA, ABACHA'S SON & CO

by John-Abba Ogbodo

THE murder trial of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, erstwhile Chief Security Officer to the deceased Head of State, General Sani Abacha and the late dictator’s son, Mohammed, appears enveloped in a cloud of uncertainty, as the Federal Government is yet to decide on who to prosecute them.

The suspects, along with two others, are scheduled to appear in a Lagos Court on Wednesday, in connection with the murder of NADECO chieftain, Chief Alfred Rewane and Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, senior wife of the deceased politician, Chief MKO Abiola.

It was not clear, at press time, which of the government agencies -the police, federal Ministry of Justice or its Lagos State counterpart - will prosecute the case.

Statutorily, the power to prosecute accused persons, charged with offences classified as capital, is vested on the Ministry of Justice.

But, the police said the Federal Ministry of Justice, to whom it sent the case file after completing its investigations, was yet to respond on the issue of representation.

Officials at the ministry could not be reached for comments on the issue at the weekend.

A source, however, said Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) may be assigned the task of prosecuting the accused persons, since the offences were committed within his area of jurisdiction.

The Federal Ministry of Justice’s failure to respond to the suspects’ case file has prompted the police to indicate its readiness to handle the case.

Deputy Force Public Relations Officer (DFPRO), Mr. Femi Oyeleye, a superintendent of police (SP), told Sunday Vanguard, Friday that the police were worried that the ministry was foot-dragging on the issue.

According to him, the police were ready to go ahead with the case if the ministry abdicated the responsibility.

Oyeleye explained that the position of the law on the matter is clear.

Said the DFPRO: "It is the prerogative of the Ministry of Justice to initiate legal action in serious offences, including murder. Where, however, the ministry keeps quiet, the police can go to court.

Citing sections 150 and 174 of the 1999 Constitution, he said the duty of initiating court action lay with the ministry, which can, if deemed necessary, delegate it to the police.

Mustapha Mohammed, Rabo Lawal Aminu Mohammed, Tanko Yakassai and Lateef Shofolahan were arraigned before an Ikeja chief magistrate court on holden charges of murder October 14, 1999, but the self-confessed killer of Kudirat, Sergeant Barnabas Mshelia (Rogers) was absent from the court presided over by Chief Magistrate Paul Gbogodor.

Relatedly, sources told Sunday Vanguard that investigations were continuing into the confessions made by a prominent member of the Abacha strike force, Sgt. Barnabas Mshelia (a.k.a. Rogers.).

Following the confessions, it was learnt that the police is contemplating interrogating more military officers, serving and retired.

Sources listed those likely to be invited for questioning to include officers who served in the Brigade of Guards under the Abacha regime.

Vanguard Transmitted Sunday, 14 November, 1999 

Soyinka, African Scholars Clash Over T.V. Series

Saturday, November 13, 1999

A fierce intellectual bout is currently raging amongst African leading scholars over a television series called, WONDERS OF THE AFRICAN WORLD by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. of the African studies department at Harvard University. Exchanging mind fire were heavy-weight African scholars like Kenya's Prof. Ali Mazrui of AFRICA: The Triple Heritage fame, Nigeria's Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and a host of others. These intellectuals are flexing their mental muscles from public radio studios all the way to the shoulders of the information super highway. Even writers like Wole Soyinka who confessed to be a "reluctant and fitful tenant" of the Internet have been compelled to plunge into the cyberspace just to participate in the fight of a life time.

Prof. Mazrui, who wrote an introduction for Prof. Gates Jr.'s companion book lamented that he had not seen the T.V. series when he wrote the blurb. "I believe the T V. series is more divisive than the book", he cried out. Mazrui accused Gates Jr.'s T. V. series shown on PBS for dis-Africanizing ancient Egypt, allowing ancient Egyptians to become racist white trampling underfoot Blacks from Upper Nile.

In the second episode, Ali Mazrui faulted Gates Jr's use of racial-questions abstracted from survey-forms of North American opinion polls on Swahili community without talking to scholarly Swahili experts. Mazrui in a paper titled, 'A Preliminary Critique of the T.V.Series by Henry Louis Gates Jr.', complained that the program was obsessed with Race in American terms. He asked, "Did the people Gates was interviewing have the remotest idea what he was really talking about?" He continued, "What is more, his translators seem determined to give the worst possible interpretation of what was being said by interviewees in a place like Lamu."

Amongst the errors pointed out by Mazrui was Gates idea of asking christian missionary priest in Zanzibar about Muslims atrocities in Zanzibar without making any effort to balance a testimony from a witness who was prone to be biased. "Any journalist worth his salt would have done better than Gates", Mazrui grumbled.

In the Trans-Atlantic slave trade featured in episode three, Mazrui condemned Gates for disregarding "the West and White man as actors in the African tragedy". Gates he wrote, managed to make an African to say that without the participation of Africans, there would have been no slave trade. Mazrui charged that Gates avoided mentioning the involvement of European Jews as collaborators in the Slave-trade just to avoid the kind of price paid by Leonard Jeffreys. Because of that fear, Gates picked Africans, like the Asante as sole collaborators, Mazrui concluded.

According to Mazrui, when Gates was not insulting as was the case in episode four on Ethiopia, he was disrespectful. He questioned Gates manner of dressing while appearing before religious leaders in Ethiopia; his sarcasm, snide remarks and other behaviours that trivialized the values of Africans. "Gates seemed incapable of glorifying Africa without demonizing it in the second breath", Mazrui maintained.

Gates handling of Female circumcision and the so called 'new slavery' also received the wrath of Mazrui. "Africans were not, after all, innate barbarians", Mazrui argued. Gates he observed was simply playing 'to the Western Feminist gallery'.

Mazrui, a director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at the State University of New York, castigated Gates for not undertaking a serious portrayal of the African people. "It is hard to believe that such a T.V. series was a product of such a brilliant mind", Mazrui wrote regrettably.

In his reaction to the raging controversy, Professor Wole Soyinka commented that Mazrui should have kept quiet about Gates T.V. series. "Ali Mazrui," he wrote, "has a fifty per cent stake-at least- in the reception that may be accorded to a work that, in effect, constitutes a challenge to a long-held monopoly." It would be recalled that Mazrui's 'AFRICA: The Triple Heritage' until now, has remained the only T.V. series by a black scholar on the subject of Africa's Past and Present.

Wole Soyinka went on to write that, "However Ali Mazrui may present himself, he is being a coveted plaintiff in his own cause, and it is my deeply held conviction that the delights of objective criticism and intellectual enlargement have been sullied by his energetic, propulsive voice in this exercise. It crosses the ethical bounds of intellectualism and deserves the condemnation of all who believe that the virtues of criticism transcend self-interest."

Just like Mazrui acknowledged that Gates is a friend with whom he has profound disagreements, Professor Wole Soyinka stated that, "Mazrui and I .... are ancient adversaries. With this level of indecorous conduct, I am reconciled to the fact that we are likely to remain so for a long time to come." Soyinka, a Woodruff Professor of the Arts at Emory University in Atlanta seemed to agree with another critic, Charles Johnson that there were other equally competent minds that could have commented on Gates' work beside Mazrui.

In her submission, Nigeria's own Omofolabo Ajayi opinioned that she was least concerned with what Gates was wearing and that she glanced over some of Gates disrespectful or casual attitude. She however agreed with critic, Garth Myers, that WONDERS OF THE AFRICAN WORLD is a Travelogue by an African-American on an emotional soul searching experience.

Ajayi expressed her disappointment at the apparent lack of factual presentation, focused research, straightforward analysis and a balanced of personal quest with a critical approach. Gates subscription to the common line that "Africa is in such a mess today because Africans sold their people off to slavery", Ajayi wrote was astounding.

Ajayi, an Associate Professor of Women's Studies, Theatre & Film at the University of Kansas lamented that "until this bogey hurdle of slavery and slave-trade is removed", Africans and African Americans would continue to wallow in ignorance and miseducation, distortion and prejudices. She called on African to begin to discuss slavery and to begin to examine it. "When we get over the disappointment that WONDERS OF THE AFRICAN WORLD is different from our expectations", she wrote, "I hope we can use it INSTRUCTIVELY as a teaching tool balanced with other relevant tools. After all, that is how we teach."

This debate continues at fever pitch at various Internet sites. African scholars from Europe and North America have suddenly found something to exercise their minds on. Meanwhile, Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is currently making his rounds on Talk Shows, promoting his book. As the fuss continues, Gates smiles all the way to the bank.

Rudolf Okonkwo  rudolfokonkwo@hotmail.com    From NigeriaWorld News

 

Vice President Abubakar Warns Warring Communities

By Uwakwe Abugu, Warri, Sam Onwuemeodo, Yenagoa and Austin Ogwuda, Benin

All over the country, at least in the last three years, several ethnic clashes have claimed many lives and rendered numerous homeless. Those were in the days of the military and it was thought that the agitators were sponsored.

However, since the advent of civil rule, things have not improved as such in this direction. Daily, in the news are stories of ethnic clashes, killings, arson, kidnapping, et al. It became so nauseating that last Tuesday, the Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, had to warn the warring communities across the country that if they failed to desist, a state of emergency may be declared in such region.

He had pointed out that his government "is aware and alive to its responsibilities of not only defending the sovereignty and indivisibility of the nation, but that its commitment to security of all citizens is irreversible.

"A dividing line must always be drawn between genuine protest and outright criminality."

What the vice-president was referring to was the known fact that most times, protests are hijacked by thugs while some criminals hide behind such pre-conceived crises to perpetrate one evil or the other.

However, the people of Niger-Delta whom Atiku used as his peg in his Tuesday statement reacted differently to the issue. While some agreed with the government albeit with little variations, others believe that it will be a shade too dark for an offence "perpetrated by few individuals."

Dropping the line of the government thought, Atiku Abubakar had cautioned that "the groups and individuals cannot hide under the guise of defending narrow community interests to commit mayhem and expect the government to fold its arms." If they fail to mend their ways, he assured that "the issue of state of emergency is being discussed by the National Security Council. If it is necessary to declare it anywhere, we will do so."

Reacting to the issue, Mr. Anthony Tosan Prest, Secretary/Coordinator, Warri National Conference pointed out that "the issue is a double-edged sword. Although state of emergency is not really the answer but again no meaningful development can take place in the creeks. "Therefore, there must be some form of state of emergency and massive Federal security presence. This is because what obtains now is that when a contract is awarded, the youths and elders of these communities where the jobs are to be carried out in the Niger-Delta will insist that the funds be given them or the contract awarded to them directly. And if this is done, they would share the money and the weak cannot benefit.

"So, what the Federal Government should do now is to release an emergency $1 billion into the well-intentioned Niger Delta Development Commission. This must go hand in hand with some form of state of emergency."

For Chief Edwin Clark, however, it is a threat too strong to be implemented. "The threat issued by the Federal Government is quite understandable in the sense that the recent killing of police officers in Bayelsa State is very sad indeed. It is a barbaric act that must be condemned by all decent people.

"But apart from that, l do not think there are other crises in the Niger Delta which could warrant the declaration of state of emergency by the Federal Government. There are acts, which could fall within that, but none of the acts taken by the youths or the people of the Niger Delta would warrant the declaration of state of emergency in any part of the Niger Delta.

