Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #8
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

Dec. 31, 1999

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Happy New Year 2000

Friday, 31 December 1999

Soyinkas play for millennium festival

From Sola Balogun, Abuja

FOLLOWING criticisms that the two plays being staged for the on-going millennium celebration are written by one playwright, the Federal Government has decided to swap one, for any of the nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinkas works.

The government had earlier approved Attahiru} and Trial of Oba Ovoramwen} written by Dr. Ahmed Yerima, deputy artistic director of the National Troupe of Nigeria for the celebrations.

Attahiru}, directed by Bayo Oduneye was on Tuesday night presented at the Abuja Sheraton Hotels and Towers in a command performance attended by President Olusegun Obasanjo and other top government officials.

But the Trial of Oba Ovonramwen} which is slated for staging in February 2000 would now be replaced with a Soyinka play.

Disclosing this on Wednesday night at Abuja was a deputy director in the Federal Department of Culture and member of the Millennium Committee Olagunju. A letter intimating Soyinka of the development has since been dispatched through a former Daily Times Managing Director and the renowned playwrights friend Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi.

According to Olagunju, the decision was made by Culture and Tourism Minister Ojo Maduekwe who had also spoken with Soyinka on the issue.

Having observed that the criticisms were constructive, Madueke bowed to superior logic and decided that a playwright of Soyinkas status should present a play of his choice.

On arrival from a foreign trip during which he spoke with the noble laureate, Madueke was said to have intimated Chief Dapo Sarumi, Chairman of the Millennium Committee on his thinking, which he also agreed to.

The minister (Maduekwe) through a formal letter, requested that Attahiru} and one of Soyinkas plays (new or old) written and directed by him should be the second play to come up between January and December next year, explained Olagunju.

He said the media criticisms, coupled with Soyinkas status, political antecendents and the current openness of Nigeria to the world were the reasons behind governments change of decision.

Although he did not explain whether or not Soyinka had accepted the offer, Olagunju affirmed that both Attahiru} and the proposed Soyinka play would be taken round the country in the new year in continuation of the millennium project which is being celebrated worldwide.

The project being celebrated simultaneously with the 1999 edition of the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) in Abuja, is however believed to be taking the shine off the yearly festival, as government seems to be more interested in the former.

NAFEST 99, earlier billed to open on Monday, was postponed to Wednesday. However, the festival took off rather unceremoniously without the traditional official opening ritual. In a detailed programme of events circulated to participants on Wednesday morning at Abuja, which was slated for the Eagle Square at 11.00am, to be attended by all participating states and graced by the president as special guest of honour.

But just before 11a.m., another programme was circulated, urging guests and state contingents to assemble at the Old Parade Ground for the official opening ceremony. On getting there, security officials at the gate turned down guests, saying, they were unaware of any such event.

Nevertheless, the organisers _ National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) rolled out another programme announcing the informal take-off in the afternoon with indigenous music performance inside the main auditorium of the FCT Council for Arts and Culture.

Earlier on Tuesday night, the festivals command performance, featuring diverse dance forms by the FCT was held inside the same auditorium while Attahiru was also being staged at the Abuja Sheraton Hotels and Towers.

Although NAFEST continued yesterday with the national constumes display by children at Eagle Square and the opening ceremony of the craft expo/costumes exhibition, sources said Culture and Tourism Minister was unimpressed by NCACs enthusiasm since the structure of NAFEST does not connote NAFEST 99. Rather, the festival was to be a preparatory programme of the millennium project... It was expected to dovetail into the millennium but not to be a big festival on its own.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Sad New Year for workers

By Emman Ozoemena

For most workers in Abuja, this year’s New Year celebration is going to be low-keyed owing to non-payment of the December salary before the holiday.

A source at the office of Accountant - General of the Federation told Abuja Mirror that the salaries of most ministries and the parastatals were not ready before the Christmas and therefore no approval was given for payment.

"The State House, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, (MFCT) Presidency and other parastatals under the presidency, are affected by this development", the source said.

When Abuja Mirror visited the Federal Secretariat located at the central business district, Abuja, workers were seen discussing in hush tones this unfortunate development which has crippled the ambitions of the workers to celebrate Christmas and New Year holidays.

A staff of one of the ministries told our Correspondent that he has not seen this kind of situation since he started working for the past 20 years.

"The President has not been fair to us at all, by not ensuring that the salaries of the workers are paid", he added.

Another development that took the workers by surprise was decision of the federal government to ban any form of Christmas bonus and other welfare package for workers.

A memo from the office of the secretary to the Federal Government had directed ministers and heads of federal government institutions to discontinue the practice of the Christmas bonus and welfare package.

The Presidential order, as has been argued by President Olusegun Obasanjo is consonance with the avowed anti-corruption stance of his administration.

But a staff of one of the ministries in Abuja told Abuja Mirror yesterday that the order by the President is inhuman as a worker deserves his wage and that bonuses to workers are motivational instruments used all over the globe to encourage hard work.

"Look my friend, in all the nations of the world, organisations and governments give bonuses at the end of year to their workers. It is not a new thing and peculiar to Nigeria", he insisted.

Another Chief executive of a federal government institution queried how the government wants the workers to manage the holiday season without salaries.

"We are going to have long holidays, and you have not paid people, so what do you expect them to eat or do. I cannot understand this mindless policy at all", he quipped.

Abuja Mirror reliably gathered that this non-payment of December salaries might not be unconnected with non-implementation of the 1999 supplementary budget approved by the National Assembly last October and signed by President Obasanjo.

The National Assembly in November had passed a resolution querying the president on the alleged non-implementation of the supplementary budget by the Presidency.

Before going on recess last week, the Senate had raised a committee headed by the Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, to meet the presidency on the issue.

But till now, the outcome of the meeting is still unknown as the meeting was held behind close doors.

Abuja Mirror Newspaper

Police recover N.3m cash from detained perm sec

By Bukola Ojeme, Abuja

CASH totalling N300,000 was allegedly recovered by the police from the residence of the detained Permanent Secretary, Minister of Defence, Dr. Julius Makanjuola during a search.

Several shady deals including inflation of compensation to owners of land acquired by government for military projects were also uncovered by the police, according to Special Assistant to Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, the Defence Minister, Mr. John Dara who briefed newsmen yesterday in Abuja on the alleged N420.735 million fraud in the ministry.

Dr. Makanjuola and several top officials of the ministry are being held by the police in connection with the alleged fraud.

Mr. Dara who spoke to reporters on behalf of the minister said the N420.735 million was paid as compensation "in respect of various lands purportedly acquired by the army."

The payments were allegedly made without reference to the minister who, according to Mr. Dara stumbled on the files on the payments and invited the police.

But he said officials of other ministries, particularly Works and Housing were also involved in the deals.

Mr. Dara reading from Dr. Makanjuola’s alleged statement to the police said:

"He (Makanjuola) averred, that he was aware of all the payments totalling about N421 million. That he authorised payments in his capacity as the ministry’s accounting officer and the officer authorised to approve payment as against incurring expenditure.

"He (Makanjuola) stated further that the practice he met on the ground on assumption of duties which have been on over the years was for the permanent secretary to approve payments of compensation on lands compulsorily acquired by the army, without reference to the Minister of Defence.

"The permanent secretary did not change this practice, according to him, consequently, he continued as his predecessors had done."

Mr. Dara cited the case of Odiekpe Community of Anambra State whose compensation, Dr. Makanjuola allegedly asked his Deputy Director (Lands) to process on October 5, 1999.

He said:

"All the six payments vouchers were not signed by any of the beneficiary communities, although they were all stamped ‘paid.’

"The account department will have to explain why the vouchers were not signed if the checks have been signed out," Dara added.

In another instance, the Ikoro Community in Isioko/Ekwere Local Government Area of Rivers State which demanded a compensation of N40.7 million for its acquired land got it hiked to N107.1 million.

The police have invited the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing who made the recommendation for interrogation because they acted for "personal reasons" and government’s interest was not protected at all.

Mr. Dara added: "Aguleri community in Anambra State was presumably paid the sum of N42.8 million on 3/11/99. All amounting to a total of N77 million.

"Nawfia community in Njikoka LGA of Anambra State was presumably paid, on 28/9/99, the sum of N51,261,651.00. They were also paid an interest of N61.5 million. Lucky community. The total they were purportedly paid was N112.7 million.

"The Umunachi community in Dunokofia LGA of Anambra State was paid N30 million part payment on 16/12/99.

"Odoekpe community in Ogbaru LGA of Anambra State was paid the sum of N51.9 million on 11/10/99. They were also paid an interest of N41.5 million on 3/11/99, making a total of N93.4 million purportedly paid to that community.

"Awkuzu community of Oyi LGA, N45.7 million was purportedly paid to them on 11/10/99. And an interest of N36.6 million was paid to them on 3/11/99 making a total of N82.4 million paid to that community.

"Ikoro community in Isiokpo/Iwere LGA of River State the only one that is not from Anambra. They were paid the sum of N25 million on 16/12/99.

