Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #7
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

Final Release Dec. 26, 1999

Forward With  A United Nigeria: Nigeria Shall Rise Again!

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Friday, 24 December 1999

Lagos gets 50 NEPA transformers

By Yakubu Lawal, Energy Correspondent

SUCCOUR may soon come the way of Lagos residents as the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) has released 50 distribution transformers to replace all faulty ones within its network.

General Manager Distribution and Marketing (D&M) Kolawole Oni told {The Guardian} that the transformers, procured at a cost of N100 million, were allocated to the six district offices of the state yesterday.

The transformers, 500 KVA are to replace faulty 11KV transformers that were lost a few months ago.

He said work on the installation of the transformer had already begun and would be completed before the end of the year, hoping that this would bring relief to customers before the new millennium.

Details of the distribution showed that Festac got the highest number of 11 transformers, followed by Oshodi and Ijora with 10 each; Ikeja nine, Shomolu six and Lagos Island four.

Oni, who assumed duty early this month, however appealed to consumers to desist from activities which led to the loss of the transformers, among which he said were double feeding running of additional phases not approve by NEPA and illegal connections.

He explained that engineering specification demanded that load on three-phases be balanced in order to sustain the life of the distribution facility.

he advised electricity consumers to shun racketers or even a NEPA staffers who might wish to extort money on the pretext that they would provide new transformers.

"any suspected racketeer or staff exhorting money should be reported to the nearest police station or the office of the general manager (D&M) Lagos zone, Ikeja" he added.

He said the power and steel ministry was doing its best to ensure that distribution facilities received full load from the national grid.

He noted that the allocation of transformers also reflected the level of commitment by NEPA authorities towards improving power supply in the country.

Oni during his maiden tour of NEPA facilities early this month, had urged customers to note that services such as fault clearing, supply of transformer for public use, and maintenance of NEPA installations were free of charge.

He sought the cooperation of customers to promptly pay their bills as doing so would enable the authority provide improved services.

The Lagos zone, the nation's commercial nerve centre, consumes about 45 per cent of electricity generated in the country.

The consumption rating of its consumers is estimated at 900 megawatts (mw) but the low power generation in the country has reduced the level to between 450 mw and 500 mw.

Power and steel minister Bola Ige said recently that the authority was not in a position to supply the 900 mw, hence the need to invite private power producer to make up for the balance.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Friday, 24 December 1999

Navy regrets role in politics

From Anietie Ben-Akpan,Calabar

THE Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command Commodore Francis Agbiti has described the involvement of the Navy in the past military regimes as "disastrous."

Speaking at a ceremonial sunset and cocktail party marking the end of a three-day sea exercise in Calabar, Agbati said the Navy, having learnt its lessons, has its traditional work of defending the nation's territorial waters and the citizens.

The Navy, he added, has chosen to achieve professional excellence through seminars, exercises, and trainings. He implored political leaders to support the force.

Listing food, money and sea gadgets as basic needs of the Navy, the officer assured that as a unique force, it would project and protect the image of the country at all times.

He added that the Navy would keep the Nigerian flag hoisted and assured the people of Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa states which constitute the command of full co-operation.

The ceremonial sunset is a naval tradition observed worldwide at sunset whereby flag officers take salute at the lowering of the service insignia.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Friday, 24 December 1999

House to hold hearing on privatisation

CONCERNED over complaints in some quarters on the sale of state-owned enterprises, the House Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation is to organise a public hearing to reassess the implementation strategies of the exercise.

Briefing journalists at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja yesterday, committee chairman Nze Chidi Duru said the hearing was aimed at ensuring that everybody was carried along, to ensure transparency and acceptability.

To ensure the success of the programme, he said the committee would scrutinise records of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) and Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).

This measure, according to him, is in line with the democratic principles of checks and balances.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Friday, 24 December 1999

Journalists adjudge 1999 worst for press

THE last year of the 20th Century has been adjudged one of the worst in the record of the press as more than 80 journalists and media staff were killed or murdered, according to the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

"In a century of unremitting slaughter, 1999 has been an infamous year," Aidan White, General Secretary of IFJ, said in a statement, adding: "Once again, it is journalists and those who work with them who are among the victims of murder, crime and conflict."

According to an IFJ list, 69 deaths have been confirmed and are still under investigation, with most of the victims "cut down in waves of violence in the Balkans, Russia and Sierra Leone".

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Friday, 24 December 1999

Obasanjo defends policy, denies Western influence

By Eto Julius, News Editor

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo denied yesterday that he was being teleguided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the formulation and pursuit of programmes.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja at his sixth presidential chat with journalists, he said deregulation and privatisation have become imperative to national development because Nigeria needs foreign investments that come with funds, technical expertise and other input.

He said: "Deregulation or privatisation is not an IMF thing."

Obasanjo who spoke on a gamut of issues said the deregulation of fuel price was being considered because of its benefits to the ordinary people.

Explaining how this is possible, given public belief that the ordinary people would bear the brunt of the exercise, the president said money realised from deregulated prices, that is, removal of fuel subsidy, would be used in pursuit of poverty alleviation programmes such as rural electrification, water supply and roads construction.

Besides, what is got from the removal of subsidies would be used to provide quality education and repair the refineries, Obasanjo said.

He went on: "If we keep oil price 'unnecessarily, artificially low,' compared to our neighbours, it encourages cross-border smuggling of the product from Nigeria, thereby creating its scarcity. The price of fuel in one of our neighbouring countries is twice ours."

Reacting to Tuesday's workers demonstration at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, against the proposed fuel price deregulation, Chief Obasanjo regretted that it still took place and was led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Adams Oshiomhole, after he had assured him at informal talks that he and his executive council would be consulted before a final decision is taken on the issue.

He considered the protest a "show of bravado" by Oshiomhole who wanted "to retain workers confidence by showing to them that he could storm Aso Rock." However, the president conceded the right of his "august visitors" (protesters) to freedom of expression in a democracy.

Obasanjo was disappointed that his appeals to Oshiomhole for whom he has "high regard" fell on deaf ears, even after he sent two senior officials to meet him and the demonstrating workers to listen to their grievances and assure them that they would be consulted and their interests recognised.

He rejected allegations that security forces who dispersed the protesters used live bullets, saying he needed proof. "Nobody died," he said.

"Deregulation is a policy," said president Obasanjo who added that he had told Oshiomhole that he could not claim to love Nigeria more than him. He, therefore, cautioned the NLC leadership against resorting to violent protests.

On the electricity question and growing criticism that the government is not meeting its promise to redress the situation in short period, he reiterated his warning when he assumed office that he had no magic wand for Nigeria's problems. He said power supply had improved from 1,500 megawatts of electricity which his administration met to 2,500, a 25 per cent increase. He, however, said the problem might persist until the year 2001 because of widespread vandalisation of National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) equipment over the years.