"In the first place, the Niger Delta crisis particularly started after the Kaiama declaration by the youths when that issue was taken care of by the Federal Government. The Federal Government declared a state of emergency in Yenagoa and at the same time imposed curfew in all the places there, drafted armed soldiers, which should not be used in normal circumstances. They fought against the youths, killed many of them, many houses were destroyed. So, one would have expected that episode was over."

Chief Clark described the event at Odi as an isolated case, which has nothing to do with the larger society.

"There are other areas where communities fight over land and so on. That is all over the country. What happened recently in Odi, somewhere in Bayelsa, were internal matters, which do not affect the whole of Bayelsa State. It is like what is happening in Takum and among the Tivs. It is not a matter affecting the whole of Taraba State.

"Similarly what happened in Sagamu between the Yorubas and the Hausas was another local matter. That would not warrant the declaration of state of emergency in the whole of Ogun State. So also is what happened in Kano between the Yorubas and the Hausas.

"The issue of declaration of state of emergency is a very serious one; we know that there was the Warri crisis from 1996 to this day. And the matter has been resolved. So, at the moment, there is no crisis in Warri. I do not know what would warrant the state of emergency by the Federal Government.

"We know, as a matter of fact, that President Olusegun Obasanjo is doing us much good to see that development comes to the Niger-Delta because he realises that in the past three decades or four the area has been criminally neglected by the federal and even state governments. And nothing has been done. We do recognise the efforts the Federal Government has been making, particularly in the area of infrastructural development.

"Mr. President has done more than any other Head of State in showing interest in the development of the Niger Delta. It is just unfortunate that he took over in the past six months and six months can’t just be enough to redress all the ills of the society he met. So, one understands his position."

Chief Clark implied that the barbaric acts are being perpetrated by only a handful of youth and that most ijaw youths are law-abiding. He pointed out also that in most instances, the law enforcement agents and people from the oil industry collaborate with the youths in the kidnapping of expatriates to make money which they all share.

He believes that the government has the instrument to arrest the situation as "the situation is not different from what operates on the highways. The difference is that these happen on the waterways.

"The government has all the machinery to arrest these people, arrest the leaders of that community. If they want to declare a state of emergency, it is in that community and not the whole of Bayelsa State, not to talk of the whole of Niger Delta. That is not fair.

"The government has what it takes to deal with the barbaric people, these criminals. They should be dealt with and the law of the land should take care of them and no Ijaw man will protect them. So, it is a very sad issue, indeed."

Meanwhile, Honourable Patrick Fregene sees the state of emergency in the Niger Delta as threatened by Atiku as a welcome development. "The desire of the government to declare a state of emergency is a welcome development, indeed. The governors of these states found to have shirked the responsibilities in curtailing the continuous acts of aggression against the state and its innocent citizens should be made to answer questions. But the state of emergency should be restricted to the affected areas.

"It should be restricted to Bayelsa, Rivers State as well as Burutu, Bomadi, Patani and Ijaw occupied enclaves of Warri in Delta State. If this restriction is not maintained, innocent citizens will be made to suffer unduly".

However, governor Diepreye Alamieyeigha of Bayelsa has vowed to deal with those who sponsored the Ijaw youths that killed the seven mobile Police Officers at Odi Community in Kolokuma/Opokuma local Government Area of the state.

He also threatened to punish those who have stockpiled arms and ammunition for the youth in the community. The governor sees the latest action as a means to destabilise his government by making the state ungovernable. He however, pointed out that government was "running out of patience with law-breakers in the state and would be adopting punitive and far-reaching measures to curb lawlessness."

In Edo State, the issue seems not clear to the people who see themselves as peaceful. The Edo State Commissioner for Information, Dr. Omokaro Izevbigie wondered what will become of Edo if a state of emergency is declared in the whole of Niger-Delta.

"If a state of emergency is to be declared in the Niger-Delta, l don’t know how this will affect us in Edo because there is relative peace in Edo State.

"We are not trouble makers even though Edo State feels cheated by the way the revenue from oil is allocated. We have statistics and facts to back up our claims that some certain oil wells in Edo State are accredited to other states and they reap the financial benefits. Despite that we still remain peaceful hoping the Federal Government will understand this.

"Our youths are counselled to continue to remain law-abiding but oil companies should relocate the headquarters to Ologbo area and operate from there instead of shutting down every now and then because of the trouble in the area."

However, the police have debunked claims that they were out to raid the inhabitants of Odi. Speaking to Weekend Vanguard, the Bayelsa police public Relations Officer in the state, Nyanaba Agbozi, an Assistant Superintendent of Police said "there had never been any raid in the community by law enforcement agents and the police has no plan to raid the community. Those who have fled the area must have done so out of fear.

"They knew they had committed an offence, otherwise they should not be running when nobody has pursued them. We are still investigating and we will not be forced into taking any irrational decision."

Meanwhile elders of the community including former governor of the state, Chief Alfred Diette- Spiff, Chief C.B. Agulata, Chief Godwin Odumgba, and Messrs Gerry Druko and Jonathan kupor in their signed resolution denounced the killings. "The killing was regrettable because of the embarrassment it had caused the Federal Government. Efforts must be made to arrest the culprits. We assure (people) of security of lives and property." 

Vanguard Transmitted Saturday, 13 November, 1999 

 

Sunday, 14 November 1999

Obasanjo Meets With Queen Elizabeth

From Oghoghor Obayuwana Durban, South Africa

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo met privately yesterday with the British Queen and head of Commonwealth, Elizabeth II.

The meeting, it was gathered, afforded the president to the opportunity to make a special case for Nigeria with regard to the new proposals being made by the Nigerian team at the executive sessions, Committee of the Whole (COW), senior officials meeting (SOM)) and the small states session of the on-going Commonwealth heads of state meeting (CHOGOM).

The president shortly after the meeting at the Town Garden Suite A of the Royal Hotel where both of them are staying left for George, a serene town in South Africa, for the Commonwealth retreat.

The president said on Friday that he was pushing for what may become known as Durban Economic Charter (DEC) which will take a definitive position on the issue of debt remittance and a regulation on an acceptable spending pattern for member states.

Although the Prince Alfred waiting room, a fore-court to the meeting venue was half full, no one went in with the queen or the Nigerian leader. They met for about 25 minutes. It looked like a small "family" affair. Dr. Doyin Okupe, the president's special assistant on media relations, told The Guardian on Sunday: "I don't know what was really thrashed out. You saw, we were all outside ..."

Most streets of Durban were inundated with protesters yesterday as the queen is scheduled to lay a wreath at the Durban city hall canotaph today. The protesters who were mostly visible on Brick Hill street carried banners and placards - some of which read "No more mass graves". "The Zimbabwean people want their rights" and "Her majesty must make commitment to our people".

The flag-carrying youth including boys scout who marched to the city hall in readiness for today's event caused multiple traffic jams on the streets' intersection.

It was also learnt that most black South Africans want the queen to publicly apologise for the role played by the British during the years of struggle against apartheid.

The queen who is staying behind in Durban during the heads of state retreat is also expected to worship at the St. Paul's Cathedral this morning.

President Obasanjo had the honour of making the toast to her majesty during a banquet on Saturday evening on behalf of the other heads of state.

Stating that "I am glad to be performing this role", the president used the occasion to pour encomiums on Chief Emeka Anyaoku who he said served the Commonwealth for 34 years with unparalled diligence, dedication and commitment.

Yesterday, the foreign affairs minister, Alhaji Sule Lamido took time off to assess the state of federal government properties in Pretoria.

Accompanied by Nigeria's high commissioner to South Africa, Dr. Tunji Olagunju, the minister inspected the country's new magnificent mission building commissioned in June this year by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Alhaji Lamido with also see the old mission house and together with the mission staff fashion modalities for "appropriate" use of the property will be worked out in line with the administration's stance against waste of public funds.

Friday, 12 November 1999

Nigeria shuns $1.8b IMF loan

By Tony Ndiulor,Senior Correspondent

DESPITE pressing cash needs, Nigeria has reportedly ignored a $1.8 billion stand-by loan offered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 1987.

Agency reports yesterday cited IMF sources as saying the country declined drawing facility which was offered in three components, before it was cancelled.

According to the sources, 650 million special drawing rights (about $845 million) stand-by facilities was approved for Nigeria in 1987, 475 million special drawing rights ($617 million) in 1990 and 319 million special drawing rights ($412 million) was also provided in 1992. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported Mr. Mauprivez Bruno, head of the IMF's Public Affairs Division as saying yesterday in Lagos that Nigeria refused to draw-down the financial assistance because of the fund's poor image in the country.

He observed that the IMF had often been wrongly vilified in developing countries, and even used as a scapegoat for bad policies of the government because of the wrong perception of the activities of the fund.

"Most people in Nigeria today still believe that the bulk of the country's external debt is owed to the IMF," Bruno said.

He explained that the fund, unlike the World Bank, did not finance projects and that its funds were only to give succour to countries facing balance of payment problems.

Bruno also disclosed that the fund's facilities were not only for developing countries, but were also being enjoyed by developed countries.

However, a team of IMF officials visiting the country has blamed the nation's protracted economic problems on improper planning and the neglect of agriculture.

According to the team, the total abandonment of agriculture by the country during the oil boom era in the 70s was a faulty decision.

Specifically, Mr Evangelos A. Calamitsis, an official of the fund, told {The Guardian} yesterday in Lagos that Nigeria would have been among the world's most prosperous nations if it had ploughed the gains of the oil boom era into agriculture, pointing out that that was what most advanced nations like the United States (U.S.) did to attain their present status.

The country, he observed, due to poor planning was not able to have a stable resource base to sustain the naira's exchange rate.

Calamitsis pointed out that during the oil boom era, the naira was stronger than the dollar, exchanging at an average of 65 kobo to the dollar, but when the price of oil crashed in the 1980s, the resource base of the nation could no longer sustain such exchange rate.

He, however, noted that the situation would not have been so bad if the resources that accrued from oil exports were used to develop the agricultural sector.

Another official of the fund, Mr Reinold H. Van Til, said Nigeria's economic problem was not as a result of lack of resources which is usually the case in other African countries.

In a paper: "Nigeria and the IMF - The Background and The Way Forward" he delivered yesterday at a seminar organised by IMF's Public Affairs Department in Lagos, he observed that Nigeria was blessed with abundant natural resources, including fertile agricultural land.

"Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources, including fertile agricultural land. Because of its size, it also benefits from a large domestic market, in which the distinct advantages of economies of scale could have been fully exploited. Moreover, the country is blessed with a vibrant entrepreneurial class. If it was not nature, then it must have been the economic and structural policies that have formed the principal obstacles to development," Van Til said.

The nation's past economic performance, according to him, has frequently suffered from erratic macro-economic policies, policy reversals, weak management of its natural resources and major inefficiencies in its public investments and parastatal operations.

He, however, suggested that the key step to get Nigeria out of economic quagmire and pave way for balanced growth would be to promote private sector-led growth, which rests on five pillars:

bulletmaintenance of stable and consistent macro-economic policies;
bulletreallocation of public spending towards health, education and essential infrastructure;
bulletelimination of all commercial functions of the public sector through deregulation and privatisation;
bulletfurther trade and exchange liberalisation; and
bulletstrengthening of government institutions with a view to increasing transparency, reducing corruption and building the capacity to implement sound policies and deliver efficiently basic services.