"So the total amount paid out from police findings came to N420,735,707.2."

Vanguard Transmitted Wednesday, 31 December, 1999

 

Friday, 31 December 1999

CBN takes stock, prepares for automated clearing system

From Rhikardo Chidi Obih, Kano

ABOUT N298 billion was cleared through 1,181,593 cheques in 905 clearing sessions in Kano State within the last four years, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has stated. Also, the CBN complied with governments directive to divest its retail banking activities by transferring 383 accounts to commercial banks.

It also introduced West African Travellers Cheques to facilitate trade in the sub-region and changed its bidding system from Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (AFEM) to Inter Bank Foreign Exchange Market (IFEM), to enhance efficiency in the management of foreign exchange.

Disclosing these at the launching of Kano Bankers Club Guest House and bankers end of the year party, the CBN branch controller, Makinde Okunfolami, said banks in the state did not perform badly during the year.

He added that the clearing area was fully prepared for the automated cheque clearing system, which, when fully operational, would make transfer and settlement of inter-bank debts easier and timely.

He noted that the N100 note was recently introduced, and as the economy grows and trade and commerce expand, government might introduce higher denominations in future.

Giving the account/report of the Kano clearing area, Okunfolami noted that each year witnessed remarkable improvement in its activities.

For instance, 298,595 cheques worth N47,7899 billion were cleared in 1996; 296,007, worth N50.64 billion in 1997; 303,400 valued N68,508,266,530.16 in 1998 while almost 100 per cent increase was witnessed in the outgoing year.

Also in 1999, there were 233 clearing sessions during which 283,591 cheques, valued at N131.136,335,430.33 were cleared, he said, adding that this was almost a 100 per cent increase over the figure in 1998.

He commended bankers in the area, saying that they brought innovations into the operations of the clearing house. According to him, the bankers introduced a representatives forum, established a recreation centre and the club house, which was launched at the occasion.

The CBN boss further disclosed that the Kano clearing area, with 39 banks, has admitted three other members, namely Access Bank of Nigeria, Intercontinental Bank Nigeria and City Express Bank, which were converted to commercial from merchant last year.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Friday, 31 December 1999

Edo, Delta inject N600m into New Nigeria Bank

From Mike Osunde, Benin

THE distressed New Nigeria Bank (NNB) has been recapitalised with N600 million by the owner states of Edo and Delta, in a concerted effort to revive the financial institution taken over by the Central Bank a few years ago.

Besides, both states have injected more money into the ailing Bendel Insurance Company with a view to making it more virile.

Governor Lucky Igbinedion, who announced this in Benin on Wednesday during a dinner party for journalists, said both states paid N300 million apiece to recapitalise the NNB while the insurance company was injected with N45 million.

The measure, according to him, would reflate the economy with the multiplier effect of creating more jobs for the people.

Igbinedion also highlighted his achievements in the last six months, saying he had improved the lot of the people, especially the civil servants, whom he said, at the inception of his administration, were literally like evil servants, wearing long faces as a result of frustration and unfulfilled promises by past governments.

He restated his mission to turn the state around, saying that at the time he assumed office, it was noted for anything negative.

He went on: It is true we still have the problems of prostitution, armed robbery and the like, but we are resolved to tackling them because we believe sex trade is not the only way of making money.

It might be the oldest trade on earth, but it is not the only way. It is not acceptable to us and we will fight it in a that entails providing the wherewithal for our children to have hope of looking elsewhere and giving them the opportunity to express themselves.

He said the state had established a tuition-free computer centre for the training of jobless youths as well as a skills acquisition centre for females to engage them positively.

The governor also spoke of promoting sports, promising to inject the sector with adequate fund. The Insurance Football Club is to get a N24 million grant this season while Bendel United, a Division Two professional club, will get N5 million.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Friday, 31 December 1999

Adams, OPC faction leader, deplores violence

By Tola Kosoko

THE Gani Adams-led faction of the Oodua Peoples Congress OPC) yesterday denied that it was a violent group and insisted that its demand was the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference.

He said yesterday at a press conference in Lagos that the group was non-violent, contrary to public perception. According to him, it was unfair to attribute anything bad that happened in Lagos and the South-West to his faction.

Adams, whose faction of OPC has been enmeshed in credibility crisis because of its alleged association with violence, said: Our aims and objectives are to protect Yoruba in the diaspora. It is disheartening to note that many people have even linked the congress with anything violence and our members have been branded with a lot of unprintable names.

I think it is high time people got to understand that the quest of the OPC is to break all yokes and shackles of oppression, feudalism and human annihilation rather than take to violence, he added.

He advised other similar ethnic organisations in the country to shun the act of antagonising the OPC, stressing that they should see the congress as a partner in progress.

Adams refuted recent speculations that the organisation was being sponsored by the Lagos State government, saying it was baseless and unfounded.

He said: You will all recall the unfortunate incident between Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State and some of our members on the Lagos Island.

Dr. Frederick Fasehuns secretary announced to the whole world that the OPC wanted to eliminate the governor because he has sympathy for their group. How then can Governor Tinubu who has sympathy for Fasheun's group be sponsoring those he has no sympathy for? he asked.

Commenting on the current democratic dispensation in the country, Adams said that the only way through which Nigeria can move forward was the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference that would accommodate all the ethnic groups in the country.

According to him, the conference would help assuage the feelings that some ethnic groups were being favoured at the expense of others.

I would like to appeal to the Obasanjo government to as matter of urgency convoke a Sovereign National Conference that would help to put an end to the political, social and economic problems that have been beseting the country over the years, he said.

The OPC co-ordinator in Badagry, Mr. A. P. Tope, has meanwhile denied a newspaper report that there was a clash between its members and customsmen on the Lagos-Seme expressway.

He said the incident, which occurred at Afowo check-point along Owode-Badagry road, was perpetrated by some hoodlums and touts masquerading under the name of OPC.

The public particularly the press should stop calling the OPC a bad name just because we are agitating for justice and equity in the nations polity, he added.

The Nigeria Customs Service NCS) has also denied the involvement of any of its officials in the reported clash with members of the OPC.

A statement by its Lagos zonal public relations officer, Mr. Ade Dosunmu, said the purported attack did not physically involve its officials as reported in the newspaper.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Friday, 31 December 1999

Group seeks final resolution of Ife-Modakeke fued

GOVERNMENT should take a bold step to resolve the Ife-Modakeke feud once and for all, National President of Modakeke Progressive Union (MPU), Wale Fadare has appealed.

According to reports, he said his people were not requesting for a new local government council, but for the implementation of the provision of the decree that created Ife-East Local Government Area.

He commended the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, and the community leaders in Modakeke for sustaining the peace initiative.

He also stressed the importance of peace and unity within the Yoruba race, adding that the way forward was the settlement of all communal, tribal, royal and leadership squabbles to make the present administration's tenure a success.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Friday, 31 December 1999

Obasanjos wife urges unity among children

From Sola Balogun, Abuja

WIFE of the President, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo yesterday urged Nigerian children to reflect on the symbols of indigenous costumes, by embracing its tenets of unity and diversity in the new millennium.

She spoke at the National Costumes Display by children, organised as part of the Millennium Celebration in Abuja, where she was guest of honour.

According to her, the display not only symbolises the diversity of the country's cultures but also gives hope of a brighter future.

She appealed to the people to maintain peace, unity and democratic values, irrespective of the pains and sadness of the past.

According to her, Nigerians must show gratitude to God for seeing them through the out-going millennium and for giving them the opportunity to witness the dawn of a new one.

While commending the organisers for a job well done, she said: This event brings into focus, our hope in the celebration of a future assured. Our future is our children, who at this stage of their lives manifest vibrant will and resilient spirits. Indeed, this is the Nigerian spirit which has seen us through thick and thin in the past.

Our costumes more than anything else, symbolises the culture of Nigerians in all their manifest diversity and present them to the outside world in one package.

Also, Information Minister and Chairman of the National Committee of the Millennium Celebration, Chief Dapo Sarumi acknowledged her personal interest and contributions towards the success of the programme. He reiterated that the event was one of the activities by the committee to mark Nigeria's participation in the global celebration which many nations of the world have organised to usher in the new millennium.

Only 23 of the 36 states of the federation participated. It began at exactly 12.40 p.m., a few minutes after the arrival of the special guest of honour.

Each state filed in alphabetical order, beginning with Abia.

The children were dressed in diverse designs and fabrics of their states, dancing, while their leaders walked-up to the microphone to announce their visions for the new millennium.

At the end of the show, adults were ushered in, they comprised only 18 states.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Friday, 31 December 1999

Rawlings cautions ECOWAS against over-dependence on colonialists

GHANAIAN President Jerry Rawlings has urged West African Countries to depend less on their colonial masters and work towards promoting the economic integration of the sub-region.

Some of us are trapped in over-reliance on our relations with our colonial masters, placing more emphasis on their perceptions, he said, stressing that even if they mean well, it should be to complement our efforts.