President Obasanjo pointed out that 4,000 megawatts are targetted in his four-year tenure, saying anybody who had promised anything more than this "does not know what he is saying with due respect.


Friday, 24 December 1999

Nigeria to get $50m aid from Japan

From Adamu Abuh, Abuja

NIGERIA is to receive a $50 million aid from Japan to develop its educational, science and technology as well as water resources sectors, chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Education Garba Shehu Matazu said yesterday.

Briefing journalists in Abuja on the committee's recent visit to the country, Matazu said the offer was guaranteed by a principal official of the Japanese government, Muneo Suzuki.

Although he did not expatiate on how the money would be distributed among the three sectors, he indicated that the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme which begins in January is to gulp a substantial part of the amount. The money is expected to be made available by early next year.

Matazu, who used the forum to review the activities of his committee since it was inaugurated, decried the problems of funding and mismanagement of state funds in the educational sector.

He stated readiness to invoke powers vested on his committee to investigate the activities of all educational bodies and parastatals to restore sanity and qualitative education to the sector.

On the Educational Tax Fund (ETF), he noted that "massive fraud" had been reported in its handling, pledging: "The committee has set in motion to conduct a public hearing early in the new year''.

He added: "The discovered fraud is totalled 50 billion naira. Already both the Senate and House Committee on Education have initiated investigations on the matter."

On the future of education in the country, he canvassed the adoption of the Japanese system which he said places emphasis on adequate funding, motivation of staff and the participation of both the public and private sectors of the economy.

While re-stating the committee's commitment to the development of the sector, he commended the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for calling off their recent strike for the progress of the country.

Friday, 24 December 1999

Clinton praises Obasanjo on air ban removal

From Emmanuel Onwubiko (Abuja) and Olufemi Adedapo (Lagos)

PRESIDENT Bill Clinton yesterday congratulated President Olusegun Obasanjo for "taking necessary steps" leading to Washington's removal on Wednesday of a six-year-old ban on air link with Nigeria.

But the United States government has also advised the Federal Government to strengthen security at the airports.

The American leader, in a statement yesterday by the Department of States said: "Congratulate President Obasanjo and his government for taking the steps necessary to remove this ban, including overhauling of Nigeria's airport security system.

"These important reforms provide one more indications of the Nigerian administration's commitment to good governance... They the reforms offer new evidence that Nigeria is reversing the damage that years of corruption and mismanagement inflected upon its inational reputation?

Clinton also said in the statement: "I am deeply gratified to see a governemnt chosen by the Nigerian people earning the trust and respect of the world. "He added that he looked forward to strengthening Washington's partnership with Nigeira "even further over the coming year."

U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. William Twaddel, affirmed yesterday that the removal of the air ban signposted his country's new posture towards Nigeria.

On a visit in Abuja to the Integration and Co-operation in Africa Minister, Professor Jerry Gana, he also confirmed the likehood of President Clinton visiting Nigeria next year.

The envoy said his home government was encouraged by the restoration of the rule of law, good governance and transparent democratic regime in Nigeria.

He expressed optimism that democracy would buoy economic ties between Nigeria and the U.S., but remarked that peace, stability and rule of law are essential conditions for attracting investment by American entrepreneurs.

On the proposed visit by Clinton, Twaddell said: "There is great desire on both sides that President Clinton should visit Nigeria, next year. Your President (Obasanjo) made the request in October and my home government will give positive consideration to the request".

The Federal Government may have directed Julius Berger Plc to undertake a rehabilitation of the International Conference Centre, Abuja, for the expected visit.

Earlier, Gana told Twaddell that the current civilian administration is committed to protecting human rights, rule of law, good governance and democratic tenets of transparency, accountability as well as poverty reduction.

The minister solicited Washington's assistance in the transfer of technology, and in boosting trade and investment in the country. He said Nigeria did not desire foreign aid, but trade and investment by American businessmen.

Praising Washington for its contribution towards peace-keeping in some troubled West African countries, he said President Obasanjo and the National Assembly were determined to make Nigeria investor-friendly, as well as promote integration and economic co-operation.

He called on the American government to regard Nigeria as one of its most favoured nations since, according to him, the measure would boost the nations domestic industries.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Low Prices of Agricultural Produce Threaten Food Security, Says Farmer

AS prices of agricultural produce continued to slump below production costs, a large-scale farmer, Alhaji Yusuf Suleman, has alerted the Federal Government on the looming threat to the country's food security programme by the low prices of the produce. Suleman, a founding member of the National Council of Nigeria Farmers, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) today in Minna that in spite of high production cost during the last farming season, prices of agricultural produce had continued to drop below the expectations of the farmers.
He said: "unless the Federal Government comes out with a deliberate policy of direct subsidy for agricultural imputs, effective distribution pattern and price stabilisation mechanism, food production will suffer in the next three years."
The farmer said that although the Federal Government had approved the purchase of excess grains from farmers, such a measure was ad-hoc and would only improve the price situation temporarily.
Suleman said that government needed to formulate a standard pricing policy through a regulatory body, so that neither the farmers nor the consumers would suffer unnecessarily. He said that it was regrettable that a lot of small-scale farmers in the country have not been benefitting from the government's agricultural policies no matter how well intentioned.
The farmer, who was a commissioner in Niger State, suggested the reactivation and expansion of the Agricultural Development Projects (ADP) to enable grassroots farmers benefit from government programmes.
Meanwhile, the Niger government has so far released N50 million for the purchase of excess grains and planned to spend more than N240 million next year to beef up its buffer stock.

Nigerian Post Express Newspaper

Chinese Firm Completes Pure Water Project
by Dons Eze, Regional Editor, Enugu

A CHINESE firm Chang-don-don-Chan has completed a pure water pilot project in Taraba State which National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has rated as the best packaged water in the country.
The Chinese firm made this known in Jalingo during a courtesy visit to the governor of Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Nyame.
Chang-don-don- Chan who, its principal partner, Mr. Patrick Ozueh disclosed that NAFDAC had certified the Mambila Pure Water as the best in the country, said investors from China and Liverpool had indicated their interest to invest and patronise the pure water.
Ozueh further disclosed that Chang-don-don-Chan also invests in the agricultural sector of the state and the nation in general, through the procurement, of agricultural implements, equipment as well as offer of manpower to the farmers.