The IMF Senior Resident Representative in Nigeria, Mr Christopher Browne, stressed that privatisation of major state parastatals would lead the nation's economy out of the woods.

He disclosed that international investors responded favourably to the privatisation programme of President Olusegun Obasanjo when it was outlined by the Vice President, Abubakar Atiku during IMF/World Bank yearly meetings held in Washington in September.

"The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank strongly believe that the elimination of critical structural obstacle, through the government's privatisation programme will be crucial to revive economic growth and job creations in Nigeria. The existing system has resulted in ill-conceived investments and poor use of financial resources, has provided scope for corruption and has encouraged political patronage through the appointment of directors and interference in decision making," he said.

The Managing Director of FSB International, Mallam Mohammed Hayatu-Deen said there should be a comprehensive economic reform and adequate incentives to investors in addition to the IMF officials' suggestions.

Besides, he stated that good governance should be ensured at all times, while public enterprise must be privatised.

$30 billion required to boost economy —DOTUN PHILLIPS

By Emma Ujah, Abuja

THE nation’s economy would require about $30 billion in the next five years to be revamped fully, the former Director-General (D-G) of the National Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER), Prof. Dotun Phillips, has said.

He stated this while delivering a paper at the international seminar on "Support for manufacturing: Using Agricultural Raw Materials to Boost Non-oil Export Earnings," in Abuja, yesterday.

According to him, the oil sector alone cannot provide the huge foreign exchange required to return the nation’s economy to the path of growth and that the non-oil sector should be given greater attention now than ever.

"There is no way oil alone can cope. We need a lot of foreign exchange to revive the economy and all of it cannot come from the government," he added.

The renowned economist who is also a member of the Presidential Policy Advisory Committee opined that the industrial sector must be encouraged to expand its operational base.

Specifically, he pointed out that industrialists should begin a vigorous campaign aimed at developing a large domestic market even as they explore new markets internationally.

Prof. Phillips explained that with the large population at home, a ready market had been provided but pointed out that Nigerians had to be made to see the need to consume what was locally produced.

He added that the posture of the present administration posted a great challenge to the private sector as opportunity had been given operators in the sector to contribute their quota to the development of the economy.

"The administration of President Obasanjo is private sector- friendly. The days of waiting for the government to do everything for you is over," he stated.

The economist who described production as the soul of every economy also called on cocoa producers to make effort to add value, by processing their products before exportation.

He also urged them to "insist on being appointed as members of the re-negotiating team of the Federal Government with the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Prof. Phillips said a re-negotiation of the WTO rules had become imperative given the fact that the organisation’s rules did not favour developing countries.

In his own remarks the Minister of State for Finance, Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye, said, "a monolithic economy is not good. It is an end of the road.

"The President Obasanjo government would go all length to assist industries to produce at full installed capacity.

Earlier, the Chairman of Ebun Industries Ltd. (organisers of the seminar) Mr. Tope Bakare, in his welcome address lamented that agriculture which was a top foreign exchange earner for the nation between the 60s and 70s had taken a back position.

"As an industry that uses agricultural raw materials grown in Nigeria with products made in the factory exported to earn foreign exchange, it is a dilemma to see such industries continue to die," the chairman said.

Vanguard Transmitted Friday, November 12, 1999

 

Friday, 12 November 1999

How Christians can help Nigeria, by Obasanjo

From Mike Osunde,

Benin

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has listed ways in which Christians can help the survival of the present government, saying he has absolute faith that God will help Nigeria achieve its goals.

Obasanjo, at the opening of the Fifth National Assembly of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Benin, humorously declared himself a pastor and said he believes Christians and the church could help the government in four areas.

They include:

bulletThe task of rebuilding Nigeria of “our collective dream;"
bulletHis government's current struggle to eradicate corruption from the society;
bulletEnsuring peaceful co-existence among the various religious and ethnic groups in the country; and
bulletThe need to pray for Nigerian leaders and the government to succeed.

The president, who was represented by Governor Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State, began his speech by saying he was indebted to God for the opportunity to address the gathering of eminent men and women of God, led by its President and Prelate of the Methodist Church, Dr. Sunday Mbang.

“The fact that you are meeting today to deliberate on matters which affect the church of God in Nigeria in particular, and the overall well-being of all Nigerians in general, is both a blessing and a sign of hope," he said, adding: “I have no doubt in my mind that your critical reflection on the issues before you will be used by God to fulfil his purpose for the church and Nigeria at such a time of our national history."

After thanking the association for its role in bringing about democracy in Nigeria, Obasanjo assured thatits members' gallantry would not be in vain, while pledging that “we must succeed in our current pursuit of a just, humane and progressive society."

But the president solicited the help of CAN and Christians to rebuild Nigeria, a task which he admitted was enormous, “with all the risks and difficulties involved."

Mbang and Igbinedion, also at the occasion, proposed different solutions to the introduction of Sharia law in Zamfara State.

While Mbang said he was looking up to the judiciary and legislature to direct the nation on the constitutional matter, Igbinedion, in his address to the assembly on Wednesday night, appealed for clam, caution and prayers so that “we do not play into the hands of the enemy."

Igbinedion said in spite of the controversy the Sharia question has generated, “our weapons of warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds."

The governor said he saw the issue as an attempt to bring back the dark clouds, but as Christians, “let us appreciate what God has done so far for Nigeria and realize that the destiny of our country is in the hands of God."

He declared: “Anything that is not of God shall be uprooted," and “let us pray knowing that the battle is not ours but the Lord's."

Igbinedion spoke at the command performance in Benin which heralded the assembly.

At the performance, Igbinedion was honoured along with Mbang, Dr. Patrick Ekpu, Chairman of the body in Edo; Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN), its legal adviser; and Mr. C. O. Williams, General Secretary of CAN.

Also honoured were Elder Saidu Dogo, co-ordinator of Northern States CAN as well as a post-humous award to the founder of the Church of God Mission International, the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa.

But answering questions from journalists after the formal opening of the assembly yesterday, Mbang said the judiciary and legislature must act quickly so that things do not get out of hand.

But when reminded that the Zamfara State governor has said that the Sharia law in his state would only apply to only Moslems, Mbang asked: “How do you pass a law in an Assembly which is signed for the state and you say it will not apply to everybody?"

“How is he going to do it? Will every Christian carry a label and others carry labels that they are non-Christians?" he further queried.

“And you say when people are going in a bus, women will go one way, men the other way. I sympathise with married couples because that means they could be attacked if found together in a bus," he stated.

He, however, warned that if any Christian in Zamfara state is affected, all Christians will be affected. “That is why I say the judiciary should talk about it quickly so that we Christians would know what to do to begin to defend our fellow Christians."

“And you know what can happen. I don't want to say more," Mbang concluded

 

Friday, 12 November 1999

Scientists find 135 million-year dinosaur fossil

BOUNDARIES of scientific knowledge were recently expanded as two scholars discovered fossil remains of two new types of herbivorous dinosaur dating more than 100 million years ago. One of them lived about 135 million years ago.

The larger of the dinosaurs, named Jobaria Tiguidensis, unknown until its recent discovery by an international team, was 17 metres long and had spatula-like teeth which enabled it to munch on small branches, according to Paul Sereno, one of the authors.

"The proportions of Jobaria were elephant-like, and its bones could have supported its body mass when rearing, during feeding or in courtship contests," the article said.

A team of palaeontologists found one specimen's fossil skeleton which was 95 per cent intact, and which revealed that Jobaria lived some 135 million years ago.

Further analysis revealed that the dinosaur's bearing was extremely primitive, until this recent finding, palaeontologists thought that dinosaurs with spatula-type teeth became extinct 20 million years earlier.

The second dinosaur, dubbed Nigersaurus Taquett, was also a vegetarian and much smaller, measuring about 13m in length, and was younger, dating back 110 million years.

The scientists include Frenchman Didier Dutheuti from his country's national museum of natural history and Bourahtma Moussa of Niger, who is currently on assignment at the earth sciences base in Dijon of France's National Scientific Research Centre.

 

Friday, 12 November 1999

Senate urges Obasanjo to release funds for oil areas

From Abiodun Adeniyi

THE Senate yesterday passed a motion urging President Olusegun Obasanjo to release the three per cent derivation fund meant for Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) for immediate utilisation by oil producing states.

According to the motion by Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the fund should be released since the Finance Minister, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, had said it was being set aside and because the OMPADEC Act still exists.

Besides, the motion observed that:

bulletthe unrest in the Niger Delta is not an isolated incident but part of widespread community problem;
bulletthe situation in the area is now so bad that it is frightening away investors; and
bulletthe creation of the Niger Delta Commission may, at least help a little, but will not by itself, be enough to address the fundamental problems of disempowerment and marginalisation experienced by the people.

According to the motion, the Senate appreciated that the problem of the area must be tackled at it roots. It, therefore, advised that the Senate committees on the Niger Delta, Petroleum and Finance and Appropriation (with the active collaboration of the senators from the affected states) to study fully, the problems of the Niger Delta and other oil-producing communities and recommend, apart from the passage of the Niger Delta Commission Bill, other measures that should be taken to address fully and comprehensively, the problems of all oil-producing communities.

Senators Paul Musa Adede, John Akpanudoedehe, John Azuta Mbata, Adamu Augie, David Brigidi and Fred Brume, are also part of the sponsors of the motion which was passed after a minimal debate.

Others are Emmanued Diffa, Emmanuel Essien, Florence Ita-Giwa, Matthew Mbu, Martyns-Yellowe, Melford Okilo, Stella Omu, Patrick Osakwe, Oserhemen Otunbor, Roland Owie, Victor Oyofo, Michael Pepple and Silas Zwingina.

Friday, 12 November 1999

Killed policemen at Odi now 12

TWELVE policemen were murdered last week by armed youths of Odi town in Kolokuma / Opokum Local Council, Bayelsa State, as against seven which was widely reported by the media, the Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha has said.

Alamieyeseigha, in a state-wide radio broadcast yesterday said “... late last week, seven police officers who were on an official mission to Odi were killed. Thereafter, five more have been brutally murdered by the same band of criminals in separate encounters," thus bringing to total number of the victims to 12."

He lamented that the recent act of brutal criminality perpetrated by a group of criminals was unforgivable as the people of the state had no quarrels with the police.

He said it was regrettable that the incident occurred when the state was about attracting investors, wondering why the period was chosen by the group to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens.

He added: “I need to emphasise that the incident which is calculated to cause friction and distrust between the people of the state and security agencies, does not in any way represent or further the views, aspirations and interests of the long neglected people of the Niger Delta."

According to him, such despicable tendencies could only bear negating consequences since the perpetrators are enemies of progress.

He said: “We must join hands and fish out these heinous felons so that they could pass through the due process of law."

Security agents, he said, had been directed to mount a 24-hour search for the felons “as government would use all means possible to track them down."

The governor disclosed that a commission of enquiry would soon be raised to determine the circumstances surrounding the heinous act.

He warned members of the public against shielding the perpetrators of the act as they would be treated as accomplices.