Rawlings spoke when a Nigerian delegation visited him in Accra recently. The delegation was led by Prof. Jerry Gana Minister of Co-operation and Integration. The delegation had concluded two days of talks with their Ghanaian counterparts on measures to adopt to make the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) more functional in the development of the sub-region.

The 16-nation sub-regional economic grouping formed to spearhead West Africa's economic integration, is facing serious challenges from UEMOA, a monetary union formed by French-speaking ECOWAS members.

Ghana and Nigeria have, therefore, decided to pursue programmes that would rejuvenate ECOWAS and make it more responsive to the needs of member countries.

Rawlings said that UEMOA has made advances because of the support it receives from some foreign countries.

Some of us have to rely on ourselves. If we do what we need to do, we will achieve more, he urged.

Rawlings said West Africa should not allow itself to be balkanised economically while praising the initiative being taken by Ghana and Nigeria to make ECOWAS more relevant.

Let us not leave it at the level of words. Whatever we achieve is neither for Rawlings nor for Obasanjo. It is for the people of the sub-region, the president said.

Gana said concrete decisions have been taken regarding co-operation between Ghana and Nigeria in terms of a common currency and free movement of goods and people.

We are talking about a rail link between Accra and Lagos. We are moving fast because time is not on our side, the minister added.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Friday, 31 December 1999

Youths urge restoration of Igbo dignity

From Sunny Igboanugo, Enugu

BARELY a month after a pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo demanded N8.6 trillion from the Federal Government as reparation for the loss of lives and property by the Igbo during the Nigerian civil war, another group, Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) has asked for the restoration of Igbo dignity.

IYM, in a statement after the World Igbo Convention in Enugu on Wednesday, said reparation should be paid by the government for the bastardisation of Igbo dignity during the civil war and the second rate citizenship accorded them by successive federal administrations.

The group, which also blamed the neglect of the South-East on bad leadership, pointed out that the problems that precipitated the war still existed today.

Stating that this was dangerous to the country's unity, it asked the government to urgently redress them. In fact, the bubble has burst and fire brigade action is required, it added.

Demanding equal treatment for their neighbours in oil producing areas of the South-South, the youths said that the present clamour by them (neighbours) to control their natural resources indicate that the destinies of the South-South and South-East are inter-woven.

IYM disclosed that its members have agreed to co-operate in future, to resist state terrorism, such as the type exhibited by the Federal Government in Odi, Bayelsa State.

It said: ‘‘Igbo youths and all the youths of South-South have agreed to co-operate in future to resist state terrorism of the type recently unleashed in Odi by the Federal Government.

Since youths of both areas command a large number of men in arms, we have resolved to go to battle if need be to defend ourselves if any government tries enemy action on us in future.

The group warned that provocation of the Igbo by any ethnic group will not be tolerated any longer. Those wishing to use them as cannon fodder or for mockery would receive serious reprisals, it said.

IYM, however, advised its compatriots to adhere strictly to the law in their agitations.

To reposition the Igbo for the new millennium, they said that modalities are being worked out for intensive mass education of Igbo traders in market places.

IYM, in collaboration with highly spirited organisations at local and international levels is to bring about continuing education for the traders who form the majority of the productive spread far and wide in Africa and the diaspora.

Against the backdrop of agitation by youths of different ethnic nationalities in the country, the organisation said in a resolution yesterday that time was up for complacency among the Igbo.

From contemporary experience, the Nigerian nation state has shown amazing callousness toward Ndigbo and their neighbours as a people, from the acts of exclusion that have characterised the distribution of resources of the commonwealth of Nigeria, they said.

Alluding to the alleged neglect of the oil producing areas which had given vent to the agitation of the Ijaw, the IYM condemned the overwhelming influence of the Federal Government over the nations wealth. It noted that despite the contribution of Ndigbo and their neighbours in terms human and natural resources, not much has been done to better their lot.

They lamented that Ndigbo had over the years found themselves unprotected in numerous undesirable situations like those that led to the last civil war, adding that they have become the target of other ethnic groups who intend to dominate the socio-political scenes.

The penchant for quick wealth by the Igbo people, IYM said, has been exploited by other ethnic groups to deliberately split and lay waste their (Igbo) homogeneity in a bid to subjugate them and prevent them from resurgence after the civil war.

It took a swipe at the leadership in Igboland, saying youths have become increasingly restrive by the conditions imposed on them by bad leadership.

They (youths) are unwilling now to wait for the leaders who have largely spent their lives selfishly.

The youths desire to take their destiny into their own hands and start the process of building a better future for the upcoming generations of Ndigbo devoid of second class status in the scheme of things in any nation they may choose to identify with in the future, they said.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Friday, 31 December 1999

AD factions clash in Abuja

From Adamu Abuh, and Abiodun Adeniyi, Abuja

VIOLENCE erupted yesterday at the national secretariat of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) as two rival factions attempted to take control of the office.

This came after a series of claims and counter-claims by the factions, especially the Adamu Usman Song camp which yesterday announced the suspension of Chief Abraham Adesanya, a chieftain of the party.

Trouble started when the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter of the Song camp led by Abdulahi Mohammed announced the inauguration of his executive at the Area 8, Abeokuta Street, Abuja national office of the party.

At the ceremony where Song was in attendance, Mohammed said: Consistent with the policy direction of our great party and the provision of our constitution, I want to avail myself of the opportunity to formally declare our programme to give progressive orientation to the teaming hundreds of thousands of our cadres who yearn for leadership.

Formal and informal party structures shall definitely be created where they don't exist, reactivated where they are comatose. Networks will definitely be built and identified even as we create coalitions and develop leadership. All of these, together, are a veritable component of the larger assault against reaction and retrogression.

The FCT chapter of the AD will no longer tolerate name-dropping and the making of fantastic claims by those who are only interested in lining their pockets. Any attempt from whatever quarters to question our resolve to move the party forward shall be crushed. The AD is our life.

Mohammed hardly finished his speech when noise emanated from outside the hall. A bus load of partisans alleged to be thugs had arrived. They brandished cutlasses, broken bottles and sundry instruments.

A faction chairman of the party in the FCT, Mr. Mike Odurinde, who Mohammed had earlier poured expletives on accompanied the bus. The enthusiastic partisans, chanting war songs, went into the secretariat and disrupted the purported inauguration ceremony.

In doing this, most persons including Song, were searched by the angry youths. Journalists were not spared. Tribune reporter, Mr. Ove Mokogu, had his midget smashed while others were quickly checked in the stampede and asked out.

Mohammed alleged afterwards that his brief case containing N52,000 was snatched, while the secretary of his faction also alleged that N2,000 was taken from him.

At the end the invading group took over the secretariat, locked it and asked everybody to leave. They locked the offices and went away with the keys.

Song, in a statement announcing the suspension of Adesanya, said the action was necessitated by the desire of the new leadership to put a permanent full stop to the dominance and over bearing influence of some constituted clique that has hijacked all the responsibilities of the party leadership.

Another reason advanced by Song for Adesanya's removal was the need to distinguish and separate AD from Afenifere which, according to him, has impeded the growth and national outlook of the party.

Besides, Adesanya was accused of forcing all members of the party nation-wide to bow to the dictates of Afenifere.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

 

Friday, 31 December 1999

Congo indicates interest in Nigeria's oil

THE Democratic Republic of Congo, yesterday signified its interest to patronise Nigeria's crude oil.

It said it had become expedient to resort to Nigerias oil as multinationals have ruined its oil industry.

A director at the Presidency in Kinshasa, Tshionda Ntele Wa Balonga, who led a two-man delegation of Congolese President Laurent Kabila to a meeting with senior top management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Abuja, said multinationals built the only refinery in his country, but that the refinery could not refine its crude because of its heavy sulphur content, which did not meet the specifications of the plant.

The same multinational, Balonga alleged, turned round to export Congo's crude and petroleum products, the distribution of which they did as a monopoly, thereby making Congo lose two-folds.

He said the companies, which included petroleum giants like Shell and Mobil, had signed agreements with Kabila's predecessors to exploit Congo's crude oil for 30 years, without paying taxes or royalties, and to import finished products without paying import duties.

To checkmate them, he said the present administration in Congo must first look for alternatives and it had therefore decided to turn to Nigeria, where the multinationals also prospect, to buy low-sulphur crude commonly available in Nigeria.

He added that Congo preferred to trade with Nigeria, to expand inter-African trade, which would be mutually beneficial, and that the arrangement will be better than allowing Europe and other continents to continue to milk African nations to service their own economies.

Congo, he said, could in turn invite Nigeria to exploit its forest and solid mineral deposits, and that as a giant electric power producer on the African continent, it could sell electricity to Nigeria.

NNPC Group Managing Director Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, said while the Nigerian government was desirous of promoting economic integration in Africa, the corporations mandate was to operate strictly on commercial basis.