Nigerian Post Express Newspaper

Nigeria Urged to Protect New Democracy
by Jude Okwe, Calabar

AFRICAN countries are looking up to Nigeria for development, hence the country should jealously protect her new found democracy which is a step towards stability salability and eventual economic development, consul of the Republic of Cameroon, Mr. Joseph B.C. Foe-Atangana said last Monday in Calabar.
While on a courtesy call on the speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Dr. Ogbudu Gabriel Ada, the cousul explained that since Nigeria holds the key to Africa's overall development, positive or negative happenings in the country usually affect the entire continent.
He advised the Nigerian government to lay a solid foundation for democracy by carrying out development oriented programmes that would touch the masses even as he called on government to ensure transparency in all its activities.
He expressed the conviction that a stable polity in Nigeria would be emulated by other African countries, especially now that the world was going democratic.
Accordingly, he appealed to the Obasanjo government to be in the vanguard of campaigns for civil rule in Africa, good governance, strong African economic bloc, popular democracy, economic relations among countries of the continent and inter-country co-operation in technical expertise.
Foe-Atangana who congratulated Nigeria for returning to democracy after years of military rule, appealed to the military not to only give democracy a chance but also, allow politicians to learn and correct their mistakes.
Responding, Dr. Ada said the legislative arm of government would continue to foster closer bilateral relations between Nigeria and Cameroun through appropriate legislation.
He noted the two countries have a common history, hence nothing now would be allowed to tear them apart, adding that socially, economically and culturally, both countries were one and have been co-operating as such.
The speaker told the under-ambassador to feel free to alert the legislature whenever there was misunderstanding between the two countries as Africa is the centre-piece of the foreign policy of countries in the continent.

Nigerian Post Express Newspaper


Anti-Mustapha, Mohammed Posters Flood Kaduna
by John Alechenu, Kaduna

ANTI-Al-Mustapha and Mohammed Abacha posters have flooded the streets of Kaduna to counter sponsored advertisements and newspaper publications in favour of t he conditional release of the duo.
Those responsible for the posters which bear the portraits of Abacha's eldest surviving son, Mohammed and erstwhile chief security officer to the late head of state, Major Al-Mustapha, both behind bars, are yet to disclose their identities.
Some of the posters read, "They are only reaping what they have sowed."
While others which read "Did Mustapha and Mohammed kill to improve the nations' economy and educational standard? No! and "Yar Adua's blood cries for justice" posters are also on display at major roundabouts and bill boards across the city, the most outstanding being the stadium roundabout and independent Way/Police College roundabout.
The posters became noticeable early last Friday.
The duo now standing trial for complicity in the elimination of prominent opposition figures during the Abacha years have been deserted by those who benefited from the late general's five years of terror as even Alhaji Wada Nas, the late general's most consistent supporter, had declared support for the trial of the two "should sufficient evidence be found against them."
Nigerian Post Express Newspaper

House of Reps to probe NITEL, NCC

THE House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the management of the Nigerian Communications Commission and that of NITEL under the Communications Minister, Alhaji Muhammadu Arzika.

In a motion jointly sponsored by 16 members of the house, including Alhaji Ahmed Maiwada, Mr. Nduka Irabor, Mr. Lanre Laoshe, Mrs. Lola Abiola-Edewor and Ms. Temi Harriman, the house referred to some of the actions of the minister and said they were out of order.

One of these is the recent formation by the minister of the inter-ministerial committee to license the four GSM cellular operators prescribed in the new telecom policy.

This inter-ministerial committee, the house observed "is without a legal platform and therefore, illegal."

"It represents a desperate act to confer legitimacy on an illegality," the house said and gave its reasons as follows:

"There is a subsisting law that confers supreme authority to the NCC to award licences for telecommunications. The proposed IMB usurps the powers of NCC in the guise of transparency and credibility.

"The issues involved in the granting of a GSM licence are complex enough to warrant the contributions of highly technical experts in field of wireless technologies, financial and legal matters. However, these experts must have a bias for telecommunications proper. Participation of candidates from Central Bank, Minister of Justice and National Planning is uncalled for. All the expertise required should be resident in the newly invigorated NCC at best. At worst, experts in the private sector may be co-opted to NCC for the purpose of this analysis only.

"Transparency and credibility can easily and legally be achieved by the:

bulletEmpowerment of NCC; and,
bulletLetting NCC perform its statutory responsibility without interference."

Commenting on the recent letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo from the minister in which he sought permission to set up the inter-ministerial committee, the motion sponsors said:

"The issues raised herein impact of process integrity, that intangible adjective that gives would-be investors confidence in the system and the nation. The three arms of government must not only work together, but must also be seen to be working together to assure guarantee confidence in the process. Some of the observed inaccuracies, false assumptions and grey areas that may negatively affect the integrity of the process are detailed below.

 Licensing of NITEL by NCC:

"It is the expressed opinion of the Ministry of Communications that the immediate licensing of NITEL by NCC will automatically ensure a level playing field for all operators. This is a pervasive argument. As documented in the preliminary report of the public hearing by the House Committee on Communications, the technical expertise of NCC, as presently constituted, does not give this commission the latitude to regulate even a small PTO, let alone NITEL. Indeed, the NTP captured this singular, important, fact when it proposed to "strengthen and empower the regulatory authority." Is licensing NITEL today a more important national priority than empowering the regulatory agency that will oversee the entire deregulated industry?

 Technical fallacy:

"The same document from the Minister of Communications provides information that NITEL is currently the only national carrier for wired lines and wireless local loop. The later statement clearly exposes the shallow technical depth of those who advise the Honourable Minister of Communications. A wireless local loop cannot be national because it is a radio-based system that interlinks the subscribers in a given geographical community (such as a city) to their local exchange.

"It is the wireless equivalent of wired external line plant - the overhead or underground cables that connect phone handsets to their local exchange. Moreover, almost all the operating PTOs (Emis, Intercellular, Mobitel, Multilinks, etc) presently employ wireless local loop technologies to connect their subscribers.

 Amendment of NCC decree:

"As important as this issue may be, it makes better business and management sense to strengthen the NCC in the first instance before entrusting it with additional responsibilities. A rigorous time frame for this empowerment of the commission through radical restructuring and reorganisation should be announced. This will give greater confidence in the investing public.

Frequency issues:

"It is noted that a dual band frequency system is recommended for the GSM operators. Prior to the collection of the GSM application forms from the NCC at a cost of N11million, there are simple, basic, information that MUST be available to the potential investor, if not the public at large.

Vanguard Transmitted Wednesday, 22 December, 1999


Wednesday, 22 December 1999

U.S. firm to generate electricity for Ondo

From Niyi Bello, Akure

INCESSANT power failure in Ondo State will soon end as the government has contacted a United States-based company to assist in generating electricity.

Governor Adebayo Adefarati, who made it known while receiving a delegation of Ifon community in Government House, said the company, Wilkins will be in the state early next year to start work on the project.