From the Nigerian Guardian National Newspaper

 

ILAJE: ONE YEAR AFTER PARABE MASSACRE

INTRODUCTION

The Parabe crisis is still fresh in the minds of everyone. One year after Parabe the story is still the same, even worse than ever before. On July 5, 1999 the people of Ilaje converged at Igbokoda to review their situation. The question on everyone's lip was. When will the Ilajes be emancipated? According to Esan Malumi one of the youths at the Parabe scene (Maluma Omotenshe) had a bullet extracted recently from his body from the gun shots he received a year ago in the Parabe incident.

In retrospect, Ilaje has been a tale of woes. The problem started from the day oil was struck in the land. Its been over three decades since oil exploration and exploitation commenced yet the people live in acute penury. They have been battered and shattered with no hope for the future. Alas they wonder: is oil a curse?

The Ilajes are mainly farmers and fishermen but Chevron and other oil companies have denied them their means of livelihood due to the incessant spills which has greatly polluted and degraded their land and water. So many of them have become jobless and are striving to survive in the midst of plenty. They have become beggars and refugees in their own land.

The Ilajes wrote several letters to the government and Chevron complaining about their degraded land but there was never any response from Chevron. Having implored all plausible means of dialogue without success, the entire members of the forty-two oil producing communities in Ilaje resolved to embark on a peaceful demonstration to demand for environmental justice on the Parabe oil facility belonging to Chevron on the 28th of May 1998.

In the course of the peaceful demonstration, Chevron brought soldiers who swooped down from helicopters to dislodge the youths and in the process two youths (Arolika Irowanu and Jolly Ogungbeje) were shot dead. About 30 others were injured while eleven including the youth leader Bola Oyinbo were arrested and detained under a false charge of piracy. (Reports on the Ilaje-Chevron crisis can be found on ERA s Environmental Testimony Reports (Nos. 3-June 15,1998 & No. 5 - July 10, 19985).

Bode Omoriba, one of those who sustained injury during the crisis, has this to say We only went there to demonstrate peacefully for our rights and incidentally the situation changed as we saw helicopters come down and started shooting the defenceless youths. Those of us who were close to the scene were seriously injured and two youths lost their lives .

ANOTHER CRISIS

Few months later, the people were planning to bury the two dead youths in the Parabe incidence when hostilities broke out between them and their Ijaw neighbours. Right now many of the people have been displaced and have become refugees in the country. ERA visited some of them seeking refuge at Igbokoda recently and discovered

that most of the people are depressed and distressed. They do not feed well and cannot boast of minimum level of comfort.

According to Prince Mesogboriwon, We have been politically and

environmentally dehumanised and the same story remains, nothing has been changed. Our problems have been compounded by the crisis with the Ijaw people .

Prince Oluwa Segun Ayadi: Chevron has been operating in our area for so many years without any compensation. OMPADEC has not reached us in any way. We kept our calm all the while because we do not want any trouble.

Chief M.E. Meduoye: We are aware that Chevron works in Nigeria and takes their own share to America to develop their land. What is Chevron saying concerning the situation in Ilaje. Will they ever compensate us and when are they going to withdraw their activities and leave our land?

Mr. Ayonfe Igbaeshimore: we were taken unawares. We were not prepared for war. They decided to eliminate all the Ilajes. This happened in September 1998. The whole thing took place in the night when the Ijaws came shooting and looting. About 625 (six hundred and twenty five) people were killed in the process and so many buildings were razed down. Since then we have been scattered all over the country--Warri, Lagos, Ibadan, Sapele etc. Despite all this the state government has not assisted us.

WOMEN IN THE STRUGGLE

The women are not left out of this struggle for a better environment. A majority of them are fisher women by occupation. This is due to the fact that they are geographically settled in the riverine area. The activities of oil companies has brought untold hardship and made life difficult for the Ilaje women.

According to Mrs. Silipa Ogbaro: Before the Parabe incidence took place, there was an agreement between the men and the women of the community to carry out a joint effort concerning our situation. We, the women also wrote letters to the government and Chevron but to our greatest surprise, there were no replies. After waiting for Chevron for so long a period of time, the citizens of the Ilaje community decided to carry out a peaceful demonstration. Most of us are fisher women and we fish from the creeks and since our water is polluted, we have been denied our means of livelihood. More so the canals dug by Chevron have polluted our water hence we do not have suitable or potable drinking water. Before the advent of Chevron, we had pure drinking water. Today we are scattered everywhere because of the war.

WE ARE NOW DEBTORS

In the words of Mrs. Helen Mebanwondun: The problems confronting us as women are so much. Usually we borrow money from the banks to buy fishing nets and now that the nets have been destroyed we cannot fish and we cannot pay back the borrowed money. We are now debtors. The several oil spillage have destroyed all our fishing nets. In the Ewan field spill for instance Chevron only agreed to pay 5% of the communities affected. Apart from the spills, during seismic activities some buildings collapse. We urge ERA to extend help and support to use.

Mrs. Silipa Ogbaro from Shadara community commented that they lost all their properties: I have a feeling that the letters we wrote to Chevron and our reaction in the Parabe issue made Chevron to incite the Ijaws against us. Since they could only kill two people in the Parabe crisis they saw this as an opportunity to wipe out the whole people hence they incited the Ijaws against us.

Mrs. Helen Mebanwondun: I lost my husband in the crisis. Chevron has rendered our land useless and highly degraded. Most women lost their children and their husbands. I appealed for help from concerned people. Save us from the Ijaws and Chevron. As women we can t carry guns hence we ask for assistance.

I LIVE ON THE MERCY OF PEOPLE

To Mrs Christiana Ogungbeje whose major occupation is fishing: I had series of canals for fishing before the crisis. Due to the

environmental degradation and pollution of our water, I decided to rear pigs as a source of livelihood. I also used part of the money realised to train my children. But again due to the polluted water and environment the pigs could not survive. I lost all my pigs. Later I borrowed N40, 000 from the bank to trade on soft drinks in order to survive. The Ijaw crisis came and destabilised my business. Again I lost everything. I only escaped in panties. The two houses I had were razed down. Right now I live on the mercy of people. I have taken to helping people carry load (wares) in the market in other to survive. Most of the other women are doing the same thing. Three of my children have withdrawn from the university. The other ones in secondary schools have been withdrawn to community schools. I appeal to Chevron to compensate us. I have eight children. I am a widow. My husband died a long time ago. I can no longer feed my family. Please I need assistance .

Mrs. Florence an elderly woman narrated her experience and situation: I cannot feed myself, I am quite elderly and I need assistant. During the Ijaw crisis, I was in the bush for 23 days and I fed on garri (cassava flour) alone. I fled from home on hearing about the raid. About eight people died in the bush out of the 15 of us that fled to the same area of the bush. Many of my family members died and I cannot give account of some of the others. Three of my children are missing. My other children are scattered all over the place. Presently, I am a refugee here in Igbokoda .

THE YOUTHS & THE MEN

The youths also have their own peculiar experience. We are deprived of youths service or even contracts or casual jobs in the oil company and yet Ilaje Local Government area is the only oil producing Local Government in Ondo State and the whole Western region of Nigeria.

Bode, one of those who sustained injury during the crisis has this to say: We only went there to demonstrate peacefully for our rights and incidentally the situation changed as we saw helicopters come down and shooting the defenceless youths. Those of us who were close to the scene were seriously injured and two youths lost their lives.

SPILL WITHOUT REMEDY

A spill occurred in Chevron s Ewan oil field on the 26th of June last year. No compensation was paid from Chevron. In his words--How can a community with about 4,000 (four thousand) people be compensated with 400,000 (four hundred thousand naira) only? The attitude of Chevron towards the Ilaje people is a calculated attempt to wipe out the Ilaje people. I appeal to all environmental groups in the world to help tell the whole world the activities of Chevron on our land and also come to our aid, said Mesogborewon.

SHELL OIL SPILL AT OGODOBA

Shell is another multinational oil company known for oil spills. There was on-shore spill by Shell on the 24th of August 1998 in Ogodoba. According to the spokesman of the Ilaje citizens, The interesting aspect of the oil spill is that Shell adjudged the spill to sabotage. As a result relief materials were not sent to the communities and no form of compensation waspaid

CONSOLIDATED OIL SPILL

Consolidated Oil Company indigenous oil company in Nigeria spewed oil into Ilaje environment recently. Series of letters have been written to Petroleum Resource Unit (PRU) concerning this issue. According to Malumi, they did a test on the sample through a consultancy firm in Lagos and it was confirmed that it was truly a spill. As a result the state asked (CON) to pay the sum of 100,000 (one hundred thousand naira) to the Ilaje community but (CON) refused to pay.

A PLEA FOR ASSISTANCE

The people of Ilaje all cry for assistance both from chevron and the

government. According to Mrs. Ajimibi: government and Chevron should help us to regain our dignity. They should help us financially. They should provide good health and educational facilities for us. Chevron should help us with new fishing nets and boats. We can engage ourselves with mat weaving if the finances are made available since our land has been completely degraded.

ERA RECOMMENDATION

Chevron should without delay pay adequate compensation to affected

families of the Parabe crisis.

Chevron should commence the development of infrastructure in the 42 communities in Ilaje land where they operate. The state and Federal Government should intervene in the Ilaje situation and live up to their responsibility.

Oil Companies should package a comprehensive plan to salvage the people of Ilaje from socio-economic injustice and dehumanisation of over three decades.

Consolidated Oil Company should clean up their spill and ensure payment of adequate compensation for the damage suffered.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Send a letter of protest to any Chevron office nearest to you

Demand that they respect the individual as well as collective rights of the Nigerian people

Chevron Nig. Ltd. 2 Chevron Drive,Lekki Pennisula P.M.B. 12825, Lagos Nigeria

Tel. 01-260-0600 Fax. 01-260-0395

For more information contact:

ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACTION/ FRIENDS OF THE EARTH (FoE, Nigeria) + OILWATCH AFRICA

#214, Uselu-Lagos Road, P. O. Box 10577, Benin City, Nigeria

Tel/Fax: + 234 52 600165 Email: eraction@infoweb.abs.net

Port Harcourt:

# 13 Agudama Street, D-Line, Port Harcourt

Tel: + 234 84 236365 Email: Oilwatch. Era@infoweb.abs.net

Lagos:

# 1 Balogun Street, Ikeja

Email: disera@infoweb.abs.net

Owerri:

E-mail: obinze@aol.com

London:

Tel/Fax: + 44 181 780 0574. Email: njaja@compuserve.com

 

We Must Discuss Nigeria's Future said Ekwueme

By Deba Uwadiae & Lanre Arogundade

SECOND republic Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme yesterday said that Nigerians needed a further opportunity to discuss the basic constitutional issues on the structure and framework of the federation.

Dr. Ekwueme, guest speaker at the 25th anniversary of Punch Newspapers said, "it is obvious that Nigerians need a further opportunity to discuss the basic constitutional issues dispassionately and objectively.

"It is significant that of the over 1000 memoranda submitted to the National Constitutional Conference in 1994, there was not one that asked outrightly for the break-up of the country.

"If there is such a unanimity of ideas regarding the structure and framework of the federation among reasonable and nationalistic citizens from every part of Nigeria, why has it been difficult to reach a consensus?

"The short answer in my view is that there are entrenched interests which favour the status quo irrespective of what instability it imposes on our fragile polity," he stated.

According to Dr. Ekwueme, "the 394 or so linguistic groups listed in the Index of Nigerian Languages have to be identified and each unit given a sense of belonging.