We will be prepared to sell our crude oil to the Democratic Republic of Congo, just as we have been doing to Kenya and Ghana, but the days of granting moratorium to customers are over, he said.

Conditions for buying Nigerias crude oil will not be waived to indulge any customer, Gaius-Obaseki said, adding, however, that we are supportive of governments efforts to expand intra-African business relationships.

Nigeria, according to him, was monitoring those lifting its crude, to ensure that in the case of African countries, they actually use the crude oil at their refineries and not divert same to other destinations.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

Obasanjo, labour leaders meet

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo will this afternoon in Abuja, meet with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the controversial deregulation of prices of petroleum products.

The meeting which will be attended by the 13-man National Administrative Council (NAC) of congress will also discuss Labour's protest to Aso Rock Villa last Tuesday over the proposed increase in prices of petroleum products, among others.

NLC President Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, will lead the Labour leaders to the meeting which is at the instance of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

Pope invites three Nigerian trumpeters for millennium events

THREE Nigerian trumpeters have been invited by Pope John Paul II to participate in the official ushering of the year 2000, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) has said.

The trumpeters Ů Mathew Chikezie, Charles Anagor and Francis Anagorb have already left for the Vatican, an official of the CSN, Rev. Emmanuel Badejo said yesterday in Lagos.

According to him, the Pope was impressed by the performance of the trumpeters during his visit to Nigeria last year and had invited them to add African flavour and dignity to the event.

The Pope visited the southeastern town of Oba in March 1998 where he held a beatification mass for the late Nigerian Cistercian monk Cyprian Michael Tansi, who died in 1964.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

500 Nigerian soldiers leave for S'Leone

ANOTHER round of airlifting men of the Nigerian Armed Forces for United Nations peace-keeping efforts in Sierra-Leone began yesterday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. About 500 departed for the crisis-torn West African country aboard Nigerian Airways DC-10 and Boeing 737 aircraft.

The DC-10 aircraft departed at about 11.30 a.m. yesterday with 260 men while the Boeing 737 left at about 2.40 p.m. with 125 officers.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

Govt plans two million jobs for Niger Delta youths

From Ben Iheanacho,

Abuja

A JOB creation scheme which will engage about two million people in the Niger Delta has been embarked upon by the Federal Government.

The scheme, which is to be implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), was packaged to douse the restiveness of the Niger Delta youths whose disruption of oil activities in the area has led to loss of lives and revenue meant for the government.

The NDE Director-General, Mr. Babagana Zanna, told The Guardian that the employment programme has already begun in Bayelsa State.

The two million jobs for the Niger Delta is part of a five million national job programme initiated to reduce the level of unemployment in the country which has reached an alarming proportion.

But the two million jobs are not part of the "job for Africa programme designed to reduce poverty level in Africa within the first quarter of year 2000.

It is jointly handled by the NDE, International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Statistics available to {The Guardian} indicated that 680,522 unemployed youths have been trained in 80 different trades, under the National Open Apprenticeship Scheme (NOAS).

No fewer than 400,000 of the trained youths have been assisted by the NDE to establish and run profitable small-scale enterprises nationwide.

Another 21,108 youths have also benefited from the School-On-Wheel (SON) scheme which involves the use of well-equipped vocational mobile workshops to train people mostly in rural areas.

About 8,047 young Nigerians own and operate micro enterprises under the Waste-On-Wheel (WOW) scheme, while 2,508 former youth corpers have benefited from soft loan granted under the Graduate Job Creation Guarantee (GJCG) scheme.

In the agriculture sector, 13,220 school leavers and graduates have also been trained in modern agricultural techniques.

Zanna said with the new democratic government, people in the Niger Delta should embrace dialogue instead of resorting to violence.

Over N90 billion may have been lost by the Federal Government as proceeds from Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) due to violent disruption of oil operations in the Niger Delta by rampaging youths.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

 

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

Ijebus abroad donate books to schools

AN umbrella body of Ijebu sons and daughters based in the United States, the Ijebu Indigenes Association, Fortworth, Dallas has called on Nigerians outside the country to assist the Federal Government in its Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme.

Mr Wale Jeboda, president of the association who spoke at Odogbolu Grammar School, Odogbolu, Ogun State at a ceremony marking the group's donation of exercise books to schools in the Ijebu area said: "It would be unfair for us living abroad to pretend that all is well at home. Our people can hardly feed talkless of providing writing materials for their children."

According to him, it was to bring unity and foster commitment towards developing and contributing to the growth of Ijebuland that the association was formed in 1993.

The association also fosters brotherhood and solidarity among Ijebu indigenes in Texas, he said.

Remo Secondary School, Sagamu; Odogbolu Grammar School, Odogbolu and Ijebu Muslim College, Ijebu-Ode benefited from the book donation with each getting 2,000 copies.

Jeboda noted that the principal aim of education to human resources development was incontrovertible. He remarked that "education is the most critical resource element of development" and that he was convinced that government only could no longer fund education in the country.

According to him, the association is to provide computers and to build blocks of classrooms for six secondary schools in Ijebu area next year.

In his acceptance address, the president of the Parent Teacher Association of Odogbolu Grammar School, Odogbolu, Mr. Jide Matanmi, said that the donor's gesture was worthy of emulation by all well-meaning Ijebus.

Earlier, the Principal of Ijebu Muslim College, Mr. S.A. Raji, expressed his thanks to the donor and urged the association to do more.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

NITEL restores Lagos Mainland lines

TELEPHONE services disrupted in most parts of the Lagos Mainland area have been restored, according to the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) District Public Relations Manager, Augusta Oduneye.

This follows the complete rehabilitation of all vandalised and faulty lines in the area, she added.

According to agency reports, she said those whose lines were yet to be restored must be debtors, giving assurance that they would have their lines as soon as outstanding bills were paid.

She noted that extensive repair work was carried out at the Iponri and Casino areas, expressing regret for the inconveniences caused to subscribers when the lines were not working.

Telephone services in the area had been problematic in recent years with thieves vandalising cables from time to time.

Luck, however, ran out on some of the thieves earlier this year, when they ran into an ambush laid by security agents.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

 

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

Cross River to feed 5,000 on new year eve

From Anietie Ben-Akpan, Calabar

CROSS River State Government is to feed 5,000 people free at U.J. Esuene Stadium on new year's eve as it unfolds plans to usher in the new millennium.

Already major streets and round-abouts have been beautified for the celebration. The popular cenotaph otherwise known as ''Eleven-Eleven" has been given a face-lift while the round about by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) complex has been decorated with green, red and white colour materials.

The roundabout which carries a medium size Christmas tree and light at the top has since last week been a centre of attraction to the public who throng the place for photographs.

Most people are of the opinion that the face of capital city would change completely in the new millennium in terms of cleanliness and business, as it is expected that the Calabar Export Processing Zone (EPZ) would be commissioned in March 2000.

As part of the celebration, the government on Christmas eve organised nativity play/carol night at the cultural centre while a "millennial walk," round the city, involving top government functionaries and the public would hold tomorrow.

A public lecture and documentary on the state is billed for the cultural centre on Thursday, while carnival float by the 18 local government councils would hold at the stadium on new year's eve.

It would also feature indigenous stars and night of praise; a few minutes to 12 midnight, bell would ring 12 times and the national anthem played before fire works at midnight to herald the new millennium.

On the first day of the year 2000, an interdenominational service holds at the cultural centre followed by the unveiling of plaque and release of balloons and pigeons.

The feeding of 5,000 people is billed to be followed by a reading and essay competition, talent hunt, during which presents will be given to 10 students.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

Plans on to stop foreign medical trips

By Oma Djebah,

Political Reporter

FIVE hospitals are to be upgraded to international standards, following a new official resolve that senior government officials, including the President, would no longer be allowed on foreign medical trips as a first resort.

The Guardian learnt that President Olusegun Obasanjo has already given the directive to that effect. A source said last weekend that hospitals marked for upgrading include the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) in Enugu, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria and the University College Hospital, (UCH), Ibadan.

The President reportedly took the decision at a recent internal meeting with technocrats in and out of government.

He was said to have been jolted during the meeting when a respected technocrat asked him which hospital in Nigeria he would want to be taken to, even for first aid, if he fell ill.

The source said: "The president was surprised when one of the participants at the policy meeting put the question to him: Mr. President, God forbid, but if you are ill today which hospital in Nigeria would you want to be taken to?

"This prompted the President to ask for rebuilding of five medical centres in Nigeria to international standard so that all government officials can be treated at home.

Health Minister Tim Menakaya had said recently that the administration planned to make health affordable and accessible to all, irrespective of political or political affiliation.

Demand for medical excellence had been an issue of national discourse, especially with the mass exodus of personnel who cited inclement environment, poor remuneration and non-availability of facilities to enhance their operations.

Only recently, Prof. Joseph Andy of the Department of Medicine and Cardiology, University of Calabar (UNICAL) made a similar call at the 11th inaugural lecture of the institution.

According to him, "Nigeria is perhaps the only country at its level of resources, education and manpower development where these areas of medicine are not effectively practised."