Adefarati explained that the government decided to generate its own power supply in order to accelerate socio-economic development of the state.

He also disclosed that another U.S.-based company, AT&T will assist to provide telephone facilities to residents at affordable rates.

According to him, the agreement with the cable company became necessary in view of the governments determination to make life more meaningful for the people.

Reacting to plea to reactivate the moribund Ifon Ceramics Industry, Adefarati said the government was worried about the ailing company.

While disclosing that the government had sunk over N45 million into the industry, he said that some Italian companies have started work on the company.

He described the company as a money-spinning venture and assured that he would do everything possible to reactivate it.

Leader of the delegation, Chief Joseph Agangan had earlier listed erosion, shortage of potable water, irregular power supply and inadequate health facilities as some major problems facing Ifon residents.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Wednesday, 22 December 1999

Govt begins millennium celebration today

AN elaborate boat regatta holding today and tomorrow in Itu Council Area of Akwa Ibom State is expected to herald the Nigerian governments programme to usher in the next millennium.

An official programme released yesterday in Abuja says the regatta is expected to attract thousands of Nigerians, including Culture and Tourism Minister Ojo Madueke.

A drama presentation of Attahiru by the National Council of Arts and Culture holds at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Abuja while a cross-section of children are to exhibit Nigerian national costumes at a special fashion parade on December 30 at the Eagle Square.

There will be {Jumat} prayers at the Abuja Central Mosque on December 31 while the Eagle Square will also be the venue of a jass music festival and fireworks from 7.30 p.m. later in the day.

An interdenominational church service by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) at a venue yet to be determined is arranged for January 2, 2000.

Other major activities include the laying of the foundation stones of the Millennium Park and Freedom Square in the federal capital, and an essay competition for school children.

There will also be the presentation of the millennium book, {Nigeria through the ages} by the government.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Wednesday, 22 December 1999

Commercial sex workers flee Yobe

PROSTITUTES in Yobe State have started fleeing, following the resolution passed by the House of Assembly, giving them till December 31, to reform, get married or leave the state.

In the past seven days, no fewer than 40 prostitutes in Damaturu, had either left for their states of origin or neighbouring areas.

Manager of the Terrafirma Hotel, Damaturu, Adai David confirmed that 40 prostitutes left Terrafirma, Goodtimes Hotel, and Abasha Ward, a Ghetto in Damaturu.

David added that his colleagues in Nguru, Gashua and Potiskum had reported similar exodus of free women.

Some of the prostitutes claim the development was an infringement on our human rights.

When reminded that the profession was both morally and religiously abominable, they argued that they had to swallow our pride to survive.

A few of them, however, hailed the move of the Assemblymen, saying it might be instrumental to their getting reformed and abandoning prostitution.

Meanwhile, secretary of the Damaturu branch of Hoteliers Association, Mr. Peter Orude, said the December 31 deadline for the revocation of liquor licences was too short.

Orude said they should have been given at least six months since the business is their major source of livelihood.

The House of Assembly on December 14, adopted a resolution calling on the governor to ban prostitution and sale of liquor on or before December 31.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Wednesday, 22 December 1999

Clintons visit imminent

THE Federal Government may have directed Julius Berger Plc to begin the rehabilitation of the International Conference Centre, Abuja for the expected visit of President Bill Clinton of the United States of America. He is expected in the country next year.

The managing director of Julius Berger, in a message to a ceremony to honour 560 personnel for long service, said that the company would immediately begin work on the centre to convert some of its facilities into a banquet hall with all necessary facilities for the proposed visit of a very important president next year.

Although, he did not indicate the time of the visit, sources told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Clinton would honour an invitation from President Olusegun Obasanjo, who himself paid a state visit to the U.S. this year.

Informed sources also told NAN that the management of the Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja, was also preparing to embark on a major rehabilitation work on the hotel to meet with U.S. requirements, apparently in connection with the visit.

Americans always prefer to use Sheraton Hotel facilities wherever these exist in the world and Nigeria will not be an exception (during the Clinton visit), the sources said.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Wednesday, 22 December 1999

Fuel scarcity hits Abuja, Akure,Calabar

From Julius Alabi, Akure and Anietie Ben-Akpan, Calabar

BARELY 72 hours to Christmas, long queues of vehicles have started returning to filling stations as fuel scarcity reared again in Akure, Ondo State, Federal Capital Territory FCT) and Calabar,Cross River State.

Although the Pipelines Products and Marketing Company PPMC) described the scarcity in Abuja as purely artificial, fuel dealers in Ondo fear that the situation may persist for sometime, because, according to them, there is no fuel at the Ore depot.

A PPMC source who said there is enough stock to meet motorists demands, especially during this Yuletide, however, disclosed that the company has problems with both major and independent fuel marketers.

He said: We are having problems, with the marketers, both major and independents and we are meeting them to sort out the problem.

But a marketer said that the claim by PPMC was not totally correct as there had been problems in getting supplies.

Virtually all stations in Abuja and its environs had long queues yesterday.

As at Sunday, almost all the stations had supplies and there were no problems in getting fuel.

Some motorists blamed the scarcity on panic-buying and fears that fuel prices would increase soon, if government implemented its plans to deregulate prices.

In Akure, the scarcity has forced many civil servants to trek long distances to their working places. Commercial activities were also partially paralysed.

When {The Guardian visited some stations at noon yesterday, fuel was only available in a few of them.

Some motorists appealed to the Federal Government to wade in so as to ensure availability of fuel in all the states during Christmas and new year celebrations.

Chairman of Petrol Dealers Association Chief Joseph Esan said that the scarcity was no surprise to him. Esan said that Ore depot of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC) has not had stock since April.

We dealers) can not sell what we dont have. We have been selling the small quantity provided for us. Hoarding of the product does not, therefore, arise this time around. The problem now is that the product is no longer coming from the depot, he said.

Esan explained that much of the fuel we are receiving in Akure is from either Apapa or Benin depots.

We have been experiencing the problem for long; the rush of motorists to the filling stations at this time, however, worsened the situation, he added.

Besides, the association boss attributed the scarcity to tanker drivers, most of who, he said, are fasting.

In Calabar, the Cross River State capital, long queues of vehicles were seen at filling stations that had some fuel.

The No fuel signs in most of the stations took many by surprise as some station attendants that wooed motorists to buy fuel from them on Monday had suddenly disappeared.

Although no official reason has been given for the scarcity, it was gathered that dealers in the state are hoarding the product in anticipation of price hike.

Attempt to get the NNPC depot chief to comment on the matter failed but an insider said there was enough fuel.

However, some of the motorists who spoke with {The Guardian expressed disappointment with the development.