"Some of the linguistic groups can only function at the level of the ward or community; some at the level of the local government, some at the level of the state and some at the level of the region.

"Once it is accepted that each of the regions proposed (whether five, six or eight), will have its own constitution, then it should be possible to accommodate the peculiarities of the constituent nationalities or linguistic groups within the constitutional framework of each region," he added.

In his paper entitled: "Thoughts on the next constitution," former presidential aspirant, Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi said "the last transition elections were the last of their types for Nigeria," adding that "the present constitution which has been in force since May 29, 1999 would never have to be suspended, partially applied, or scrapped as the ones before it.

"Instead, I envisage that it would evolve and develop into maturity gradually and incrementally as it is studied, amended and improved for our common purposes as time goes by.

"Constitutions are by design not final, doctrinal documents. They are (and should be) open and amenable to the incorporation of new ideas and perspectives commensurate with the competence of the day and age," he stated.

According to him, "it is the only way they can continue to be responsive, effective and functional national documents with the basis for practical application for common good.

"Thus by necessity, constitutions cannot and should not be abstract documents shrouded in mystery and too remove from the people," he said.

Alliance for Democracy (AD) chieftain, Senator Abraham Adesanya in another paper said, "Nigeria’s next constitution must be a product of the aggregately expressed wishes of the various nationalities that constitute the geographical entity called Nigeria.

"All constitutional arrangements made since 1966 when the army started to govern Nigeria have not met the requirements of a national constitution.

"This is because the writers, framers and the constituent assemblies have been mostly undemocratic and unrepresentative.

"Where they appear to be some measure of representatives, the military has always ended up inserting several provisions that are meant to serve narrow interest of the military and their civilian friends thereby detracting from the necessary legitimacy such a constitution should have," he added.

According to him, "our next constitution must answer the question of what, and how Nigerians want to leave together. Only representatives of the nationalities of Nigeria can produce a constitution for Nigeria."

He said that "Nigeria should be divided into regions and the regions should have the powers of regions under the 1954 constitution including the powers to promulgate their constitutions."

President Olusegun Obasanjo in a message to the seminar read by Gov. Bola Tinubu of Lagos State said "the machinery of the state should no longer be used as an instrument of oppression," and pleaded to prosecute "all those who violate the rights of others."

He added: "I have already begun to do so. I appeal to all those who have acquired a culture of dictatorship to give it up.

"We have entered a new era, the era of the rule of law. Henceforth the nation shall be ruled by law and by law alone," he said.

According to him, "executive action shall not contravene the law and no one shall be exempted from the duty of obedience of the law.

"I call upon every newspaper to join the crusade against corruption," he said, noting that you should never forget that dictatorship and corruption, when it took root in our country did not reside in one person alone but in various individuals and departments.

"These forces are still very much at work to undermine and destabilise the nation. We cannot therefore afford to relax or be complacent. Greater sacrifices are called for today than ever before," he added.

President Obasanjo said, "we must begin to think less in terms of what the nation can do for us and more in terms of what we can do for the nation.

"The transformation of our country requires the joint efforts of us all. It does not depend upon the leadership alone.

"It does not depend upon any one community or organisation. It must be the work of every Nigerian. No nation can achieve any significant growth without the sacrifices of generations of its citizens," he stated.

President Obasanjo told journalists that "together we must rebuild the nation," adding that "you cannot do so unless you practise honest and responsible journalism.

"You have a duty to educate and enlighten yourself. Your duty is not just to gather and disseminate news but to educate the public.

"The Nigerians press must re-examine itself. You must avoid those vulgar and cheap publications which tend to deculturise our people," he added.

Chairman of Punch Newspapers, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola, said Punch has consistently proved over the years to be trusted allies of true, as district from fraudulent or what was sometimes fraudulently referred to as "home-grown" democracy, and Punch is resolved to continue in this role, as its contribution to the search for peace, stability and prosperity in Nigeria."

Amongst those present at the anniversary include Gov. Olusegun Osoba, Mrs. Helen Ekwueme, Chief Richard Akinjide, Dr. Lateef Adegbite, Oba Oladele Olasore, Alhaji Babatunde Jose and Alhaji Ismaila Isah.

Vanguard Transmitted Thursday, 11 November, 1999  Return to Vanguard front page

US probes Abacha's loot at Citibank

THE accounts of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha and those of his two sons, with the US-based multinational banking giant, Citibank, are to be investigated by the US Senate during a hearing this week.

Also listed for investigation are the financial dealings between the bank and families of several leaders of developing countries.

The Senate’s sub-committee on investigations is to examine the vulnerability of private banking to money laundering, particularly by leaders of developing countries.

A report in the New York Times on Monday quoting records with the Senate, said the investigation would look at Citibank’s political client, including Gabonese President, Omar Bongo; the sons of Gen. Abacha; Asifal Zudari, husband of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto and Raul Salinas De Gortari, brother of Mexico’s former President.

In the case of the Abacha family, the Times report said, the Senate would be looking at the accounts of the two sons of late Abacha, including Mohammed, who is now standing trial for the 1996 murder of Alhaja Kudirat, the wife of Chief Moshood Abiola.

According to the records, the New York private banker to Abaci's sons had explained that for three years he handled their accounts with the understanding that they were private Nigerian businessmen rather than the sons of Nigeria's military leader.

It is understood that Citibank had long accommodated the Abacha family by setting up accounts in secret names like Gelsobella and Chinquinto.

It said when Gen. Abacha died in June 1998 and the succeeding government in Nigeria began investigations into his family’s wealth, Citibank received an urgent request from one of the sons for $39 million from a London account.

According to the report, even though the money was in a time deposit account and could not be redeemed at the time without financial penalty, Citibank found a way to immediately transfer the amount and avoid the penalty.

Records at Citibank show that the transfer was intended as the first step towards closing the account by the Abacha son.

However, in March before the closure could be effected, a London court, acting in a civil suit, ordered the account to be frozen.

The Nigerian government has requested the US and other Western governments to help in the recovery of funds stolen from the public treasury and stashed away in foreign accounts.

Lawyers conversant with the U.S. Senate investigation have indicated that the investigation may not lead to the recovery of monies kept in those banks by such world leaders.

According to them U.S. money-laundering law does not cover proceeds from corruption against foreign governments but proceeds from activities in foreign countries that fall under the categories of drug crimes, certain violent crimes and fraud by or against a foreign bank.

The U.S. Senate investigation is expected to reveal how private banking in the West has created an avenue for corrupt leaders from the developing world to enrich themselves at the expense of their people.

In 1997, U.S. federal bank examiners investigated the source of more than $50 million kept by President Bongo in his accounts with Citibank Private Bank.

A profile on the case by Citibank noted that Bongo’s wealth was created as a result of his position and donations from French oil companies doing business in Gabon.

Similarly, investigations have shown that between 1992 and 1994, the bank moved between $80 million and $100 million through Salinas’ accounts, using extra confidential methods that disguised the origin, destination and beneficial owner of the funds.

Though the bank has not been accused of any wrongdoing, its internal audits and audits by U.S federal bank examiners have criticised the managerial deficiencies of the bank.

 

Vanguard Transmitted Thursday, 11 November, 1999  Return to Vanguard front page

 

The Sharia debate and the 'END OF HISTORY'

by Wale Adebanwi, University of Ibadan, Nigeria


ONE could take the tempting option: Throw a conspiracy theory on the resurgence of the Sharia Agenda in Nigeria. But this option is not just tempting; it is, in a rather dark sense, useful. For a polity that has been plagued by the theft of the collective weal by a power-besotted, infernal even if incompetent fraction of its population, fearing the beginning of another grand conspiracy in the sudden re-appearance of the Sharia issue, in a new dimension in Zamfara state (and we are told in other Northern states,soon) is a 'useful' way of understanding what is at play in contemporary Nigeria.

A set of questions 'prove' the conspiracy thesis. If the introduction and institutionalization of Sharia Law were an article of faith for the Zamfara governor and his co-travelers, as we have been told, how come they didn't have it as a cardinal point of their electoral promise? If the Sharia law were superior to the Nigerian Constitution ( Balarabe Musa's latest shouting, gratuitous insult on our collective "faith"), how come that we were not warned about this when this same "inferior" Constitution was being used to capture power - say in Zamfara state, for instance? A counter-pose to this is in order before we go on, if only to show that others have been more faithful. The political 'alternative' to those behind this "Sharia" agenda told the world before, during and even after the Abubarkar transition programme, that the Constitution on offer would not take us to the promised land. They spelt out their objection to the Constitution. They promised (still canvasses) for a fundamental review along the lines of restructuring of the Nigerian Union. So, why didn't these emergency "superiorists" (Musa and co.)and "Sharia" champions, make similar vows if they were so convinced about the REAL Sharia? How come they had to wait to see how President Olusegun Obasanjo - or what more appropriately should be called "power-shift" - enacted his rule, against the backdrop of the 'eternal ownership' of political power in their father's backyard?

BUT then, we have said we can do without the conspiracy theory. That is the thesis that easily and readily pronounces the resurgence of the long-winded consolidation of the "Sharia" agenda as an attempt to subvert the new order by some who have cheated themselves out of power through a history of apparent incompetence, rude inefficiency and the grafting of evil upon public acts as if it were a directive principle of state policy.(Needless to say, 'everyone' agrees on who constituted the most notorious symbol of the latter consequence of Caliphal (political) "infallibility".)

LET us re-enter Balarabe Musa's argument into the equation and elaborate it. The Marxist (?) politician and social thinker says that Sharia is superior to the Nigerian Constitution. He tried to capture the Constitution as a product of Judeo-Christian philosophy and world-view, but he neither developed nor elaborated this. (Or he was not reported to have done so) Then the, as they say, clincher : he announced that we need to go the way of 'separation' or decentralization along ethnic-national lines - what he calls 'true federalism'. There! He also alluded to the Odua People's Congress (OPC) activities, which have, I must say, bordered more on anarchical insolence directed at the old order than a clear goal-driven project.

IT is indeed a welcome development that the likes of Musa are coming out of their old shells, old lies, the lies of ages, to reveal the truth behind the Marxist/radical camouflage that we all at one time or the order have had to wear. Ethnicity is no longer, even for the Musas, as Marx, argues the epi-phenomenon. It is now located at the base. It is curious that it took so long for a 'simple' fact as this to come home to the Musas.

BEYOND Marxian dilemma, Musa's position is a triumph more for the AFENIFERE and fellow travelers than it is for the 'political shariarists'. Let me quickly say here that what the Zamfara governor, Musa and other "strategists" are enacting in Nigeria today is a "political Sharia" which has nothing to so with the Islamic Sharia. The former is only an instrument of political maneuvering. But let's leave that for now.

IT is interesting that Musa talked with venom on the OPC without coming to terms with the fact that Maitama Sule and his co-travelers in the "divine-order" thesis produced the OPC. The OPC is the Yoruba (physical, not strategic) answer to Sule's extremism captured in his proposition that the "north" (meaning Hausa-Fulani) is destined by God to rule Nigeria eternally. Even the otherwise "national" Gani Faweyinmi once climbed down at a point in the recent struggle against military autocracy to say that it was time other ethnic-nationalities in Nigeria started acting as if their right to leadership in Nigeria was also non-negotiable, as Maitama Sule's "north" acted. This attitude perhaps produced Obasanjo, even though these same "owners' of the Nigerian field had thought that he was just a pawn in their hands. Earlier, Balarabe Musa had railed against Obasanjo's "ingratitude" to the "north" . Here he could as well have added the north which the British bequeathed to them for the purposes of internal colonialism.