He regretted that many of the nation’s teaching/specialists hospitals lacked tested experts and equipment because enough attention was not being paid to medical excellence.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

Togo, Ghana worry over situation in Abidjan`

From Tunde Fatunde, Lome, Togo`

T`HE situation in Cote d'Ivoire after the weekend coup d'etat which toppled the civilian government of President Henri Konan Bedie, has become worrisome to the governments of Togo and Ghana, although the looting of shops belonging to West African nationals in Abidjan has stopped.

Ghanaians and Nigerians resident in Lome and Aflao, the busy and sleepless border town between Togo and Ghana, were yesterday glued to radio and television sets to keep abreast of events.

Sylvanus Amaechina, a Nigerian trader who constantly travels to Abidjan to collect spare parts for sale in Lome and Aflao said: "Thank God that my uncle and members of his family are safe and the hoodlums did not attack and loot his thriving spare-parts shop".

"Konan Bedie and his party men did make life difficult for foreigners accusing them of supporting his rival Allassane Ouattara. Wetin concern me inside politics. Na money we go find for Abidjan," he added.

Abidjan holds a special place for Togolese because of the traditional trade and historical links between Togo and Cote d'Ivoire, both former French colonial territories.

Cote d'Ivoire is the most prosperous and the most economically successful francophone country in West Africa. Forty per cent of its inhabitants are foreigners. A substantial part of these foreigners are Togolese and to a very large extent Ghanaians, Nigerians, Burkinabe, Malians, Senegalese and Liberians. It is an enviable example of a cultural melting pot.

"The new Head of State of Cote d'Ivoire, General Robert Guei, has saved us from jobless young men. He has given orders to shoot at sight anybody breaking into shops. And people are now afraid to harass foreigners," declared Jean-Pierre Komlan, a Togolese medical doctor working in Abidjan, in the e-mail message sent to his parents in Lome.

Many of the business centres in Lome are equipped with e-mail facilities. Togolese and foreigners are patronising them right now because they are the cheapest and the fastest means of getting the latest and first-hand information on the unfolding events in Cote d'Ivoire. E-mail culture has also taken roots in Aflao, inside the Ghanaian territory.

Catherine Kwame, a primary school teacher in Aflao, received an e-mail message from her elder brother working as a plumber in Abidjan, stating categorically that law and order have been restored by Ivoirien soldiers.

"We are anxiously awaiting the policy of the new government before we would decide whether to stay on or go back home," said Steven Kwame in his e-mail message from Abidjan.

The diplomatic community in Lome is, however, surprised by the joint press statement by South Africa and Nigeria calling for the immediate restoration of democratic rule in Cote d'Ivoire. Many diplomats who have been watching closely the evolution of the current Ivoirien crisis are of the opinion that the latest Abuja-Pretoria reaction show lack of deep understanding of the crisis.

Both the Ghanaian and Togolese authorities are not surprised that the military has surfaced for the first time in Ivoirien politics.

"Democratic rule was threatened because Bedie was determined to ruthlessly eliminate all those that could challenge his determination to remain in power at all costs. And the only option to prevent Cote d'Ivoire from degenerating into a civil war was for the military to intervene," a senior official of Togo's Ministry of Foreign Affairs who pleaded for anonymity said yesterday. The same feeling was expressed by officials at Ghana's Embassy in Lome.

However, both the Togolese and Ghanaian authorities are "worried" about the possibility of open and violent conflicts between Ivoirien soldiers and the 3,000-strong French troops stationed at Boue near Abidjan's international airport.

The new Ivoirien helmsman, Gen. Robert Guei, declared on Radio France Internationale (RFI) monitored in Lome, that he would resist any attempt by France to send in more troops to the military base in Abidjan.

According to RFI, French authorities are sending to Abidjan about 40 soldiers with helicopter gunships from the French military base in Libreville, Gabon. And another 300 soldiers would be flown from France into another French military base in Dakar, in Senegal and placed on the alert to move into Cote d'Ivoire "in order to rescue 20,000 French nationals living there".

The refusal of Gen. Guei to allow Koblan Donkan, the former Prime Minister and Bandama N'Gatta, the Minister of Defence to leave the country with Konan Bedie, might also lead to a major confrontation with French authorities.

An official of the Togolese presidency said: "There is the growing fear that if Bedie escapes with some of his top ministers they might form a government in exile. That is why General Guei does not want Bedie to leave the country with the president's jet and some of his ministers. And if France does not give in to Guei's demand, their might be open clash between Ivoirien and French soldiers".

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

President forewarned Bedie, says Okupe

By Francis Obinor, Lagos

FOR the ousted President Konan Bedie of Cote d'Ivoire, his fall from grace to grass seems a foregone conclusion going by the assertions of his colleagues, including President Olusegun Obasanjo, who attributed his travails to his political rigidity and intransigence.

Bedie, who was ousted by army mutineers last Friday and provided a somewhat dignified exit to Lome, Togo, by France was accused by his colleagues of frustrating their efforts towards resolving the country's political crisis triggered by leadership crisis between him and former Prime Minister Allasane Ouattara.

His failure to reach an accord with arch-rival Ouattara coupled with the neglect of the soldiers' welfare seemed to be his albatross as he lost the confidence of his personal security guards who shifted their loyalty to the mutineers, a development he least expected.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Chief Doyin Okupe yesterday said President Obasanjo had foreseen the ousting of Bedie and made frantic efforts to make him accommodate the opposition members to move the country forward.

According to him, President Obasanjo, because of the crisis that engulfed Cote d'Ivoire in the wake of the disqualification of Ouattara and the jailing of key opposition members was in constant touch with Bedie, pleading that he accommodate other political opponents to stem the ensuing problem.

Speaking on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) he said: "It is not true Nigeria never said anything. The truth is that President Obasanjo had made representation and I am aware that the President had spoken on several occasions with President Bedie, made contacts with him and had several discussions.

"President Obasanjo had met other heads of state in relating to this issue and as a visionary he had foreseen the possibility of this development and had made frantic efforts to prevent it by actually discussing the issue with President Bedie."

Bedie arrived in Nigeria yesterday from Togo to brief Obasanjo on the ongoing development in his country in a frantic move to relaunch himself back to power.

According to the president's spokesman, Bedie, who had since left for Togo had a warm reception usually accorded any visiting head of state.

Asked if Nigeria still recognised Bedie as the Ivoirien leader, he said: "Well like I just told you, Nigeria does not support military coup d'etat, it does not support ousting of a constitutional government through a military coup and that is the position of the country.

"As soon as President Bedie came, he went straight into a closed-door meeting with his host President Olusegun Obasanjo for two hours after which President Bedie addressed the airport correspondents.

"Essentially what he said was that the development in Cote d 'Ivoiren was regrettable and it was an unfortunate development and for this reason he is going about to speak to his colleagues in order to find ways by which the unfortunate situation can be resolved."

According to Okupe, Bedie insisted on being the "authentic leader of the people of Cote d'Ivoire as the only truly elected president."

Asked if Nigeria would oppose the new military regime headed by General Robert Guei, he said: "Nigeria will not act in isolation. I believe Nigeria is in consultation with other heads of state. I'm aware that there may be an emergency ECOWAS meeting purposely because of the development in Cote d'Ivoire."

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Tuesday, 28 December 1999

President Obasanjo meets Bedie of Cote d'Ivoire in Abuja

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo met in Abuja yesterday with ousted President Henri Konan Bedie of Cote d'Ivoire, who has launched high-level consultations with sub-regional leaders on the weekend's coup d'etat in his country.

Bedie, who flew in from Togo on a presidential aircraft released for the trip by Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, hinted that he had not given up on his right to governance. He told journalists at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport after meeting with Obasanjo that he remains the authentic Ivorien leader, being the only truly elected president of Cote d'Ivoire.

Bedie returned to Lome, the Togolese capital, after a two-hour meeting at the State House with the Nigerian leader. He told journalists at the airport that his ouster by the military had brought political eclipse upon Cote d'Ivoire.

The former president added that his desire to redeem his country from the political logjam necessitated his sub-regional shuttle.

According to Bedie, the coup that threw up the Gen. Robert Guei-led junta has marked a regrettable turn in Cote d'Ivoire, hitherto reputed for political stability and giant developmental strides in the West African sub-region.

Although President Obasanjo maintained an uncharacteristic silence while Bedie spoke after the two-hour closed door meeting, inside sources said he intensified an earlier call by the Federal Government for immediate restoration of democracy in Cote d'Ivoire.

Former President Bedie, who looked ruffled but obviously made strenuous efforts to conceal his befuddlement, was attired in a dark blue safari suit. He flew into the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at about 10.45 a.m. aboard the Togolese presidential jet marked 5 V TAI, accompanied by Togo's Chief of Staff.

His reception at the airport by President Obasanjo was devoid of the airport formalities accorded leaders of foreign states and governments.