One of them, Mr Peter Etim, condemned the current scarcity and appealed to the government to intervene before the situation gets out of hand.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Wednesday, 22 December 1999

Protesting workers storm Aso Rock

From Emeka Nwankpa, Prisca Egede, Oghoghor Obayuwana and Emmanuel Onwubiko Abuja

LABOUR, protesting the planned deregulation of petroleum product prices, yesterday tackled the government in an unprecedented encounter that left the Obasanjo administration with an image problem.

Aggrieved workers, hosting flags of the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC), literally stormed the Presidential Villa in Abuja and confronted a wall of security agents that forced their retreat. But in the face-off, fire fighters had a hectic time containing flames ignited by canisters fired by security agents to keep the rage at bay.

NLCs President, Adams Oshiomhole led the workers, numbering more than 10,000, to the seat of power avowedly with the aim of having an audience with President Olusegun Obasanjo. An eight-page letter prepared aforehand was to be handed to the president.

Yesterdays protest somehow underscored the new democratic dispensation as, in a feat unprecedented in recent memory of the Nigerian nationhood, the protesting workers got through the first gate leading to the presidential Villa, and would have penetrated the second gate but for security agents who beat them back with teargas canisters and other rough-hand tactics that may for a long while pose the first real image test of the six-month-old democratic administration.

Trouble began when the workers, who defied the security line-up to make it through the Villas first gate at about 10.30 a.m., headed for the second gate. They paused at the front of Vice-president Atiku Abubakar's official residence before moving onto the broadway leading to the second gate, only to be confronted by a swarm of security agents barring their way.

At the first gate, speeches were made amidst solidarity songs deploring perceived harsh economic policies of the Obasanjo administration. As the protesting column advanced, security agents made an attempt to stop Oshiomhole leading the workers. But he would not be deterred, urged on by anti-government songs from his followers.

When eventually the security agents resorted to firing teargas canisters at the adamant workers, they dared to hold their ground until the fumes became unbearable. At the point, the hitherto peaceful protest march degenerated into a commotion.

The protesters, who had broken into anti-government songs with placards carried aloft condemning the proposed deregulation of the petroleum sector and price increases it is expected to entail, soon responded with missiles, although they fast retreated when fumes from the fired teargas canisters turned unbearable.

Subsequently, the workers rallied and advanced to meet a delegation said to have been sent by President Obasanjo. The delegation comprised Economic Matters Minister Vincent Ogbulafor; Political Adviser to the President, Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu; and Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, Dr. Doyin Okupe.

Ogbulafor urged the protesting workers, who had stopped at the wing overlooking the new Federal Secretariat to mobilise more civil servants, against proceeding on their proposed march against the Villa. But the appeal fell on deaf ears.

Addressing the crowd after being assured of his safety by Oshiomhole, the minister said the government was sensitive to Labours position. You know President Obasanjo has a lot of goodies for Nigerians. Let us give peace a chance ... We have taken note of your grievances ... Even if you go inside the Villa now, the president will listen to you, he explained.

But the workers interrupted Ogbulafor with shouts of We want Obasanjo here.

At this point, Oshiomhole turned over to the workers behind him and said: What the minister said is unacceptable ... To whom much is given much is also expected. Having given you this chance to address us, go and tell the president that he has to meet us at the gate ... We are bound by our common cause in unity ... The spirit of our ancestors is with us.

The NLC president added: Our leaders should go into the {Guiness Book of Records for fighting poverty by increasing the price of fuel and stopping Christmas gifts ... Since they do not know that this is not good economics, we will teach them ...

The beauty of democracy is that it exposes half truths and deceit. We, the workers, voted for him President Obasanjo). If he had told us that he was going to increase fuel price, we would not have put him here.

Okupe, who all the while tried to make the point that he had a message from President Obasanjo to the workers, tried to assuage the NLC president, saying: Oshiomhole, why are you doing this? You people sent us here by voting for us, so please take it easy.

Then, Ogbulafor, who after addressing the workers earlier had gone to pass on the workers message to President Obasanjo that the workers wanted him personally, reappeared. Accompanied by the Special Adviser on Political Affairs, he said he had a message from the president for the workers.

But Oshiomhole, speaking for the workers retorted: Now, I cannot receive any message from the president after securitymen have teargased and insulted me and the workers. No, we cannot receive any message now.

Attempts by Okupe to win over the workers with his soap box oratory were equally rebuffed, as he was booed at and disallowed from addressing them.

Oshiomhole turned to address the workers, saying history was being made. We have had the very first opportunity to test whether Obasanjo is a democrat or is still Gen. Obasanjo. And we have seen that the Obasanjo of the Year 2000 is a Field Marshal, and not different from the same Obasanjo who by 1978 ordered the killing of students in Zaria.

Showing what was said to be shells of live bullets to the crowd, Oshiomhole added: We will keep these bullets and show them to the whole world... that Obasanjo is not a democrat.

Since they have made peaceful negotiation impossible, we must fight them through industrial crisis. Nigerian workers and the leadership of the NLC are not cowed by the action of today, as by todays action we have known that we are dealing with a dictator...

The workers march on the Villa appeared to have enjoyed the support of some National Assembly members. Particularly notable was Hon. Lola Abiola-Edewor, who was accompanied by some of her counterparts in the House of Representatives.

Addressing the workers, Lola-Edewor said: This is what democracy is all about. That is why we said {NO to the military. They told us that petrol is cheapest in Nigeria, but what they did not tell us is that wages are the poorest in Nigeria...

The protesting workers were eventually forced back from the Presidential Villa by security agents amidst precipitate release of teargas fumes.

Initially undaunted, Oshiomhole rallied the remnant of the retreating workers at the first gate opposite a wing of the Federal Secretariat, declaring an industrial action and urging them not to run away. But more teargas was released by security agents, making the atmosphere unbearable. Beaten, the NLC president led the remaining workers back to the main Federal Secretariat complex at 12.43 p.m. where he ordered that the place be paralysed. Move all the workers out, he ordered.

In his address to the workers, the NLC president accused the International Monetary Fund IMF) and the World Bank of hijacking President Obasanjo's programmes for Nigerians. He said the workers decided to protest to the Villa to rescue the president from the strangle hold of both Bretton Woods institutions.

Fire fighters had a hectic time putting off the fire ignited by the canisters aimed by security agents at the protesters. The firemen, deployed from the New Federal Secretariat, battled to extinguish flames burning around Vice-President Atikus apartment.

As at 2.25 p.m. yesterday, teargas canisters littered the major road leading to the Villa.

At the Federal Secretariat Complex, the workers disrupted an on-going press conference being addressed by Science and Technology Minister Ebitimi Banigo and Minister of State Pauline Tallen.