Pray, what is Obasanjo's offence these past six months? We can discern from their complaints that the man's offence is that he does not pander to a sectional agenda, continued hegemony and unfair appropriation - of wealth located on other ethnic-nationalities' soil - by a consumptive, totally unproductive cabal, a shameless fraction whose intellectual storm-troopers are still arguing over how they will continue to plunder the system when the whole world is advancing at such an astronomical pace. Unfortunately, we are only collectively imperiled by these energy-sapping debates.

THE unfolding Sharia agenda is interesting in that it has nothing to do with religion. It is politics, pure and simple. You don't even need to look hard to see that the greatest proponents of theocratic state are glorified infidels. Allah does not know them. They do not know Allah either. I make this assertion because the evidence of their godlessness is the mess in which our country was trapped until May 29 this year. Didn't the generation of the Babangidas and Abachas insist on a mosque in Aso Rock to the exclusion of a church? Did the teaching of Islam have any effect on their evil-driven project of national emasculation?

Piety, for them, is politics. We have a duty to resist their attempt to level politics and (pseudo) piety. The truly pious have other terrains for his practice, not politics. The pious and the political are a contradiction in terms. Attempts to mix them have often been geared towards enslaving men, they have often been based on historic lies.

For so long this cabal had appropriated the discourse of accusing others of "tribalism", since the "national" was its own turf. It is heartening now, in a dark sense, that the likes of Balarabe Musa and Wada Nas, are being forced to swap lexicon with their erstwhile "tribalists". They are the ones now asking for Nigeria to be arranged along ethnic-national lines. Interesting! Why did it take the Marxist scholar this long to realize what common minds (?) have been articulating for so long. To see yesterday's "nationalists" transform to campaigners for "ethnic validity" is to witness the collapse of a certain kind of history, the history of pretension to national commitments. And to think that it took "regular" guys like the OPC "rascals" to prompt them to public confession!

Say, how long have these people been out of the centre of power to occasion these cacophonous groan? Is it not clear now that they are not after equity, fairness or justice? Dominate! Dominate! is their credo. Now that this is beginning to look like over, that this "history" of infernal, pristine rulership is clearly ended, we are now told that the Constitution that had up till now been the instrument of this internal colonialism is "inferior" to the new found tool of confusion and rear-door access to dominating the socio -cultural space, and causing confusion in the political.

Well, if indeed this political "Sharia" (as opposed of course to the real Islamic Sharia) is what Zamfara and others want, let them have it. Isn't this, like Musa says, a federal state? But, when the Ogonis and the other Niger-Delta people, on whose oil all these hare-brained projects of the centre and most of its periphery are based, come to us to say that their oil too is "superior" to the Nigerian Constitution, I hope there will be no sadistic trials and hanging. In fact, they might as well make this extremist credo the rallying cry of their current insurgence.

THE latter of course is not desirable. But these political shariarists and extremists need to be told the implications of their irrevocable predilection for taunting others, hounding the Obasanjo presidency and haunting our newly re-born commonwealth. They will fail; but not until they have played their last card and lost fatally. When this happens, then we would build a new Nigeria from the rubbles of the breakdown of incompetent hegemony and its largely confused and misdirected counter-thesis in the south. That new Nigeria will not be totally new because it will learn from the mistakes and perfidies of the past.

Let me end by sounding prophetic: When - as it likely to eventually happen - you start to hear the Musas, and the theoretician of "divine order", Maitama Sule, not just calling for a federal arrangement along ethnic-nationality lines as they are already doing, but leading a campaign for Sovereign National Conference, you will know that the new Nigeria (not the sorry medium that bears similar name!) is upon us. "Obasanjo" is no arrival. At best he is only a departure. When you hear "Sharia", at the arrival of the new dawn, it will be the religious Sharia not the instrument of tested infidels.

waleadebanwi@hotmail.com

Adebanwi, of the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan,
is currently a Fellow at the New School University, New York.

Governor to Deal with Police Killers

By Sam Onwuemeodo, Yenagoa

GOVERNOR Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State has directed the state police command to ensure the arrest of those who killed seven kidnapped mobile police officers, in Odi, of Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area.

The governor, who spoke at Government House, Tuesday, condemned the killing, saying that, the action was calculated to portray the state in bad light.

He regretted that the killing came at a time when peace had returned to the state, and enjoined the patriotic indigenes of the state to assist in tracking down the killers of the mobile police officers.

Chief Alamieyeseigha vowed that the culprits must be caught no matter where they might be hiding, cautioning the people of the state against harbouring the alleged killers.

In his view, those responsible for the death of the police officers must be brought to book, warning that anybody who aided them to escape from the wrath of the law would be severely dealt with.

Bayelsa indigenes were urged to remain peaceful, while non-indigenes resident in the state were assured of adequate protection.

Seven police officers including an Assistant Commissioner of police were allegedly killed Monday, by irate youths yet to be apprehended, in Odi, Inkolokuwa/Opokuma areas of the state.

Vanguard Transmitted Wednesday, 10 November, 1999  Return to Vanguard front page

Thursday, 11 November 1999

Obasanjo explains relevance of 1999 Constitution

By Akpo Esajere, Chukwudi Abiandu and Kabir Alabi Garba

UNTIL it is amended, the 1999 Constitution remains the Nigerian federation's governing code and the starting point for fashioning a more suitable one, according to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He tacitly acknowledged inadequacies in the current document, saying yesterday that his government had demonstrated commitment to its review by raising a technical panel involving the three political parties to harmonise proposals in that regard.

In an address at The Punch's anniversary symposium, titled: "Thoughts on the next Constitution," the president argued that any arrangement which refused to treat the 1999 Constitution as a valid existing law would be chaotic and futile.

In contrast, the lead speaker, former Vice President Dr Alex Ekwueme and the Afenifere leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya canvassed similar arguments in support of re-negotiating the terms of unity and oneness of the country by the federating ethnic nationalities.

Another principal speaker, Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi Marafan Sokoto however saw no compelling need for another constitution making exercise, but rather urged practitioners of the new democracy to get familiar with the subsisting constitution. To him, the imperfections being attributed to the document are exaggerated.

Represented by Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President Obasanjo wondered if the country could fashion out a credible constitution given the pervasiveness of corruption in her body politic.

"We are in no position to look into the remote future and make laws that will not only bind this generation but also generations to come.

"If we let ourselves be influenced by petty ethnic or parochial considerations and if we bring that influence to bear on the making of our constitution, then it cannot last," he said.

He also reaffirmed the commitment of his administration to the restoration of people's rights.

He said: "I am determined that the machinery of the state should no longer be used as an instrument of oppression. I shall prosecute all those who violate the rights of others. I have already begun to do so. I appeal to all those who have acquired a culture of dictatorship to give it up. We have entered a new era - the era of the rule of law.

"Henceforth the nation shall be ruled by law and by law alone. Executive action shall not contravene the law and no one shall be exempted from the duty of obedience of the law. I should also point out that the Federal Government shall not hesitate to declare a state of emergency in any part of the country where there is a breakdown of law and order and the lives of citizens are threatened."

Obasanjo reiterated the mission of the government to give the country a constitution of its own choice which, according to him, would be a reflection of Nigeria's culture and experience.

He expressed worry that the country was not faring well in spite of its huge resources and potentials, saying: "Instead, we set for the rest of Africa a bad example as we use our great intelligence not to build but to destroy."

He called on every media organisation to join the crusade against corruption. His words: "For many years, your energies were directed at opposing the forces that threatened to destroy our country. Now that those forces have been overcome, you must direct your energies at reconstruction and rehabilitation. Together we paid the price for our freedom, together we must rebuild the nation."

Governor Bola Tinubu, for himself, called for a constitution drafted by the people for the people and future generation. He described the existing one as document forced on Nigerians by the military.

In their separate submissions, Ekwueme and Adesanya were unanimous on the need for the ethnic nationalities to meet and discuss the basis of staying together.

"As to the next constitution, the most important thing today, for the sake of Nigeria is that we must sit down and talk," Ekwueme said.

Adesanya disparaged the setting up of a constitutional review committee by the president, which is made up of the three political parties, saying, "any committee set up to review the present constitution is not part of the topic today. It's a mirage.

"Nigeria of today should continue to remain one. But it is not to be decided by me. But by the representatives of the nationalities of Nigeria. There must be a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). If we are to remain together, we must talk. Let's come together to fashion a constitution that will last for eternity," Adesanya said.

Corroborating Adesanya's views, Ekwueme, after giving a historical background of the country, said it was not a surprise that many Nigerians do not consider the present 1999 Constitution satisfactory.

"The main bone of contention has to do with the basis of association of the many nationalities and almost 400 language groups that make up the Nigerian state," Ekweueme said.

He criticised the present constitution for denying state governors the opportunity to decide who becomes commissioner of police in their states.

In his recommendation, Adesanya opted for the parliamentary constitutional model for the next constitution, "because it is less expensive to operate."

Adesanya faulted plan by the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on trouble spots in the country, tracing the country's present problem to the abuse of such powers when a state of emergency was declared in the then Western Region. "We shouldn't give anybody power to declare a state of emergency to prevent abuse," he said.

Shinkafi attempted a twist in the subject of discussion as he would not subscribe to any notion about "Nigeria's next constitution."

Rather, he said, "I am inclined to think in terms of the contours along which this latest and hopefully the last constitution would evolve and mature."

Shinkafi believed that the existing structure of the country as a federation of states with equal rights and responsibilities founded on the principle of unity in diversity was a unique, collective heritage.

 

Thursday, 11 November 1999

Group urges national policy on information technology

By Clifford Ndujihe, Staff Reporter

TO play an active role in global affairs in the next millennium, Nigeria must urgently establish a National Information Technology (I.T.) policy.

President of the Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN), Mr Chris Uwaje, made the submission in a chat with the management team of The Guardian.

Accompanied by Mr Kola Ogunlana, chief executive of Computerite, Uwaje said information technology "is the fourth logical revolution known to man after the agricultural, industrial and mass production revolutions."

He added: "Future economic development, sustainable growth and competitiveness will neither be meaningful nor possible without the intensive application, diffusion and usage of information technology."

"Today, history affords us an extraordinary window of opportunity to put our footprints in the sands of time. This window of opportunity is the information and communications technology. It is the springboard for technology leapfrogging and advancement," he stated.

As part of its contribution to nation building, Uwaje disclosed that ITAN, formerly the Computer Vendors Association of Nigeria (COVAN), had submitted a draft proposal on I.T development to government through the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.

He thanked The Guardian for her I.T publications which he said had been of tremendous benefit to professionals. "The Compulife pullout page of The Guardian on Tuesdays has become a reference point for all I.T related matters in Nigeria and beyond. To crown it all, The Guardian web page has also become perhaps the most honoured and important ambassador-at-large for our nation," he remarked.

Responding, Mr Emeka Izeze, the Managing Director of The Guardian, said it was important to explain to the people that they were about to be left behind by the rest of the world on information technology.

"To remain a player in the next century, you must plug into the hole created by infotech," he said, adding that Nigeria must do so immediately because "the windows will not remain open for long."

Thursday, 11 November 1999

U.S. restates resolve to assist Nigeria's military

By Francis Obinor, Foreign Affairs Reporter

THE United States has affirmed its readiness to assist the Nigerian military achieve its place as a leader in regional and international peacekeeping.

In a statement from the US embassy in Lagos, Mr. Thomas Pickering, the Under-Secretary of State, while commending President Olusegun Obasanjo's effort to rid the country of corruption, said: "If Nigeria continues on the path of civilian/democratic government and the military stays outside of politics, it should then benefit, if it wants to, from that type of training."

Pickering, who was his country's ambassador to Nigeria from 1981 to 1983, also said: "As I have watched and kept a careful eye on the situation, I have seen the continued development of the independent policies that General Obasanjo told me he was going to pursue."

He added: "President Obasanjo knows that democracy and economic progress are mutually reinforcing. He and his government also know that building democratic institutions and combating pervasive corruption, while simultaneously reforming a dysfunctional economy, is an extraordinarily difficult task."

While stressing the need for quick privatisation to enhance economic growth, he said it was one of the things to discuss in his future talks with Obasanjo.

"A strong, democratic and prosperous Nigeria can help the US government meet its two main policy objectives in Africa - to integrate the continent into the global economy through trade, investment, sustainable development strategies, transport, fair legal system, respect for human rights as well as good governance," he noted.

The second objective, according to him, was to "deal with transnational threats that affect both Africans and Americans, including drug trafficking, transnational crime, terrorism, environmental degradation and disease."

Pickering noted that under President Obasanjo, Nigeria could now participate in the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) conceived by the US to help African nations enhance their peacekeeping abilities.

"We should be able to learn something from Nigeria that has been involved in five or 10 years of peacekeeping in some of the toughest places in Africa. Certainly, if we have information, technology and ideas to impart to the Nigerians, it will put them in the position to work more closely with other nations that have already participated in ACRI training," he explained.

Pickering observed that making Nigeria involved in conflict resolution and peacekeeping efforts was critical to regional stability, adding that it "is not only the key to ECOMOG, it is the cornerstone."

Also yesterday, the US government demanded for more reforms in Nigeria, restating that country's interest in strengthening its bilateral relations.

The US Deputy Commerce Secretary, Mr. Robert C. Mallett, who stated the US position, said partnership with Nigeria would make "West African nations to become efficient, competitive, transparent and market-oriented."

He, however, warned that " despite the democratic transition in Nigeria, progess - real and substantial - will take time."

Mallett said: "When President Olusegun Obasanjo was head of state in Nigeria in the late 1970s, we (the US) had forged a deeper, more diversified relationship than we have now" We would like to see that happening again."

November 11, 19999

Britain pledges support for Nigeria's quest for debt relief

By Moses Ayo Jolayemi,Foreign Affairs Reporter

IMPRESSED by President Olusegun Obasanjo's economic policies and governance, Britain has promised to help Nigeria secure debt rescheduling and its eventual cancellation by the Paris Club.

Addressing Nigerians at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on Tuesday, the British Minister of State for Africa, Mr. Peter Hain, disclosed that Britain is now working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to put in place an IMF funded programme by the end of the year. Debt rescheduling, Hain said "will give Nigeria the breathing space it needs to implement reform."

Britain, he added, was alarmed by the decline in living standards and increase in poverty in Nigeria, stressing that should the government complete IMF reform programmes and agrees to future reforms, "we would be willing to advocate partial debt cancellation."

In addition, he assured that Britain will continue to assist directly in such areas as primary health care, education, clean water supplies and agriculture.

The minister explained that even under the military era Britain continued to provide up to $20 million yearly in form of direct assistance to Nigerians.

"We are currently in a process of consultation over priorities for expanded assistance in the future," Hain stated.

This, he explained, involves all levels of the Nigerian society and others with a direct interest in the country's future such as the World Bank and European Union to whose development assistance budget Britain makes a significant contribution.

Britain's democracy which has developed over hundreds of years, the minister assured, would help strengthen Nigeria's democracy.

"We are looking at ways in which we can work with members of the National Assembly, the judiciary and the civil service," Hain said, adding that Britain is already involved in a pilot project to improve the efficiency of Nigeria's judiciary.

Early this year, British members of parliament held a series of workshops with their Nigerian counterparts.

The British government, the minister said, also considers as important, the president's stated goal of achieving a professional and restructured military, which is accountable to and supportive of democratic government.

Hain expressed the hope that the Nigerian military will continue to play its part in regional peacekeeping such as it did in Sierra Leone. "We have considerable experience of the challenges involved in carrying out a comprehensive defence review and we look forward to sharing this with the Nigerian Armed Forces," he assured.

Emphasising that the country's democratic process is still young and requires the support of friends and partners internationally, Hain declared that the task before the Obasanjo government and Nigerians is "a difficult one."

Hain, an African by birth, said though the steps taken so far by the president are essential to the process of national renewal, what awaits the country are "formidable challenges."

Britain, he assured will do all it can to assist the country tackle corruption, modernise the economy, reform the police and military, tackle the problems of the Niger Delta, alleviate poverty as well as effect institutional reform.

The minister however, identified corruption as a key area that requires renewal. According to him, corruption "disgraces Nigeria, its public services, business and its people."

He expressed delight at Obasanjo's resolve not to have any sacred cows in his fight against "this criminal behaviour," as well as his commitment to recover funds stolen in the past.

"We would like to work with the Nigerian people in tackling the problems," he assured.

Tuesday, 09 November 1999

Govt orders some detainees freed

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday threw the nation's prisons ajar, directing security agencies to release all persons awaiting trial for more than two years.

A statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said the directive was sequel to a recommendation to that effect by Justice Minister and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN).

Agabi had noted that hundreds of persons were in detention for upwards of 10 years awaiting trial, a situation the president regarded as lacking legal and moral justification, Okupe added.

The president had a few months ago ordered the release of about 1,400 prisoners in line with the new administration's commitment to the protection of the fundamental human rights of the citizenry.

Yesterday's release order, however, precludes those being held for murder, armed robbery, rape, fraud and forgery, the statement added.

 

Tuesday, 09 November 1999

Seven seized policemen in Bayelsa killed

From Joseph Ollor Obari,

Port Harcourt

BAYELSA State police command yesterday confirmed the killing of seven of it's men, among them an area commander and a divisional police officer, by youths in Odi, Kolokuma /Opukoma council.

Enraged by the act, Governor Diepreyre Alamieyeseigha directed that the culprits be apprehended and punished.

Police Commissioner D. Bwala, at a press conference in Yenagoa, said information on the killings was obtained from an "authoritative source," although the bodies were yet to be recovered.

According to him, the area commander was the only Yoruba among the slain men. He thereby debunked allegations that the act was in retaliation for last week's clash in Lagos between Ijaw youths and members of the Oodu'a People's Congress (OPC).

The Guardian learnt that residents of Odi fled the town following security build up in the area.

Chief Press Secretary to Chief Alamieyeseigha, Mr. Norman Morris, said that the governor was saddened by the wanton killing of innocent persons by the group.

An official statement yesterday said: "The Bayelsa State Governor has condemned the killing in Odi, in Kolokuma/Opukoma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The executive governor said whatever grievances the people of the state had, it was not against security operatives, and so, there was no reason why youths should in the name of anything kill those people.

"He directed security operatives to fish out the perpetrators of the act and punish them accordingly. He called on the people of the state to be calm, as the government will do everything to ensure that peace and security were not undermined. He also urged non-indigenes not to panic over what has happened (because) government will give them adequate protection.

"And the government does not believe that what the youths have done represent any interest in the state, and it should be condemned."

Trouble began when youths from the area threatened to attack the Odi Police Station, allegedly to seize arms. A patrol team sent in to strengthen security was reportedly disarmend and the members taken hostage.

While negotiations were underway among government officials, leaders of the various youths group and the youths in Odi, a report came that the hostages had been killed.

Odi was the place of refuge for Ijaw youth during the proclamation of the Kaiama Declaration last year which led to the deployment of troops to major towns in Bayelsa State.

 

Tuesday, 09 November 1999

Anti-media legislations

PRESS freedom is an essential ingredient of democratic rule. A free, vibrant press, duly empowered by the Constitution, and a due recognition of its importance by all stakeholders in society finds itself in a better position to fulfil its role as "the Fourth Estate of the Realm," as society's ombudsman, as mirror and lamp and as conscience of an evolving society. Good governments admit this fact and deliberately expand the scope for the freedom of expression as an inalienable right to be enjoyed by citizens. Bad governments do the opposite. They gag the press, hound journalists and impose a regime of obnoxious censorship. In the last few years, this country has found itself in the grips of this latter phenomenon.

Regrettably, between 1985 and 1998 for example, a long list of sharp decrees were introduced by the military establishment. Changes in personnel at the highest levels of government merely worsened the prospects for a free press. Press censorship became one of the main instruments which military dictatorships used to create stolen space for their anti-people objectives. Under General Abacha, the tactics became really deadly, and antediluvian. Unconscionable decrees like Decree 4 of 1984 were re-invented in form of Decrees 43, 63 and 107 which blatantly abbreviated the freedom of the press. Media houses, including The Guardian were torched, their staff were harassed, publications were proscribed. Journalists were hounded into exile. Those who refused to flee were implicated in kangaroo coup trials and sentenced to jail. Relations and acquaintances of progressive journalists were subjected to similar harassment. The Nigerian press was sustained at the time, only by its resilience and the courage of its owners and foot-soldiers.

Clearly, these ambush tactics of the ancien regime would be anachronistic in the present dispensation. Which is why it is most reassuring that President Olusegun Obasanjo, while receiving a delegation of the International Press Institute (IPI), promised to support the abrogation of all existing anti-media legislations. The Abubakar Administration in the wake of preparations for the transition programme had abrogated Decrees 2, 4 and 43. But there are still a number of similar decrees: particularly Decree 60 of 1999 setting up a government-controlled Nigerian Press Council. Other laws in the same category include the Official Secrets Act 29 of 1962, Official Secrets (Amendment) Act 30 of 1962; Defamatory and Offensive Publication Act of 1966; Printing Press Regulations Act of 1964, Section 58 of the Criminal Code Act of 1958, Decree 35 of 1993 and the Newspapers (Amendment) Act of 1964. The present government may not have found any cause to use these laws, but their very existence is an affront to the constitution and the dignity of the Nigerian people.

Anti-media legislations point to nothing else but the insecurity of those in authority. A transparent and accountable government should have no reason to fear the press. President Obasanjo's expression of belief in press freedom is a good public relations gesture, but his statement of good faith must go beyond being just that. It should be backed up by concrete and immediate action. And on this score, the public cannot afford to wait.

Government has no business censoring the press. In the discharge of its responsibilities in an environment that is characterised by conflicting power interests, the press is bound to cause a measure of discomfort, but whoever is aggrieved - be they government or groups or individuals - can only seek redress within properly defined legal terms. The harassment of the press belongs to the province of barbarism, not civilisation. The public's right to know and be informed is sacred.