President Obasanjo was accompanied to the airport by Foreign Affairs Minister Sule Lamido, Minister of State Dubem Onyia, Commerce Minister Bello Mustapha and Central Bank Governor Joseph Sanusi, among others.

A statement yesterday by Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), Dr. Doyin Okupe on Bedie's visit, said: "President Obasanjo today received the 'ousted' Ivoirien President Henri Konan Bedie at the Federal Capital, Abuja.

"Shortly after the arrival of the ousted president, he went into a closed-door meeting which lasted about two hours with his host.

"President Bedie later briefed airport correspondents at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport before flying back to Lome.

"He told correspondents that he was going round to brief his colleagues about the true position of things in Cote d'Ivoire. He said it was a matter for regret and an unfortunate development that military junta could seize power in a country" which had hitherto been known for its political stability and giant developmental strides in the West African sub-region.

"According to him, the recent development has brought a political eclipse on the country which has necessitated his moving round to find ways of resolving the situation.

"He, however, insisted that he remains the authentic leader of his people, as the only truly elected president of Cote d'Ivoire."

A statement last Friday by the Foreign Affairs Ministry on behalf of the governments of Nigeria and South Africa called for immediate restoration of the Bedie administration.

"Nigeria and South Africa view the present development with considerable regret as it constitutes a major setback to the democratic process in Cote d'Ivoire, a country traditionally regarded as a bastion of peace and stability," the statement said.

The coup in Cote d'Ivoire, according to the statement, ran counter to the universal trend towards increasing democratisation of governance and advancement of the rule of law. "It is also a negation of the declaration adopted at the 35th OAU summit in Algiers in July, 1999, which denounced and rejected any undemocratic change of government in the continent".

In the meantime, Integration and Co-operation in Africa Minister in the Presidency, Prof. Jerry Gana, has left for Lome on a "consultational meeting" with ministers of the sub-region.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) yesterday issued a strong condemnation of the coup in Cote d'Ivoire.

A statement from its Addis Ababa headquarters called for "a rapid return to constitutional order".

The overthrow of the government is "a serious and unacceptable step backwards as Africa moves towards greater democracy and wider respect for the rule of law," added the statement issued after an emergency meeting of ambassadors.

By yesterday's statement, the OAU called on member-states and the international community to condemn the coup.

The statement followed one last Friday from OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim, in which he called for "immediate restoration of law and order".

OAU members at a summit in Algiers in July condemned all coups d'etat in Africa, with its spokesman, Ibrahim Dagash, saying: "As from today, no coup will be tolerated".

In Abidjan, the new military leader, Gen. Guei, called for the nomination of civilian candidates for a new government to be formed next week.

He urged political parties to produce their lists of candidates for the new government, although he said the junta would retain the defence, foreign affairs, security and interior ministries.

"We invite you to meet amongst yourselves to discuss the other posts, with a view to filling them within 48 hours," he said.

Guei added: "Let me say we are counting on you to avoid trouble".

Abidjan's international airport, seized by the rebel forces during Friday's coup d'etat, reopened on Monday. Calm has also returned to the capital, with commuters going to work yesterday normally after a weekend which saw widespread looting by soldiers.

Prison authorities reported that 24 inmates died in a stampede when soldiers opened the gates of Abidjan's main prison, intending to release political prisoners incarcerated under Bedie's government.

The prison's entire population Ů an estimated 6,500 prisoners Ů had escaped, officials said.

The political prisoners who were released included members of the opposition Rally of Republicans Party (RDR), who had been jailed in November following demonstrations in support of RDR leader Alassane Ouattara.

The French military flew Mr. Bedie and his family by helicopter to Togo on Sunday. The prime minister, defence minister and security minister in Bedie's government also fled to Togo, despite Gen. Guei's insistence that they should remain to "ensure the smooth passage of the administration to the successors which we will name".

Guei has appointed nine senior military officers to the National Committee of Public Salvation, with himself as chairman. The committee will oversee the country for a transitional period.

The unrest started as an army mutiny, with troops protesting unpaid salaries, poor living conditions and what they called the 'bad governance' of the country.

It is Cote d'Ivoire's first coup since independence in 1960, and has been condemned by France, the United States and various African countries.

Cote d'Ivoire's junta yesterday pledged to put its "house in order", form a national unity government and give an opposition leader wanted by ousted authorities a chance to run in democratic elections.

Guei, a former Chief of Staff, accused in 1996 of plotting a coup against Bedie, addressed members of 38 political parties in Abidjan, urging them to present a list of their most "determined candidates" for cabinet portfolios in a government to be formed next week.

In an hour-long speech at Abidjan's army headquarters, Guei's promise to clean up public finances and widen the political arena received resounding applause, even from members of the opposition Rally of Republicans (RDR).

Warrant for Ouattara's arrest was issued in November by the deposed authorities. Seven of the party's senior officials were jailed in October for an anti-government demonstration that turned riotous.

Ouattara, who has been out of the country since September, is due back in Cote d' Ivoire tomorrow.

Guei lambasted the former regime for holding on to power for four straight decades.

He condemned Cote d' Ivoire's Democratic Party (PDCI) for pursuing "divisive, hateful and contemptuous politics," adding that he planned to "clear the way for Mr. Alassane Dramane Ouattara" to run in eventual elections.

Bedie's party claimed that Ouattara, a former prime minister, had forged his identity papers, was not Ivoirien but Burkinabe, and was not eligible to contest elections that were slated for October 2000.

"We had to set the ball rolling and help politicians to take the right road," Guei said, adding: "As soon as we have made sure that the house is in order, and that what we have done has received support from the Ivoirien people, we will then pull back and stage free and transparent elections".

The General, however, gave no timetable for polls, but claimed he was "not seeking power" for himself. He justified the overthrow of the elected Bedie and the PDCI government on the grounds that under their leadership "we had become a country of pillagers of public funds and rodents chewing at state coffers".

But members of political parties, while visibly pleased at Guei's speech, reserved their comments. "I must first consult my militants," said Laurent Gbagbo, president of the opposition Ivoirien Popular Front (FPI).

However, Gbagbo, who served under Guei in the military in the early 1970s, warmly greeted Cote d'Ivoire's new strongman. And Henriette Diabate, the RDR's secretary general who was imprisoned in late October, said her impression of Guei's address was "good".

Diabate and other senior RDR officials escaped from Abidjan's sprawling MACA penitentiary when mutineers who had overthrown Bedie opened the doors of the premises on Friday and let them free.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Monday, 27 December 1999

Shell to make fresh bid for National Oil

By Ben Iheanacho, Abuja

ANGLO-DUTCH giant Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Limited, may make a fresh bid for governments holding in the National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company (NOLCHEM), the National Council on Privatisation has ruled.

Shells bid last Wednesday, third in a series, was rejected but being the only bidder, it was allowed to present a more acceptable and reasonable offer.

Governments total holding in NOLCHEM is 137,000,000, part of which will be offered to the public after core and strategic investors had been alloted a substantial part, owing to their managerial skills and expertise.

Shell bidded for 68,500,000 ordinary shares of 50 kobo each, with a desire to continue the divestment of its current 40 per cent holding, which would lead to the emergence of a new leading investor.

In the alternative, it asked to acquire 20 per cent of governments stake at N18.45 kobo per share within the next four weeks on the understanding that after a maximum of six months, Shell International will have the right to divest its entire 60 per cent holding.

The international arm will, however, pay government the net profit on such disposal.

A statement by the Bureau of Public Enterprises, signed by Abbas O. Sadiq, Principal Executive, Corporate Affairs, said negotiations had begun on the proposed sale.

National Oil was converted into a public company in 1989 at an extra-ordinary general meeting, consequent upon which 16.8 million ordinary shares, representing a third of governments holding, were offered for sale to the public. It is quoted on the Stock Exchange.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Monday, 27 December 1999

Troops' movement raises tension in Warri

From Chido Okafor, Warri

A HEAVY troop deployment was on Christmas day noticed in Warri, Delta State, setting a disquieting mood for the celebration of Christmas by the residents of the oil rich city.

The troop, allegedly deployed from the 7 Amphibious Battalion, Effurun, drove through major streets in Warri in a convoy of nine trucks, four military jeep and a military Red Cross Van.

The military convoy drove quietly through the streets in an orderly fashion, at about 5.05 p.m.

Although the troops mission and destination remained unknown, the soldiers were armed to the teeth and dressed in full combat gear. Machine guns were positioned on the roof of all the trucks manned by soldiers.

The Guardian gathered that the troops were on routine and necessary patrol to forestall breakdown of law by miscreants who may take advantage of the festive season to foment trouble.

Some Warri residents, who witnessed the troops movement, condemned the development, saying it contrasted sharply with the mood of the Yuletide season.

A resident, who pleaded anonymity said: I think the menacing convoy of soldiers is not a good thing on a Christmas day. It further shows that the city is not free. Christmas is supposed to be a special day, a day for peace. They don't go together. A lot of people were slared by the presence of the soldiers. Christmas is supposed to be a day of happiness not fighting.