The intimidating presence of the irate workers forced the ministers to abandon the event and leave through the back door of the conference room.

Speaking with journalists shortly after the exit of the ministers, Oshiomhole said: This is not a democratic government, their hypocrisy must be exposed. Obasanjo is not a democrat, the problem is that he is a dictator, and a ruthless one.

Recalling the protesters experience at the State House, the Labour leader said: We wanted to dialogue with the Federal Government, but they government) sent us bullets. We are going on strike from January, next year. Obasanjo has surrounded himself with people working for the interest of International Monetary Fund IMF).

Insisting that the planned deregulation of the petroleum sector is wrong headed, he said: We will continue this anti-Obasanjo government campaign against fuel price hike. Obasanjo is working for foreign interest against the Nigerian people. He has to be stopped.


Ex-Student Leader Advises Nigerians

by Okechukwu Obenta, Awka
A former student leader, Chief Segun Okeowo, has called on Nigerians to be prepared to defend their hard-earned fledgling democracy.
Okeowo made the call during an interview with The Post Express in Eruwa during the week, enjoining Nigerians not to perceive democracy as a dinner party.
The fiery former National President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) who led the "Ali Must Go" student uprising in 1978 during the General Obasanjo military regime noted that, the fundamental changes required for true democracy to thrive were yet to be effected.
"The battle has just begun, not much has been done yet, the reforms done so far have good to an extent, but peripheral and cosmetic, because the fundamental issues are yet to be addressed and I hope they will" he said.
According to him, the form of democracy put in place by the defunct Gen. Abubakar regime was not the type Nigerians might opt, for, all things being equal, but it was expedient for Nigerians to accept it, to ease out the military.
Okeowo, however, expressed optimism that the present form of democracy which is in the hand of a former military head of state would eventually metamorphose into the true democracy the people deserved.
On the various ethnic clashes engulfing the nation, Okeowo said that they were reactions to the injustices of the past.
According to him, such clashes are healthy and part of the culture of democracy.
"The East, OPC and the Ijaws are asking for equity and justice," he said.
The student leader said that he would go into active party politics after his retirement as a school principal in December 1999.

Nigerian Post Express Newspaper


Bamaiyi's trial stalled

By Kayode Matthew & Ifeoma Okologume

THE absence of Lagos State Attorney-General, Prof. Yemi Osibajo from a Lagos High Court yesterday stalled the trial of the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late Gen. Sani Abacha and three others for alleged conspiracy and attempted murder of Mr. Alex Ibru.

All the five accused: Bamaiyi, James Danbaba, Hamza Al-Mustapha, Jubrin Bala Yakubu and Mohammed Rabo Lawal were at the high court yesterday.

As the proceeding commenced, Mr. Emmanuel Toro (SAN) representing Lt.-Gen. Bamaiyi told the court that he wanted to argue the two applications for bail filed before the court by Bamaiyi and Danbaba.

But the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs. Ngozi Mofunaya, however, said the state was not ready to proceed with the trial yesterday.

"The Attorney-General who is the leading counsel in this matter was out of town, and on his return we discovered that there was a need to file further and better affidavit," she said.

"In addition the respondents have been stretched in this matter as we had to rush to Abuja last Friday. I am not in a position to take this matter this morning. We crave your indulgence for an adjournment till Wednesday or Thursday this week to enable the Attorney-General of Lagos State come and take this application," she added.

Danbaba’s counsel, Mr. Mike Okoye in his address said: "The liberty of the accused is in question and he has, from the records, been in custody for over two months. "The DPP has not told us why she cannot carry on with this matter. By virtue of Sections 101 and 125 of Criminal Procedure Law, the court is empowered to admit any person in custody to bail whether there is a charge or not.

"The enabling section empowers the high court to exercise this power, the jurisdiction to grant bail has no relevance with jurisdiction to entertain the charge."

Mr. Bala Ibu N’Allah who held brief for Mr. Clement Akpamgbo for Al-Mustapha said he had no objection to the application for adjournment. Mr. Ibrahim Buba representing Jubrin Yakubu did not also oppose the application for adjournment "having regard to the application that the DPP intended to file a further affidavit."

As Justice Ade Alabi noted that Mr. Buba’s application to quash the entire charge was not in the court file, he said:

"I don’t think I can make any pronouncement on application that has been filed but is not before me. So I will adjourn the matter till Wednesday."

The judge also said, "the summons for bail is adjourned till Wednesday, December 22 for definite arguments."

In Bamaiyi and Danbaba’s summons for bail filed, they are praying the court for an order admitting them to bail "pending the determination of this case on such terms and conditions as the court may deem fit to impose in the circumstances."

In a 30-paragraph affidavit in support of Bamaiyi’s summons for bail deposed to by one Yakubu Maikyau he said: "The charge being laid against Bamaiyi is based on the investigation and report of the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) constituted by the Attorney-General of the Federation. He averred that "Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi has rendered selfless service to this nation and has never committed any offence known to law nor has he any criminal records.

"He is a well-known Nigerian of good repute and personality who has served this country meritoriously and contributed immensely to the attainment of the present democratic rule which we are all enjoying.

He further averred that Bamaiyi "will be able and willing to attend trial on any date or subsequent date the matter may be adjourned until the final conclusion of this charge.

"He has suffered unlawful detention and will continue to suffer further detention if not released on bail, despite the presumption of his innocence until proved guilty as enshrined in our constitution."

In a counter affidavit deposed to on behalf of the state by one Olakunle Ligali, a legal officer in the office of the State Attorney General, he averred that "if the accused/applicant is granted bail, it is not likely that he would appear for his trial."

He averred further that "if the accused /applicant is granted bail, there is likelihood that he would intimidate and tamper with witnesses for the prosecution in view of his social status and professional training especially in security matters.

"By the statements of proposed witnesses attached to the information, the accused/applicant procured the weapons used to commit the act constituting the offence.

"In fact statements of the proposed witnesses indicate/disclose that the directive to commit the act constituting the offence issued from the accused/applicant." The 20-paragraph counter affidavit also stated that, "in fact the accused/applicant admitted in his statement that there was an assassination list at the time the offence was committed."

In the two-count charge against them, they are charged with "conspiracy to commit murder contrary to Section 324 of the Criminal Code Cap 32 Laws of Lagos State 1994." The particulars of offence stated that "Ishaya Bamaiyi, James Danbaba, Hamza Al-Mustapha, Jubrin Bala Yakubu and Mohammed Rabo Lawal on/or about the month of February 1996 at Ikoyi in the Lagos Judicial Division conspired to murder Alex Ibru.