The challenge for the Press is to continue to insist on its place in society by maintaining the highest standards possible in the discharge of its responsibilities. The Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Newspaper Proprietors Association have a role to play. The Press must examine and correct itself from within. Any form of external imposition would amount to censorship.

 

Tuesday, 09 November 1999

Mariam absolves Abacha of alleged improprieties

"MY husband could not have impoverished the country because everybody knows that he kept money for Nigeria in banks abroad."

With these words, Mariam, the wife of former dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, rejected charges that her late husband caused the current poverty and hardship plaguing the nation, even as she lamented government's non-payment of his entitlements to the family.

Mariam rose to the stout defence of her husband during a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interview yesterday.

She said: "With the money, he created jobs, paid teachers, but now everybody calls him a thief."

She wondered how if he were a thief he had accumulated money for the country instead of for himself, adding that people were free to insinuate what they liked.

According to Mrs. Abacha, her family is in want, and has not accumulated "billions, as the press would want Nigerians to believe."

She said: "My children and I fend for ourselves. My children work, they have their businesses and friends bring in foodstuffs and money to us from time to time."

According to her, life would become rosy if the government could pay the "about N25 million" entitlement of the late leader who joined the army as a Second Lieutenant.

"We are waiting for my husband's dues to be paid us, and perhaps his insurance benefit. But no one has said anything to us to date," she lamented.

Mrs. Abacha would not agree that the withholding of the dues could have been punitive because of the leader's misrule.

"What are his sins? Some people are happy and some are not over what is happening."

Mrs. Abacha said the crowd at her daughter's wedding recently was an evidence of the family's huge influence, adding that the pains of today would ease with time.

The Federal Government so far has recovered about $750 million from the Abachas and aides. It has also initiated moves to retrieve the funds allegedly hidden in foreign banks.

Abacha's son, Mohammed and some aides, including Hamza Al-Mustapha, are being questioned over their wealth in foreign countries.

 

Tuesday, 09 November 1999

Danjuma explains plan to trim armed forces

From Isa Abdulsalami, Jos

THERE are no plans for massive retrenchment in the armed forces but an internal re-organisation that will be guided by relevant laws, Defence Minister, Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) explained yesterday.

Addressing officers at the 3 Armoured Division, Jos, while continuing his tour of military formations, General Danjuma stressed that military personnel had no reason to feel that their jobs were insecure.

He said: "However, the actual force structure will evolve from discussions with you. The impression that there will be a general demobilisation exercise is not correct. Rather, only relevant provisions in the Nigeria Army Career Review programme will be implemented. Consequently, there is no need for fear and panic as I have been made to understand exist now."

The minister said it was his plan to implement programmes that would help retired personnel to obtain useful employment.

On security situation in their area of operational responsibility, he said that the activities of armed bandits in the North East area were particularly worrisome.

"So far, the achievements of Task Force 20 are highly commendable. Efforts are on to acquire helicopter gunships to give more teeth to the task force. I urge the officers and soldiers on this operation to continue to persevere until all the armed bandits and their collaborators are neutralised," he stated.

General Danjuma also commended officers and men who served in Bakassi, Liberia and Sierra Leone. He told them that Nigeria had sucessfully closed the chapter on Liberia, hoping it would soon do so on Sierra Leone.

Danjuma also spoke on the lost glamour of the army. "Given the right leadership as you have now, the Armed Forces will regain their lost glory, but we must start the process ourselves, rekindling esprit de corps. That is why I have directed that active mess life should be revived. Let us rediscover the joy of being officers again," he explained.

The minister condemned the poor maintenance culture of the division. "This division is the most capital intensive in the Nigerian Army. I know that you hve received a good number of operational vehicles over the years, but I am disappointed that most of them are unserviceable without participating in any operation.

"Some countries have been known to sustain the same range of armoured fighting vehicles for upward of 20 years, but in our own case, one would be lucky to get an operational vehicle fully combat-ready after five years in the inventory. This poor maintenance culture must cease immediately."

Urging them to take their work seriously, Danjuma said it was a good thing that there are no more task forces or other extra regimental appointments to divert their attention from their primary assignments.

Danjuma who spoke on democracy, said that the officers had now been given the chance again to redeem their image. "I want to emphasise that we will work to restore the prestige of the entire armed forces", he stressed.

The minister restated his resolve to create a compact, well-equipped, well-trained and highly motivated armed forces, adding that his intention was to replace sheer number with fire power and technology, stressing that his emphasis would be on a force that would be highly mobile to respond quickly to areas of threat as identified in the army contingency plan.

 

Tuesday, 09 November 1999

Govt plans modern press centre at Abuja

VICE-President Atiku Abubakar has assured State House correspondents of government's intention to build a "befitting press centre" for them.

Speaking yesterday when he inspected the press centre, currently in use at the Presidential Villa, Abubakar said a more befitting structure would be built for the use of journalists very soon.

He expressed surprise that the existing centre, a 20-seater Portakabin, with two fax machines and two telephone lines, could be used by the over 80 reporters who covered the State House beat.

Abubakar inquired about conveniences in the Portakabin and was told that there were no toilets and bathrooms for the use of journalists.

The few journalists at the centre during the inspection told the vice-president that they used the bush behind the Portakabin whenever they had the need, adding that although the action was not environmentally friendly, they had no option.

One of the reporters opened the window to show the vice-president that the grass behind the Portakabin had turned brown because of the high ammonia-content urine on them.

The vice-president, who was accompanied on the inspection by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Ibrahim Bunu, gave an assurance that the situation would change very soon.

 

Coup Plotters Arrested

FORMER Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (rtd), has spoken for the first time since he was quizzed by security agents over his alleged roles in a spate of crimes committed during the tenure of the late General Sani Abacha.
Bamaiyi said he was instrumental to the arrest and detention of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, Brigadier General Ibrahim Sabo, Col. Frank Omenka and others, for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, shortly after Abacha's death.
Denying his alleged involvement in the commission of various crimes during the Abacha days, Bamaiyi said some powerful persons, believed to be still sympathetic with the late dictator, some of whom, he claimed, still pretentiously identify themselves with the present civilian regime, were the brains behind the ongoing campaign of calumny against him.
Accordingly, the retired COAS said he has since instructed his solicitor, Mr. Mike Okoye, a Lagos-based human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, to take up the matter to whichever level.
In his letter to Okoye, authorising him "to take up the matter" and accompanied with a 26-page explanation of how he became a "sacrificial lamb," Bamaiyi confirmed he was quizzed briefly, during which he made a statement.
Said he: "On October 20, 1999, an SIP (Special Investigation Panel) team interviewed me. I will not disclose their identity for security reasons, but they were four male and one female. When they came, their leader asked me if I knew about the burning of the Rutham House - corporate head offices of The Guardian Newspapers and I said no."
He said during a search in the homes of Mustapha, Omenka and co; some arms and ammunition and hand-written seditious publications, portraying both himself and Gen. Abubakar in bad light were recovered. In the malicious documents, Bamaiyi was accused of having knowledge of most of the killings and bombings in several parts of the country.
He explained further: "After Abacha's death, I believe there were officers who had nothing to do with the army. We retired Sabo (DMI) and Omenka. This caused them to circulate the malicious publications that are now being published in some newspapers and magazines.
"Sabo wrote it and sent it to Omenka via courier. Omenka took it to newspaper houses which, initially, refused to publish it and from there, the document got to me. Most of those allegations are in the security report which they wrote indicting me.
"Immediately I looked at the report, I laughed because I knew the DMI was at work. I then contacted police handwriting experts who confirmed that the (malicious) document against me was made in Sabo's handwriting - he normally writes in capitals.
"I came to Abuja with the police handwriting report to see Gen. Abubakar from whom I sought permission to arrest Sabo and Omenka. He approved it. We got military police and arrest warrant for their arrest and they were picked up. During the search in Sabo's house, 40 copies of the hand-written documents were found. The allegations in the hand-written document were their own activities and atrocities. It is the same malicious document that is now being used for a campaign of calumny against me in the media," he alleged.
"We also found in Sabo's house, a note in Al-Mustapha's handwriting telling Sabo not to bother; that their plan will succeed. Again, a sketch plan was found by which Abubakar and myself were to be eliminated either by coup or accident. This sketch was in Mustapha's handwriting. There were other documents which showed that they have been meeting and planning to take-over government."
Following the arrest and recovery of exhibits the former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Al-Amin Daggash, instituted a special panel headed by Gen. Yesufu, now a commander of the armoured corps with members from the military, police and the SSS.
Bamaiyi revealed that it was during the proceedings of the panel that both Sabo and Al-Mustapha confessed that "the malicious document was issued on the orders of the late Gen. Sani Abacha as a diversionary tactics to tarnish my image and put me on the defensive."
The findings, recommendations and the implementation of the SIP's reports on the activities of Omenka & co have since become a source of worry to Bamaiyi, who felt betrayed. In its findings and recommendations, the panel cleared Omenka, Sabo, Olu and Al-Mustapha of allegation of coup plot.
The panel which called 15 prosecution witnesses including Brigadier-Gen. M. B. Marwa, who though, never turned up to testify against the suspects, also exonerated Omenka, Sabo, Olu and Al-Mustapha of the possession and distribution of the malicious documents against Bamaiyi.
Part of the SIP's report, giving reason why the suspects were not liable reads: "By implication, these officers were performing legitimate duty in the course of their service calling and therefore, in order not to set a bad precedence, cannot be held accountable."
The same panel, according to The Post Express findings had earlier affirmed that the four suspects were the brains behind the distribution of the document titled "The State of the Nation: Activities of Major-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi - COAS-That Are Inimical to this Administration and Nigerian Army Image."
Also, the panel, indicted Marwa first of being "privy to this project," adding that in one of their secret meetings with Brigadier Sabo, Olu and Omenka in Ikoyi, Lagos, Marwa "contributed information that could portray the COAS (Bamaiyi) in bad light in the public eye."
In the opinion of the panel, Marwa's failure to appear before it despite several invitations "is contemptuous of both the panel and the convening authority." It therefore, recommended on the whole that all the suspects be prosecuted for illegal possession of service weapons and prohibited firearm while Brigadier-Gen. Mu'azu's career in the army and that of a few others also found wanting should be reviewed. On Marwa's refusal to appear before it, the panel recommended a "disciplinary" action.
But surprisingly, the defence headquarters in a memo dated April 9, 1999, purportedly carrying out a directive of the head of state at that time, Gen. Abubakar, ordered the release of all the suspects including Sabo, Omenka and Olu except Al-Mustapha. This spurred Bamaiyi to follow-up the issue with his letter of May 20, 1999 faulting the entire investigation process and the report issued on it.
"I am disappointed about the source of the leakage of this same malicious document to the press because I thought I was dealing with a more responsible panel. The panel's action in removing some documents and feeding the public with wrong and damaging information is unfair," Bamaiyi said.
He went further: "I believe that all these publications are because of Diya and are engineered by his sympathisers to get back at me. I wish this nation would appreciate what we did. If we hadn't done what we did, nobody knows how many years Diya would have stayed, had his coup succeeded. And I dare say that I will be very eager to meet Diya at the Oputa Panel on the issue, eye-ball to eye-ball."

article by Philip Nwosu, Foreign/Defence Reporter (with Agency Reports)

From the Nigerian Guardian National Newspaper

OUTCRY Magazine, Lara Publications, St. Louis. MO

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