Efforts to get the commanding officer of the 7 Amphibious Battalion to explain the development were fruitless as he was not available for comment.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Monday, 27 December 1999

Obasanjo ends Christmas break at Ota farm

By Tunji Oketunbi, Staff Reporter

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday returned to Abuja after a two-day Christmas holiday at his Ota Farm in Ogun State.

The President was seen off at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, by Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his Ogun and Rivers states counterparts, Chief Segun Osaba and Don Duke, Information Minister Dapo Sarumi and other top government officials including the President Adviser on Media and Publicity Dr. Doyin Okupe, were also at the airport.

Dressed in brown traditional Aso Oke, President Obasanjo, who during the holiday attended the engagement of one of his sons to a lady, and a N30 million community hall fund raising ceremony, left Lagos at 5.15 p.m. aboard a B727 Presidential Jet which had brought him on Saturday.

He had earlier confered with governors and other aides inside the Presidential Lounge for about an hour.

Preisdent Obasanjo, apparently avoiding the press, merely called out the season greetings to thee journalists and quickly turned away as they returneed with a barrage of questions, drawing laughter from his aaides.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Monday, 27 December 1999

Varsity teacher alleges politicisation of Sharia adoption

AN Islamic scholar, Dr. M.A. Bidmos has fingered ulterior motives for the adoption of Sharia in Zamfara State and moves to introduce it in some other parts of the north.

Dr. Bidmos, a University of Lagos teacher said in an essay on the issue, titled: A Critical Study of the Sharia Controversy in Nigeria today, that the Zamfara State governor and others especially in the north who are pushing for the official introduction of the legal code are politicising it to destabilise the Obasanjo administration and consolidate northern domination of the country.

He also contended that since Sharia was a way of life stipulated in the Koran and other Islamic books for the Moslems by God, it does not need official launching.

Bidmos remarked: A role model was what Governor Jakande made of himself as he took over the mantle of leadership of Lagos State in 1979. With his simple dress, simple car, simple house, hard work, creativity, intelligence, people-oriented programmes, Jakande demonstrated the Islamic ideals of governance without lousy advertisements.

In a pluralistic society like Nigeria, Zamfara inclusive Ů you can lure people to your religion through your lifestyle. It would be unstrategic to do otherwise, for you will only succeed in scaring them away. Against this background, a curious observer would be compelled to ask, why did the north wait so long before replacing secular system with Sharia system?.

He added: One would have expected the north to seize the golden opportunity in Balewa or Shagaris tenure for the introduction of Sharia. Why was the Obasanjo administration found to be the best period to introduce Sharia?

Dr. Bidmos, however, listed the benefits of the Sharia and allayed the fears of non-Moslems about it. According to him, Sharia is inseparable from Islam such that the religion would be meaningless without the law, which, if strictly followed, would lead to full employment, prohibition of prostitution and sale of alcohol as well as robbery and other crimes. It will also promote compulsory education, industrialisation and running of a civil service that is characterised by accountability, transparency and fairness.

He pointed out that Christians will not oppose such measures to sanitise the society which the Bible also stipulates.

He decried the hypocrisy of Nigerian public office holders who take oath of office on the holy scriptures but jettison Gods laws at the point of running state affairs and award of contracts.

Dr. Bidmos also spoke on Nigeria's secularity, saying the provision on it in the 1979 Constitution (Chapter 1, part 11, section 10) has been variously interpreted and wrongly too. He went on: To use that section of the constitution to support the secular status of Nigeria is misleading. Given the fact that Nigeria is a pluralistic society, it makes a lot of sense to avoid making a particular religion a state religion. All religions practised in the country should be accorded equal status.

The constitutional provision in question does not mean total abandonment of religion like the situation in the defunct USSR. The provision only calls for caution against promoting a given religion or superimposing it over the others.

If secularity ... means non-involvement of the state in religious matters or taking corporate decisions without reference to God, Nigeria cannot qualify for the description given the fact that she as a corporate body is neck deep in religious practices. These include, swearing in public office-holders on the Qur'an or the Bible, declaring public holidays to mark Moslem or Christian festivals, teaching Islam and Christianity at all levels of education and official sponsorship of pilgrimages to Mecca, Jerusalem and the Vatican.

Dr. Bidmos warned against violation of non-Moslems rights in the name of Sharia, noting that Prophet Mohammed respected them while he governed Mecca and Medina and enshrined them in the Islamic legal code.

He emphasised that those clamouring for official introduction of the legal system seek to exploit the poor {(talakawa)} and their children as well as to continue or resume the northern political domination of the country by winning the southern Moslem brethren in the name of Islamic brotherhood!

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

 

Monday, 27 December 1999

OPC to resist Arewa launch in Yorubaland

From Olufela Bamidele, Ibadan

IF Hausa community persists in its launching of Arewa Peoples Congress, OPC in Oyo State will mobilise its 80,000 members to counter the Hausa warriors. Under no circumstances shall we allow the Hausa to launch Arewa Peoples Congress on Yorubaland.

With this vow, the Secretary-General of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Oyo State Chapter, Mr. Kazeem Lawal, anchored the Yoruba militant groups aversion to the plan by the Hausa Community to launch APC in Ibadan today.

The Yoruba learnt that the launching, which was earlier planned for Lekan Salami Stadium complex, Adamasingba, was later shifted to an undisclosed location in the city.

Members of OPC were cited at the Government Secretariat, apparently to prevail on the state governor, Alhaji Lam Adesian, to stop the launch so as to avert a violent clash between the two groups.

Declaring OPCs resolve to resist the launch, Lawal said it would be like a slap in the face to allow Hausa to carry it out on Yorubaland.

According to Lawal, if the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, could stop OPC from launching the group in Kano by issuing out warnings to the Yoruba community against the move, such attempt would be resisted with all available means in Ibadan and Yorubaland.

The secretary-general stated that as part of the build-up to the launching, six military trucks of armed soldiers were cited patrolling various parts of the city in the last two days.

He said: These soldiers behaviour showed that they are on a devilish mission in the city, especially with the way they meander through the traffic in the city.

He, however, said the presence of security agents could not intimidate OPC members. If Hausa community persists in its proposed launching, the APC in Oyo State will mobilise its 80,000-strong members to counter their warriors.

Former Secretary to the State Government, Chief Dejo Raimi, said such a rally could not hold as nobody had taken permission from the police. He pointed out that it would be illegal to go ahead with the launch without police permit.

He, however, believed that the Hausa are a peace loving people who would not do anything to distrupt the peaceful coexistence of the state.

The State Police Command Commissioner, Michael Okuo, stated that it would be impossible for the APC to carry out the launch when no formal application for permit was made by the group, nor granted by the police.

He confirmed that a report was lodged in his office by members of OPC, but upon investigation there was nothing to substantiate the allegation. He assured that his men were ready to contain the situation.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

Monday, 27 December 1999

Catholics open golden door in Benin church

From Mike Osunde, Benin

CATHOLICS replicated the symbolic opening of the golden door at the Vatican, at the St. Francis Church in Benin on Christmas day signalling the beginning of celebrations of the new millennium and the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago.

The opening of the golden door, according to Catholics, brings grace from God for those who partake in prayers and walking through the door into the church building.

The ceremony which is held every 50 years, was performed at the Vatican on Friday night by Pope John Paul II.

Professor A.D Nzemeke the parish priest of the Church, led the congregation in the ceremony which began 10p.m on Thursday.

After prayers said at the Mariam Grotto in front of the church building, Nzemeke approached the main door leading to the semi-circular church building, said prayers before leading a candle light procession into the church to begin the mid-night mass.

He told the congregation not to lose sight of the significance of the ceremony which often times, happens once in ones life time.

According to him, because the ceremony was performed every 50 years, many Catholics never get to witness it.

The cleric said the event is observed to mark Christ‘s birthday in the outgoing century and the beginning of a new millennium.

Earlier in the day, major streets of the ancient city experienced serious traffic jam caused mostly by shoppers and travellers.

On the popular Mission Road market, traffic was chaotic all day as motorists, shoppers and traders jostle endlessly for space in the crowded street.

The same chaos was witnessed at the New Benin end of the road, where intra-city buses struggled for vantage positions with luxury buses to convey people to the South East for the Yuletide.

At the Government Reservation Area where retired soldiers, agitating for the payment of their pension caused a scare, riot policemen were called in to disperse them as they moved from the state secretariat, where they dislodged state officials paying civilian pensioners, towards the governors office.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

 

Monday, 27 December 1999

Govt's planned satellite launch diversionary, says cleric

From Ifedayo Sayo, Ado-Ekiti

CATHOLIC Bishop of Ekiti Olatunji Fagun has criticised the Federal Governments plan to launch the nations first ever satellite into the orbit, describing it as diversionary in the face of mass poverty and social insecurity.

Delivering his sermon at a special millennia service at the St. Patricks Catholic Church, Ado-Ekiti, yesterday, Bishop Fagun said government, in the new year should focus more on eliminating poverty and ensuring the security of lives and property.