The second charge on attempted murder contrary to Section 320 of the Criminal Code Cap 32 Laws of Lagos State 1994 states that "Ishaya Bamaiyi, James Danbaba, Hamza Al-Mustapha, Jubrin Bala Yakubu and Mohammed Rabo Lawal on/or about the 2nd day of February 1996 at Ikoyi in the Lagos Judicial Division attempted to murder Alex Ibru."

Listed as prosecution witnesses are David Udi, Inspector Francis Odu, Mohammed Abdul (a.k.a. Katako), ASP Sunday Maidubi, Barnabas Jabilla (a.k.a Rogers), ACP Yusuf, CSP Ogaba and Solomon Okoh.

Vanguard Transmitted Tuesday, 21 December, 1999


Body to fight human trafficking underway

By John-Abba Ogbodo, Abuja

A national body to fight human trafficking in the country is underway.

The Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Force Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Mrs. Abimbola Ojomo dropped this hint recently in Abuja.

Mrs. Ojomo who expressed grave concern over the development, said already the police had taken measures, in collaboration with some countries to find a solution to the menace.

"I felt sad hearing that Nigeria features prominently in this heinous crime. It must be stopped and we are going to mobilise all women within our disposal to deal with the problem.

Mrs. Ojomo who was elected as African representative on the board of Interpol hinted that the problem was exhaustively discussed at the just concluded 63rd Assembly of the Interpol and resolute decisions were taken.

On the home front, the police topshot said a national workshop would soon be held with a view to embarking on a national programme action.

The workshop, according to her, would involve all stakeholders including all security agencies and representatives of states in the country where the scourge is prevalent.

No fewer than 250 Nigerian girls have been deported from Italy this year in connection with prostitution.

Mrs. Ojomo, however disclosed that the Nigeria Police Force had been in action to stem the ugly trend since 1994 with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Italy.

Vanguard Transmitted Tuesday, 21 December, 1999


Tuesday, 21 December 1999

Nigeria's external image improving, says Odili

RIVERS State Governor Peter Odili has applauded the efforts of President Olusegun Obasanjo at restoring Nigeria's image abroad.

Odili, at the luncheon in honour of the First Lady, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo in Port Harcourt, at the weekend, said that Nigeria now enjoys a high respect in the international comity.

The governor who was in the president's entourage to Germany, said: "We cannot recall when last a Nigerian leader was given such reception in a foreign land."

According to him, the heroic welcome accorded the president and his entourage spoke volumes and was very encouraging.

He expressed optimism that the trend suggested that Nigeria had a bright future, adding that the people of Rivers State are proud of the new image and reputation being created internationally by the president.

Odili also lauded the First Lady whom, he said, had been playing supportive roles to the president.

Responding, Mrs. Obasanjo expressed joy in being in Rivers State again after her first visit in September and assured women in the state of her continued support.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Tuesday, 21 December 1999

Police foil bank robbery

THREE members of a nine-man robbery gang who raided the Union Bank Plc, Badagry branch, yesterday were killed by police in Lagos. One was arrested.

Two pump action guns, live catridges and N352,335 were recovered from the robbers who attacked the bank in a commercial mini-bus and a jeep.

Lagos Police Commissioner, Mr. Mike Okiro, said the hoodlums attacked the bank in a commando-like manner, firing gun-shots sporadically.

"The armed men were said to have invaded the bank at about 11 a.m. and held both customers and workers hostage at gun point while the operation lasted," he said.

According to him, six customers believed to have resisted the robbers were shot and wounded, including the policeman on guard.

He said police detectives, on receiving information about the incident, raced toward the scene wherein the robbers on sighting them, opened fire. In the ensuing gun battle, three members of the gang were felled by police bullets, five others escaped and one was arrested.

Efforts, he said, were on to arrest the fleeing members of the gang.

The manager of the bank, Mr. Olufemi Olubunmi who was at the press briefing, lauded the swift response of the police to the attack. "Our confidence in police in Lagos has been rekindled by this success," he added.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Tuesday, 21 December 1999

New Nigerian workers fault new operations policy

By Sylvester Ebhodaghe

WORKERS of the New Nigerian Newspapers (NNN), Lagos plant laid off by the company during a recent restructuring have appealed to President Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene and save them from untold suffering.

They alleged that since their ordeal started, four of them have lost their lives owing to hunger and frustration.

A statement by Mr. Samuel Falodun, secretary, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) NNN chapel, alleged a foul play, saying "recent events in the newspapers have shown a grand design of vindictiveness and discrimination which confirmed the fears that the so-called restructuring exercise has ethnic undertone."

Cataloguing the events leading to their plight, the statement said "on October 26, 1999, the managing director ordered the company secretary to issue a letter of termination/compulsory retirement to the entire staff of the organisation. But dramatically, in Mid-November, he summoned a meeting of the entire northern plant where he directed them to re-apply for their jobs and subsequently discussed production matters with them, with no such meeting in the Lagos plant."

It was also alleged that workers at the Kaduna plant have been paid one month salary, excluding their Lagos counterparts.

The workers called on the presidency, and the National Assembly "to intervene before more lives are snuffed out of those still alive and willing to continue to contribute their quota to the development of the company and the unity of Nigeria."

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 21 December 1999

OAU expels 47 students

OBAFEMI Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, at the weekend expelled 47 students for allegedly gaining admission into the institution with forged certificates.

According to the institution's spokesman, 28 of the students who were girls had forged secondary school certificates to study in the university, adding that more students were expected to be expelled soon after an ongoing investigation into students' qualifications, a source close to the administration of the university said.

The university, established in 1962, is one of the country's oldest and biggest universities.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Tuesday, 21 December 1999

Govt deplores attack on churches in Ilorin

From Emmanuel Onwubiko, Abuja

SPECIAL Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Prof. Alphonsus Nwosu, yesterday called for full police investigation into the alleged destruction of 50 churches in Ilorin by militant Moslem youths.

Speaking with The Guardian in his office in Abuja, he said the police should probe the cause of the disturbances and identify the culprit. He described the action of the militant youths as criminal, illegal, and unconstitutional.

A visibly angry Nwosu said: "When a human being goes about either to burn down churches or pull down a church, that is sheer criminality. And it falls under security and law enforcement. Such a person should be caught and after thorough investigation, they should be prosecuted by the competent court."

Sources in Abuja said the Presidency was determined to wipe out the rising incidence of religious and ethnic-motivated crises.

Prof. Nwosu, who affirmed that the weekend incident in Kwara State was unconnected with agitation for Sharia said: "I dont think that the Kwara incident was associated with the clamour by some people for Sharia legal system, because Sharia does not exist in Kwara State."

The presidential aide said that the constitution of the Federal Republic supercedes all other legal systems, adding that it was left for the Attorney-General of the Federation to interprete the constitutionality or otherwise of the Sharia legal system.