Although, he noted that the presence of a Nigerian satellite in the orbit was a novelty, he said the timing for the multi-billion naira project was wrong.

According to him, while the idea to launch a satellite into the orbit is on its own a noble venture, the Federal Government should be careful not to pursue aggrandisement at the expense of the common man.

He said public funds expended to ensure regular supply of electricity, pipe borne water, provision of jobs and rehabilitation of roads would be more appreciated by the citizenry than a satellite located in the orbit.

The cleric called on the Federal Government to step up effective machinery towards curbing religious fanaticism in the country especially in the north.

He particularly deplored the burning of churches and attacks on Christians in the last two weeks in Ilorin, Kwara State, noting that such actions, if not checked could discredit President Olusegun Obasanjos administration.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

 

 

Monday, 27 December 1999

Six Ondo lawmakers face perjury charges

From Julius Alabi, Akure

SECURITY operatives may have been placed on the trail of six members of the Ondo State House of Assembly over perjury charges, which include certificate forgery and evasion of national youth service.

The Guardian} learnt at the weekend that the security agents had started working on various petitions against the affected lawmakers and that their arrest might be effected when the House resumes sitting in January.

A strongly-worded petition by the state branch of the Campaign for Democracy CD also raised the allegations and gave the Speaker Ayo Agbonmuserin a seven-day ultimatum to get the lawmakers arrested or face legal action.

The letter by Ifeanyi Odili and N.T. Taiwo, co-ordinator and secretary respectively, was copied to Governor Adebayo Adefarati; police commissioner and director of the State Security Service SSS.

A prominent member is alleged not to have submitted any educational certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC nor leaders of his party, before he was fielded for election.

He is said to have sworn to an affidavit that all his certificates were burnt by political thugs during the Operation Weti e crisis which engulfed the then old Western Nigeria.

Another lawmaker is also alleged to have evaded National Youth Service Corps NYSC scheme, but secured a forged clearance certificate which he presented to INEC and his party.

A member is alleged to have presented another persons West African School Certificate result by changing the middle name.

Another in the employment of the Lagos State Government is also alleged to have forged various documents, including tax clearance and declaration of age to contest the election.

From the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper

 

Why we'll deregulate oil sector— Obasanjo

By John Ighodaro & Kenneth Ehigiator

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo said last night that plan by his administration to deregulate the oil industry was to curb smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries, and for government to plug loopholes through which it was losing what it could spend on improving the lots of Nigerians.

It is believed that the deregulation will lead to increase in fuel prices.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) which is in the vanguard of a national campaign against the move, last Tuesday, mobilised thousands of its members to the Presidential Villa in Abuja to show displeasure at the plan.

The protest was broken up by mobile policemen who fired tear gas.

Speaking on his monthly television interview yesterday, President Obasanjo said deregulation of the oil industry had come to stay.

According to him if there is no increase in fuel prices, "a lot of smuggling will occur."

"If we do not make enough money from sales, we won’t be able to maintain our refineries. That was why they broke down in the past," he argued.

But he said no decision had been taken on when the deregulation would be effected, and that experts had not even worked out "how much we will be subsidising the price of petroleum products.

"If the price is $25 for instance, then, we are losing about $1.7 billion a year. That amount could either go into education, health, infrastructures, agriculture, a number of areas of poverty alleviation programmes, rural water supply, and generation of power and all that," he stressed.

He said all these he explained to the NLC President, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole when they met before last Tuesday’s protest by workers, saying, "I told him that when I knew what exactly it costs us to subsidise the products, I’ll call you and we will discuss it, either to do it in one go or in phases."

He described the NLC’s protest as unfortunate, but said "I also realise that Adams wants to gain the confidence of his colleagues by storming the Presidential Villa.

"We are luckily that it did not lead into any fatality. NLC should stay away from this unnecessary show of bravado."

He said Nigerians should not expect a steady supply of electricity until the year 2001, because as he put it the problems facing NEPA are enormous.

His words: "The first thing I said when I came in was that I was not a miracle worker.

"We were generating 1500 megawatts when we came in. Now it has gone up to about 2500. Only about two or three weeks ago, we had a major breakdown at Egbin. There is no where you can have electricity parceled and brought to Nigeria.

He said government would not feel comfortable "until we are able to generate 4000 megawatts and we will not achieve that until two years from now. So if anybody tells you he can bring that about now, that person does not know what he is talking about."

To a question by Mr. Dan Agbese, Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch and one of his interviewers, whether he was not a dictator, President Obasanjo retorted:

"When I ruled the country the last time, neither did I arrest you nor put you in jail, so why did you address me a dictator. I am not a dictator."

He said he was still learning like every body else under the democratic dispensation.

On the widely speculated impending reshuffle of his cabinet the President said: "I don’t know where people get their speculations from. It has never crossed my mind, this issue of cabinet reshuffle."

Asked about the relationship between him and the legislative arm, and his greatest blunder since assuming office, he said:

"I won’t say greatest blunder, but I would say minor mistakes have been made and both sides have recognised that.

"On our part, the greatest lesson we have learnt is to have more of informal interaction with the legislators."

He dismissed suggestions that he was globetrotting at the expense of state matters, saying "I don’t enjoy travelling. I want to sit down and if I have nothing to do, I’ll play my squash.

"But when you have a country that has been shut down for almost five years, there is nothing you can do other that what I call compact diplomacy, to argue with these countries to know our position."

He listed the benefits of his foreign trips as:

bulletNew investments;
bulletDebt remission; and,
bulletRecovery of looted public funds stashed abroad.

Vanguard Transmitted Friday, 24 December, 1999 

12/23/99
NUEW Challenges Ige over Sabotage Charge
by Michael Faloseyi, Labour Reporter


THE Minister of Power and Steel, Chief Bola Ige, has been challenged to substantiate his allegation of sabotage by workers of National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA).
Making this challenge in an interview with The Post Express, the general secretary of National Union of Electricity Workers (NUEW), Comrade Tonsike Precious Kiri-Katio, said that the problem in NEPA is that of insufficient power generating capacity and lack of maintenance.
"With due respect to the minister, he goofed on this occasion. Who is sabotaging what. How can you have a country where no power station was built for the past 15 years with our poor maintenance culture," Kiri-Kalio said.
The unionist added that the situation in NEPA may continue to deteriorate so long as government refuse to take advise from experts in the industry.
In an apparent response to the minister's promise to improve power supply within six months in office. Kiri-Kalio said that the solution does not lie in political talk, saying that so long as they continue to pay lip service to power generation, Nigerians will continue to have epileptic power supply.
The labour leader alleged, that Nigeria has seven power stations, with Afam Power Station completely lost to fire while Sapele is barely existing, yet no contractor has been on site for several months to maintain the existing ones.
The whole situation he said is frustrating as those in position of authority do not consult and they feel big so much so that when such advice is been unsolicited for they have no regard for it.
They are more interested in signing agreements here and there, he said. Government functionaries, according to him, have resorted to holding talks with foreign experts who may not know better than indigeneous professionals. "They talk of grassroots yet they are so far away from the grassroots, they condemned military administration and they don't do better than them," he stressed.
With the situation as it is, our union - NUEW has been frustrated from offering further advice because those given in the past, he alleged, has not been used," Kiri-Kalio added.
Describing the allegation of sabotage as childish, the union leader said that privatisation of NEPA cannot solve Nigeria's electricity problem but would rather hinder development as private initiatives would not open up the rural areas for electricity and when there is no power supply there can be development, Kiri-Kalio said.

Nigeria Post Express Newspaper

 

Abuja belongs to all, says FG

By Tunji Olawuni

THE Federal Government declared yesterday that Abuja belonged to all Nigerians and no one should lay claim to indigeneship of the territory to the exclusion of other Nigerians.

It also announced the revocation of all land allocations in the city’s green areas.

Architect Ibrahim Bunu, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory at a news conference in Abuja said "no one could lay claim to indigeneship of the territory to the exclusion of all other Nigerians.

"Government has continued to insist on Abuja being a federal territory devoid of any claim whatsoever by any person or group of people to primordial rights to any part of the area.

"Therefore, after weighing several resettlement options, we eventually decided to retain the present stand of government on Abuja being a land of equal opportunity without claim to indigeneship.

"Since the problem has always been that government has appropriated the land called FCT and has rendered the inhabitants "stateless" while other Nigerians lay claim to one state or the other, then the implementation strategy of this option is to call the adjoining states to a conference to accept their erstwhile indigenes as still belonging to their states with all the privileges, rights, recognition and representation according to those states being accorded these inhabitants.

"Consequently, as far as the FCT is concerned, those original inhabitants become residents like all other Nigerians living in the territory. Indeed, this option will even accord the original inhabitants a double advantage in the sense that they will have a state they could call their own and at the same time have an automatic residency in the FCT where they now occupy."

Vanguard Transmitted Friday, 24 December, 1999