Nwosu added: "Nigeria will continue to take a close look at the position of Sharia and in due course when the Federal Government examines the issue properly, it will make appropriate statement on the matter." He pleaded for what he called national peace, reconciliation and brotherhood among Nigerians.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Tuesday, 21 December 1999

Atiku confirms HIV infection among ECOMOG returnees

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

THE Federal Government yesterday confirmed reports that some Nigerian soldiers who returned recently from ECOMOG peace-keeping operations in Sierra Leone had tested positive to HIV virus.

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar disclosed this to the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Sir Graham Burton, who was accompanied by the former British Minister for Overseas Development, Baroness Lynda Chalker who is on a working visit to the country during their visit to the State House.

According to the vice president, the discovery, coupled with the gravity of the AIDS scourge, has compelled the Federal Government to convene an international seminar on AIDS in Africa. The seminar, which is expected to be attended by African heads of state and government, is to be held soon.

Organised by the Nigerian government and its Congolese counterpart, the seminar is being packaged by appropriate agencies in both countries.

Although the vice president declined to give the number of the soldiers who had tested positive to HIV virus, he explained that the Federal Government had already directed the Federal Ministry of Health to draw up a comprehensive programme to eradicate the spread of the disease.

He added that fruitful discussions had also begun with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank with a view to offering necessary assistance in the eradication of the deadly scourge.

The vice president pledged government's commitment to effective and total privatisation of government-owned companies and solicited the support of the British government to ensure the success of the programme which he said would indicate their support for the government and people of Nigeria.

He called on British investors to seize the opportunity of the new liberal economic dispensation to invest in the private sector in order to re-establish the traditional ties which had existed between both countries.

Vice President Abubakar also assured the visitors of government's commitment to improving the general living standards of Nigerians, adding that the present administration was determined to diversify the economy for the benefit of all.

In her brief remarks, Baroness Chalker stressed the need for urgent action by the government to stem the spread of HIV infections from becoming an epidemic like what obtains in some East African countries.

She urged the National Assembly to pass the anti-corruption bill to improve the credibility of Nigeria before international investors, adding that no investor would like to invest in an atmosphere of endemic corruption.

But she advised the Federal Government to make sectors like education, health and agriculture priority areas in the administration's chart.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Tuesday, 21 December 1999

Obasanjo in Guinea, Liberia

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday flew to Guinea and Liberia for what officials described as "usual consultation" between leaders of the West African sub-region to end the two countries' raging dispute.

Guinean President Gen. Lansana Conte said of the mission: "It would be difficult for me and Charles Taylor to agree on issues, simply because we do not share the same views on many things."

He, however, agreed with President Obasanjo on a proposal that both countries and Sierra Leone meet in Nigeria soon.

Conte said the meeting, which was originally scheduled for Sierra Leone, would now hold in Nigeria, adding: "I have asked President Obasanjo for the meeting to take place in Nigeria under his chairmanship."

A Nigerian diplomat, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), said Obasanjo "wanted to see peace in the region and that's what he is pursuing at the moment."

The President later flew to Liberia's capital, Monrovia, for another meeting with President Charles Taylor.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper


Tuesday, 21 December 1999

Indigenous oil firms may bid for offshore blocks

By Yakubu Lawal, Energy Correspondent

INDIGENOUS prospecting companies may be allowed to bid for oil blocks in the deep offshore, under a deal being packaged by the government for fresh allocations planned in four of Nigeria's sedimentary basins.

To be eligible for bidding, interested indigenous operators will need to have a valid working pact with acceptable technical partners. Multi-national companies, on their part, will be required to produce evidence of financial and technical competence.

Until now, the dominant feeling among industry operators was that indigenous prospecting companies would be excluded from bidding for oil blocks, especially in the deep offshore. That feeling was fuelled by a seeming belief in official circles that indigenous operators lack the huge financial outlay and technological competence required to operate in the basin.

But government sources have said a draft guideline being worked out by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the industry's regulatory body, may allow indigenous companies to bid for blocks in the deep offshore and three other basins in the forthcoming round.

According to industry operators, the proposal, if approved by the government, will require such companies to submit joint bids with their foreign technical partners.

An unspecified number of blocks both offshore and mainland basins are expected to be competed for during the bidding billed to take place before the end of February next year.

Other conditions for the bidding, according to sources, include payment of non-refundable fee of N50,000 and proforma tender of $10,000 for the initial oil prospecting licence (OPL).

The prospective explorers are also required to pay $50,000 to enable them access relevant seismic data per deep/ultra deep offshore blocks and $25,000 for onshore/shallow offshore blocks.

Petroleum ministry officials added that outright purchase of seismic data will be determined by the existing cost structure in the acquisition of such geological information.

The basins targeted in the exercise, The Guardian learnt, are the Anambra and Benin basins, Benue Trough and Niger Delta.

Ministry officials said this is directed at demonstrating transparency and equity in the allocation process and also boost oil exploration activities in the country.

Above all, officials believe that increased exploration activities in the oil industry will facilitate government's determination of hitting three million barrels per day of crude oil production and 30 billion barrels reserve by the year 2003. This will also enable the achievement of the Vision 2010 target of four million barrels per day and four billion barrels reserves.

A senior geologist with one of the multi-nationals explained that the geological formation of these basins has potential for hydrocarbon resources, (oil and gas).

The senior operative added that in the Niger Delta, for instance, three areas are available for block allocation.

These are the Niger Delta onshore, the continental shelf and the deep/intra deep offshore.

Experts have generally described the Niger Delta as one of the most prolific hydrocarbon provinces in the world with oil reserves estimated at 20 billion barrels and 120 trillion cubic feet of gas.

According to the experts, the geological formation consists essentially of sandstone but continental in origin, Agbada, and Akata with a lot of marine shale which is the major hydrocarbon habitat in the region.

On the Benin offshore area, though not much has been done, experts said trapping mechanisms are predominantly stratigraphic with minor structural accumulation. These features are believed to have been the fascinating interest oil explorers may develop on the basin.

The Anambra basin, according to geologists, is a createceous basin with proven oil but abundant gas resources due to the high geothermal gradient of the basin. Oil and condensate reserves have been estimated at over one billion stream barrels and over 30 trillion standard cubic feet of gas.

For the Benue trough however, exploration activities so far have not yielded commercial oil and gas discovery but geologists believe that introduction of modern equipment like 3-D and 4-D seismic acquisition system may unravel hidden resources in the basin.

So far, over 1,500 kilometres of 2-D seismic data have been acquired and interpreted in this basin by three multi-national oil companies.

But, geologists say more studies and seismic data acquisition can upturn the development in this basin.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper