Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #09
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

March 4, 2000

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Friday, March 3, 2000

Nigeria's airspace safe, says Agagu

By Francis Obinor, Staff Reporter

AVIATION Minister, Olusegun Agagu, said yesterday in Lagos that Nigeria's airspace is safe.

Explaining that speculations that the country's airports are unsafe may not be unconnected with inadequate navigational aids, Agagu disclosed that obsolete equipment in them would be upgraded before December.

Speaking on an African Independent Television programme Kaakaki, he said that "inspite of this problem, Nigeria has one of the best crop of aviation experts in the world."

Agagu, who at a different event praised the Kenyan airline for the manner it handled the January 30 crash, added that the aviation experts had been able to make the best use of what was available to ascertain matters of landing and weather forecast.

Agagu said that experts at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos were able to precast on time that the weather was bad and thus instructed the Kenyan Airlines pilot to land in another Nigerian airport.

He, however, attributed the crash to fate, saying: "We did not have control over it. It was simply the work of nature and God."

Agagu, who criticised the pilot's decision to fly to Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire in spite of the experts' advice, disclosed that government has made available some funds that would enable the ministry to "upgrade obsolote equipment in the country's airports before the year lapses."

He expressed optimism that if this is done, all aircraft flying into the country would easily land "even at zero level weather conditions."

The minister had while exchanging views reporters in Abuja commended the Kenya airline for the manner in which it handled the crash.

Agagu described the comportment of the airline's officials throughout the "crash crisis" as very commendable.

He explained that the airline sponsored relatives of the crash victims to Abidjan to identify them and provided them with accommodation and other logistics for five days.

The minister said that the airline had already set in motion the necessary machinery that would facilitate the payment of compensation to the relations of the victims "in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) treaty."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, March 3, 2000

Obasanjo warns leaders against violence in Kwara

From Abiodun Fagbemi, Ilorin

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has identified Kwara State as one of the states prone to religious crisis, warning political, religious and community leaders against a rehash of the recent Kaduna religious mayhem in the state.

Obasanjo, while addressing religious leaders, members of the state House of Assembly, traditional rulers and security operatives yesterday at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Ilorin, extracted from them a promise of peaceful co-existence among adherents of all the religions in the state.

According to the president who was represented by the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Aminat Ndalolo, "we still hear the report of some states that are prone to religious crisis and Kwara is one of them. All the concerned authorities must be on guard to prevent it."

Present at the briefing which started at about 2.10 p.m. were, the state Governor, Rear Admiral Mohammed Lawal (rtd), his deputy, Deacon Simeon Abayomi, the Speaker of the House of Assembly Mr. Benjamin Ezekiel Issa, council chairmen, the Chief Judge Justice Timothy Oyeyipo, and the Grand Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal.

Others are: the Emir of Ilorin Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, the Elerin of Erin-Ile, Emir of Lafiagi, the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kwara chapter Bishop Kolawole Bolanle and the Chief Imam of Ilorin Alhaji Mohammed Bashir.

The president, while urging Nigerians to jettison ethnicity and religious bigotry, advised any aggrieved group of persons to dialogue rather than resort to violence, in conflict resolution.

The peaceful option, he added, would not only move the nation forward, but would give citizens equal opportunities.

According to him, "we should walk together in order to move Nigeria forward, we should respect our religion and respect other people's faith.

"We should sit together and solve our problems peacefully. Nothing good ever emanates from violence. We should also make commitment that none of us will participate in any act of violence," he said.

Earlier in his welcome address, Lawal, while condemning the carnage in Kaduna, stressed the importance of the secularity of Nigeria, promising to rescuscitate the state's inter-religious committee, towards peace and harmony in Kwara.

Besides, he praised Obasanjo for the "decisive step" he took to curb the Kaduna mayhem, adding that Kwara State would resist the spill over of such crisis.

Lawal further noted that any "society that is plagued with such disturbances can never be in progress. We identify with the initiatives of Mr. President to deal decisively with anybody who may want to foment trouble in the country.

"As a people, we respect the secularity of the state to ensure that each practises his religion without any hinderance. We hope to strengthen the committee on religious harmony in the state to forestall the spill over effect of the Kaduna riot," he said.

The President's representative later held a closed door meeting with those present at the occasion.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

 

Workers on alert to defend democracy

By Funmi Komolafe & Austin Ogwuda, Benin

THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday placed workers on the alert for protests and strikes to defend democracy with a warning that it would not allow the nation’s democracy to be derailed by any religious crisis.

In his first reaction to the Kaduna crisis, NLC President, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole blamed last week’s crisis on the Kaduna State Government.

It urged President Olusegun Obasanjo to be "more courageous in dealing with anyone or group of persons who wants to disrupt the system."

Addressing the opening of the 7th quadrennial delegates conference of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers in Benin City, Comrade Oshiomhole said workers including NLC members lost their lives in the crisis.

He said, "government has the responsibility to protect lives and property. When they fail, we should reject relief materials. We must all work together to compel the government of Kaduna State and the Federal Government to pay due compensation to those who lost property and lives."

He said if workers did this, government would be compelled to see that "crisis is nipped in the bud."

The NLC President wondered why the Kaduna State Government set up a tribunal to look into the causes of the religious crisis, saying, "what tribunal is the Kaduna State Government setting up? They know better than that Kaduna State Government is the immediate and remote causes of this crisis."

Comrade Oshiomhole lamented that politicians had hijacked religious matters instead of concentrating on meeting the basic needs of the people.

He said workers should be prepared to organise protests in Kaduna, Aba and other places where there is crisis because "we can’t talk of wages if there is no peace and stability."

Comrade Oshiomhole, however, commended President Obasanjo for his poverty alleviation programme but added that what the nation needed was "poverty eradication."

He said by May Day, the NLC should have information for workers on a New National Minimum Wage.

Also, speaking at the conference, National President of the union, Comrade Nasiru Lawal urged President Obasanjo to "justify the confidence reposed in him by Nigerians and pursue policies that would turn the fortune of Nigerians."

Comrade Lawal said, "it is for this reason that we urge him to have a review of the planned deregulation of petroleum products."

Vanguard Transmitted Friday, 03 March 2000

Friday, March 3, 2000

British minister arrives on Sunday

BRITISH Secretary for International Development, Clare Short, is to visit Nigeria from Sunday, to Thursday. The visit will focus on poverty reduction, governance and economic issues.

A statement by the British Deputy High Commission in Lagos yesterday said that during the visit, she would meet with President Olusegun Obasanjo and members of the National Assembly involved in development and poverty alleviation issues, as well as non-governmental organisations.

She will also visit Benue State to inspect British funded health, water and agricultural projects.

In Lagos, she will deliver a lecture on "Recent Developments in Trade and Investment: What does this mean for Nigeria," at the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA).

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, March 3, 2000

Islamic groups, others urge restraint over adoption of Sharia

From Isa Abdulsalami (Jos) and Seun Adeoye (Osogbo)

NORTHERN elders should be held responsible for the resurgence of religious violence, the Conference of Teachers in Arabic and Islamic Schools in Arewa (COTAISA) has declared.

These include traditional rulers, retired top military officers and government functionaries whom it said were only using religion to exploit their people.

A statement by its President and Public Relations Officer Malams Bala Usman Abubakar and Saddiq Abubakar Sumbelep said the greatest task before the governors should be how to eradicate illiteracy, unemployment and poverty and not to dig into religion.

Another great task before the governors, the body added, should be how to eradicate dubious traditional rulers and religious leaders "who exploit the masses in Northern Nigeria due to high rate of illiteracy and poverty."

It added: "We must eradicate illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, idleness and improve the living standard of the talakawas in Northern Nigeria before thinking of implementing Sharia law."

It said the rich in Northern Nigeria had woefully failed to assist in eradicating illiteracy, unemployment and poverty among children and the youth.

The group further observed that their counterparts in Southern Nigeria were busy offering scholarships to indigent students and establishing schools, hospitals and other community projects.

It said: "Traditional rulers in Southern Nigeria are busy mobilising the rich to invest in rural development, education, health etc, while, on the other hand, traditional rulers in Northern Nigeria are only busy selling chieftaincy titles to the rich who can afford to buy them costly cars or provide them financial and material rewards. The wealthy Moslems in the North have woefully failed to emulate the rich in Southern Nigeria who assist their poor and communities in all developments."

It expressed support for government's measures to ensure unity among Moslems and Christians in the country.

Another Islamic group, the Moslem Association of Nigeria (MAN), appealed for restraint from both Moslems and Christians across the country over the religious violence in Kaduna and other cities.

The group alleged that enemies of the current democratic dispensation could use religious violence to divert President Olusegun Obasanjo's attention from achieving his programmes.

In a statement by the association's national president and spokesman, Alhaji L. O Salako and Alhaji Y. A Ibrahim made available to journalists in Osogbo, Osun State, a plea was also made to the Federal Government not to allow the violence to spread further.

"MAN viewed with all seriousness the Kaduna mayhem which has caused loss of lives and property and at the same time constitutes a threat to national unity," the statement said.

Besides, the association sympathised with the families of all those who lost their lives and property "during the preventable carnage that followed the unfortunate clash between Moslems and Christian groups in the Kaduna metropolis."

Although the group believes that Sharia would benefit the nation if Moslems were guided by its tenets, "a non-Moslem has nothing to lose as well since the law is basically meant for Moslems."

The group also urged the press to exercise caution while reporting issues "that have religious undertones." It prayed "for the repose of the souls of the dead and may Allah compensate for the misery of those who lost property in the crisis."

MAN further expressed fears over the "ever deteriorating" security situation in the country and advised security agents to be more alert to their duties.

In Ikorodu, Lagos State, three prominent politicians and community leaders, Chief Adekunle Oduborisha, Chief Muniru Alogba and Chief Waheed Gbadamosi commended President Olusegun Obasanjo and the National Council of States for resolving the Sharia question.

They, therefore, canvassed support for the Federal and Lagos governments to curb religious violence and boost development.

Oduborisa, who spoke after donating N50,000 as take-off grant to the Mandate Cooperative Society of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and N25,000 to one of the wards in Ikorodu Council Area, urged Christians and Moslems to live in peace for uninterrupted development to enable Nigeria catch up with advanced nations in the 21st century.

Senior Prophet T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue Church, Lagos urged religious, political and community leaders to live peaceful and honest lives worthy of emulation by the people whom he said should be shown love and care so that they will not resort to violence to attain their goals.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Friday, March 3, 2000

Council agreed on Sharia's suspension, insist Okupe, Adesina

By Adeleke Adeseri (Lagos) and Emeka Nwankpa (Abuja)

THE Presidency joined issues yesterday with Second Republic President Shehu Shagari and former Head of State Gen. Muhammadu Buhari over the vexed issue of Sharia. It said much as the matter was exhaustively discussed and an agreement reached at Tuesday's Council of State meeting, the body's constitutional status, as an advisory body did not make its decision less binding on states.

Oyo State Governor Lam Adesina corroborated that claim, saying the Sharia matter was extensively discussed at the National Council of State meeting in Abuja on Tuesday.

Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, Doyin Okupe, said contrary to claims by Gen. Buhari, the Sharia issue received exhaustive treatment at Tuesday's meeting of the Council of State.

He described as untrue claims by the former military leader on a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service programme yesterday morning, saying: "It is not correct, it is not true that the meeting did not discuss the issue of Sharia.

"The meeting discussed the issue relating to national security, and I don't think there was anything that is bigger than the issue of Sharia under the matter of national security.

"And when the matter was broached by Mr. President (Olusegun Obasanjo), the Vice-President (Atiku Abubakar) was asked to make comment on this issue, and the vice-president then spoke about his prior meeting with the 17 governors of the northern states and the consensus which they have reached.

"There were no objections at the floor of the house. That, in effect, implies that it was adopted by the Council of State. So, it is not true that the Sharia issue was not discussed. It was discussed with the relationship to national security matter."

Regarding former President Shagari's remark that the council's role as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution was mainly advisory, and the decision as such not binding on the states, Okupe said when the advice was given based on a consensus reached by its members, it was not turned down.

He further debunked Shagari's contention that the council's resolution was unconstitutional. According to him, governors who had already adopted the Sharia and who were part of Tuesday's consensus, duly attended Vice-President Abubakar's news conference where the decision was announced.

"It is wrong to say that it is unconstitutional for the National Council of State to advise. It has in the past advised on certain matters, including the Universal Basic Education (UBE) which was applauded by all," the presidential spokesman said.

He insisted that President Obasanjo did not instruct or force any member of the council on what to say or do, as the council's decisions were reached based on members' sense of patriotism and the overriding need for the nation to remain one and united.

Briefing State House reporters yesterday, Okupe described Gen. Buhari and Alhaji Shagari as highly respected leaders who should help in the on-going national reconciliation efforts at these trying times of the nation.

He remarked: "The nation is happy to have been pulled out of the precipice of disaster. People in and outside the country, have commended the action of the National Council of State.

"The council arrived at its consensus based on a sense of patriotism and the overriding desire for the nation to remain one and prosperous. This is not a time for unnecessary sentiments, but a time for national reconciliation.

"At a time when the world is coming together, we should not disintegrate. Our national interest should be the protection of our young democracy for the benefit of the people. We cannot attract foreign investments in a state of chaos and confusion."

Governor Adesina speaking with The Guardian on telephone yesterday, also accused former President Shagari of pursuing a hidden agenda.

He said: "We all (members of the council) agreed to go to the pre-position of Sharia, that is to say what the position was before Zamfara came out to declare Sharia. In other words, we agreed that the status quo be maintained.

On reports that the Zamfara State Governor Ahmed Sani had backed out of the rule, he said: "Really, I don't know. He (Sani) was part of the decision making body and he did not raise any objection. So I was surprised when I read in the papers that he was still talking of going ahead with it."

He added: "I was equally surprised to read that his Attorney-General, Bello Ahmadu, was saying that he would resign if the position of the state on Sharia was reversed."

He upbraided Shagari for openly challenging the decision of the Council of State. Accusing the former president of pursuing a hidden agenda, he expressed surprise that Shagari did not introduce the law while in office.

He said: "When a distinguished gathering of Nigerians like the Council of State gives a piece of advice, common sense dictates that the advice be accepted."

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, March 2, 2000

Summit identifies $3b investment areas in Nigeria

INVESTMENT opportunities worth over $3 billion (N300 billion) were identified in six sectors of the Nigerian economy at the recently concluded Commonwealth - Nigeria Investment Conference in Abuja.

A statement at the end of the conference listed the agro-allied industries, oil and gas downstream, water, power, telecommunications and transport as the sectors.

Nigeria, it said, needs political stability, policy / macro economic stability, security of life and property, insurance against various risks and improved national image as preconditions for attracting foreign investment.

According to the statement, the conference agreed that for Nigeria to secure massive inflow of trade and investment, it must match other competing countries.

Besides, it advised Nigeria to press on with the ongoing reforms with the co-operation of the international community.

Nigeria, the statement went on, should follow up the contacts established at the parley and let the partnerships flourish while efforts are intensified to capture the window of opportunity offered by the global community.

Foreign partners were advised to seize the vast opportunities now offered by Nigeria and join the nation's privatisation programme.

No fewer than 350 top government officials and chief executives of private organisations participated in the conference.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, March 2, 2000

Envoy seeks support for Nigeria's democracy

NIGERIA's Consul General in New York, Mr. Taofiq Oseni has appealed for the co-operation and support of the international community in Nigeria's quest to strengthen its democratic institutions and develop its economic potentials.

Oseni made the remark on Tuesday in an address titled "Transition to democracy in Nigeria," at the luncheon of the Rotary Club of The Bronx, made up mainly of business executives, academics and leading community figures.

He said sustaining Nigeria's democracy and economic growth would not serve its citizens but also benefit people of Africa and the world.

The envoy noted that Nigeria had over the years used its wealth for the cause of mankind, such as in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where it expended a lot of human and material resources to end wars and bring about democracy.

Oseni said the infusion of foreign investment in the Nigerian economy and forgiveness of part of its $32 billion debts were imperative.

"Clearly, a situation where a developing country like Nigeria has to expend over 33 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product to service foreign debt is both unethical and unacceptable," the diplomat said.

Appraising the situation in Nigeria, Oseni said the government has embarked on a dual programme of advancing democracy at home and promoting the resumption of economic and diplomatic co-operation with other nations of the world.

"Nigeria has fully regained its stature in the comity of nations and a large number of foreign heads of government visiting Nigeria since the return of democracy in the country is a clear testimony of the confidence of the international community in our democratic transition programme," he noted.

The envoy said the government had taken measures to ensure that none of its nationalities was marginalised.

Oseni pointed out that part of this effort was the establishment of a commission to address the needs of the people of the Niger Delta.

He said the National Assembly was considering appropriate revenue allocation formula that would compensate the Delta region for the environmental impact of oil exploration.

Oseni also disclosed that the federal government has introduced a poverty alleviation programme, through which 500,000 jobs would be generated throughout the country.

To create the right environment for economic growth, the government has liberalised the economy, placing the private sector at the centre of economic activities, he added.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, March 2, 2000

Three law school campuses open in October

From Tony Eluemunor and Emmanuel Onwubiko (Abuja)

OCTOBER has been fixed as the take off date for the three newly approved Nigerian Law School campuses in Lagos, Enugu and Kano.

The decision was announced in the main auditorium of the Law School in Bwari, near Abuja, yesterday by the Chairman of Council of Legal Education, Justice J. Olakunle Orojo.

He said that the Enugu and Kano State governments have provided the facilities at the P & T Training School in Agbari Enugu and the Institute of Hotel Management and Tourism, Kano, as Law School campuses.

The Lagos campus will remain at the Victoria Island premises that for over three decades served as the sole campus of the Nigerian Law School.

Justice Orojo said that the backlog of 7,000 students, which had piled up since the law school relocated to Bwari has now been cleared.

The school was forced to adopt a staggered admission system, he explained. Under this system one set began in May and another in October. When the students who were admitted in May and October last year pass out in June and September this year, the staggered system with its two streams running concurrently, will also end this year. By October this year, the school will return to its traditional academic year which begins in October with about 2,000 students in four campuses, including Bwari.

Already the Lagos campus has become operational since January this year as the Part 1 Bar course for overseas candidates began there.

Discussing the relationship between the campuses and the main campus, Orojo said the Council of Legal Education met yesterday and decided on what he described as "the most fundamental restructuring exercise in the history of legal education in this country since the Federal Government's approval of the Unsworth Committee Report on the future of legal education and the right to admission to practice in Nigeria in 1959, which resulted in the Legal Education Act of 1962 and the establishment of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) in the same year."

Thus, the CLE decided that:

 

bulletthe Bwari headquarters should be the seat of the Director General of the school;
bulletthe branches will be headed by deputy directors general who will report to the director-general at the headquarters;
bulleteach branch will carry out full academic and administrative functions;
bulletat headquarters, a director of administration/secretary to the council will assist the director-general while deputy directors of administration will assist the deputy-director general in the campuses.

Answering questions from reporters, Dr. Joshua Kayode Jegede, the Director-General of the Law School said that the school has forwarded its budget proposals as part of the year 2000 Appropriation Bill now being deliberated upon by the National Assembly.

He, however, said he does not have the exact figures there with him. But estimated the monies being requested for the Enugu and Kano campuses to be not more than N350 million.

But The Guardian was able to ascertain from the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Human Rights that the Nigerian Law School requested for N850 million to put the three campuses in order.

Justice Orojo said that the deputy director-general's posts will be advertised to give every Nigerian equal chance. Also, Jegede announced that admissions will be centrally controlled as well as examinations and curriculum. He explained that in certain aspects, such as genuine ill-health, a student may apply for, and will be allowed to be a school of his/her choice.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Human right groups urge respect of suspension order on Sharia

By Victor Ahiuma-Young

TWO human rights groups, Constitutional Rights Project (CRP) and Centre for Free Speech (CFS) yesterday called on Nigerians to respect the federal government suspension order on the controversial Sharia legal system and stop violating the rights of other Nigerians in the interest of peace and unity.

The two groups in separate statements called on Nigerians especially those victimised in the recent clashes across the country to exercise restraint and patience while the Attorney General of the federation should begin the process of seeking judicial interpretation of the relevant sections of the constitution with a view to settling the issue once and for all.

CRP in a statement by its research and publication officer, Mr. Samson Bako, commended the decision of those "states that had adopted Sharia legal system to revert back to the old penal code in the interest of peace and unity in the country thus safeguarding our nascent democracy."

"The federal government should as a matter of urgency, take action to guarantee the safety of lives and property of both Muslims and non-Muslims in any part of the country so as to avoid future occurrence while government and relief agencies should take an immediate step to provide emergency relief to the wounded and the homeless".

While in a statement by CFS’s executive director, Mr. Babatunde Olugboji however, condemned the deployment of troops to Kano and other parts of country to quell the riots. "This has again highlighted the ill preparedness of the Nigerian police to deal with crisis situations. Its anti-riot arm is ordinarily supposed to contain such breach of the peace."

It noted that: "Inviting soldiers into situations of civilian conflict at the drop of a hat speaks volumes of the respect political authorities have for the police force. The presence of armed troops on the streets has buttressed the position of CFS that institutions such as the police, which impact on human rights, should be strengthened for democracy to have a sound footing".

Vanguard Transmitted Thursday, 02 March, 2000 

400 arrested over Kaduna riot

NO fewer than 400 suspects including their ring leaders had been arrested in connection with the carnage in Kaduna, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone One, Mr. Tafa Balogun has said.

He also said at least 300 people including four policemen were slain in the riot that erupted over Sharia legal system in Kaduna.

He said they were charged to court for various offences, including homicide, breach of peace and unlawful assembly, depending on their involvement in the violence.

He denied that foreigners were involved in the crisis, adding that the protesters came from various parts of Kaduna and its environs.

Balogun, whose office was relocated from Kano to Kaduna at the peak of the crisis, explained that the police contained the violence with reinforcement of mobile anti-riot squad from Jigawa, Zamfara, Kano and Plateau states.

He commended the security agents, especially policemen who participated in restoring peace to the town.

‘’Even in a bad situation, we could still assess the worth of the forces,’’ Balogun said.

‘’Given the resources and equipment available, the Nigerian police have done creditably well in restoring substantial normalcy to Kaduna.’’

He said at present, the zonal office had, in conjunction with the Kaduna police command, embarked on mopping-up operation, involving the assessment of police operation during the crisis.

‘’My office will remain here for as long as necessary because we are now assessing where and how we went wrong to enable us plan a more effective handling of such affairs in future,’’ he explained.

Balogun, whose zone is in charge of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Jigawa, stated that the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Musiliu Smith, had embarked on measures to prevent a spillover.

Vanguard Transmitted Thursday, 02 March, 2000 

Thursday, March 2, 2000

PDP lauds Obasanjo's handling of Sharia

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo's handling of the Sharia controversy is commendable, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) said yesterday.

Condeming the violence which followed introduction of the rule leading to the loss of lives and property in Kaduna and other states in the South East, the party expressed joy that the crisis had finally been resolved.

A statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Ibeshi lamented that the issue threatened the nation's nascent democracy.

It added: "The PDP government reassures all Nigerians that normalcy has been restored. PDP, therefore, supports the stand of the federal government and the decision reached by the Council of State under the able leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo on this issue," it urged all religious and ethnic communities to keep the peace and co-operate with law enforcement agencies.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, March 2, 2000

Niger withdraws Sharia bills, Zamfara official adamant

From Akin Alofetekun, (Minna) and Emmanuel Onwubiko, (Abuja)

ALL bills on Sharia recently passed by the Niger State House of Assembly were formally withdrawn yesterday by Governor Abdulkadir Kure, effecting Tuesday's agreement by a meeting of the National Council of State in Abuja that the controversial law be suspended.

"I believe the decision taken was in the interest of all. If suspending Sharia is the sacrifice some of us have to make to sustain the nation's unity, I abide by it," he explained to journalists after meeting with traditional, religious and opinion leaders in Minna, the state capital.

On the other hand, Zamfara State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Ahmed Bello Mahmud has dissociated his state from Tuesday's agreement to shelve the Sharia. "There is no going back. The process has been laid. If it means I resign, I will resign," Mahmud said.

The Niger State governor had earlier in a statewide radio and television broadcast announced that he was withdrawing the Sharia in compliance with the Council of State's decision. "In order to nip in the bud the emergent threat to peace in our country, government has decided to suspend the enforcement of the recent amendments that expanded the scope of Islamic criminal law. The status quo is to be maintained," he said.

The move, according to Kure, an engineer, is in the interest of Nigeria's corporate existence. He said: "We are all in agreement that this country needs abundance of peace for the massive reconstruction work ahead of us. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we place the interest of our country above all other interests."

The governor said measures had been put in place to stem an exodus of non-indigenes from Minna. Among other things, security agents have been directed to mount sentry posts at exit points from the state capital, and turn back persons suspected to be fleeing the town in fear of ethnic backlash.

He admonished Nigerians to learn to live together irrespective of their differences, guaranteeing safety of lives and property. "No exodus of any particular group to other parts of the country will be permited. We must learn to live amongst ourselves irrespective of our diversity", the governor said in the boradcast.

He added: "I have directed the security agencies to turn back anyone who attempts to leave for another state from Niger State. Please, co-operate with us to ensure the survival of our democracy and our nation".

Governor Kure, whose administration was the second to adopt the Sharia after Zamfara State, assured that the peace for which Minna is known would never be disturbed.

He said in the encounter with journalists after the meeting with leaders:

"By the grace of God, nothing will happen in Niger State. We have to allow peace to reign. Nobody is happy, nobody stands to gain anything by this mass exodus from the state".

He had earlier, at meetings with various interest groups, outlined measures being taken to guarantee safety.

Shortly on arrival from Abuja on Tuesday, he went round Minna, assuring non-indigenes of safety of their lives and property. "The experience of 1993 (June 12 crisis) must not be allowed to repeat itself", Kure told the people.

The Emir of Minna, Alhaji Faruk Bahago, met with the leaders of Igbo Community in Niger State and urged them to shelve their plans to flee the state for alleged growing insecurity.

In an earlier television broadcast, he appealed for calm and assured the public that government had taken adequate steps to forestall breakdown of law and order.

Niger State joined the league of states adopting the Sharia with the promulgation of six sharia-related bills, and fixed May 4 for the take off of the controversial legal system.

Mahmud, at a workshop on "Place of women under Sharia," yesterday said anyone peeved by the adoption of the Moslem law should go to court.

"We used the constitution to attain the Sharia programme. We followed the constitutional process. We did not follow violence. If we are at fault, you have to follow that process to rectify it, not to go on air as if we are in a military regime and say we should suspend the programme; Mahmud stated.

Claiming that Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who announced the suspension of the Islamic law expressed his personal opinion, the commissioner added that declaring emergency rule in the state will not halt the Sharia programme.

He said: "It (announcement) is his personal opinion. I prefer to think it is his personal opinion. I don't think it is an official one. If it is, he must have been ill-advised because in a federal system of government definitely, there is a process you do things and that process should be followed."

"A state of emergency cannot kill it (Sharia). It is not the personal opinion of the governor or myself. It is a resolved of the people. It is an idea you cannot kill by state of emergency. You may suspend it for long but as long as we are there it must exist."

On why Governor Sanni Ahmed who was in the Council of State meeting in Abuja did not react to the decision, Mahmud said he would not go into details; but insisted that there is no going back on the Moslem law.

"I don't want to go into details but I will assure you there is no going back. I'm not speaking for governor but if it means I resign, Wallahi, I will resign. There is no going back. The process has been laid to do something. We've done it through that process. If we are at fault, they should follow same process to fault it not to go on air," he said.

The justice commissioner who denied the allegation that the state is being sponsored by some individuals and foreign organisations said it (Zamfara) will not hesitate to welcome any positive gesture.

"I can swear to God, we did not have anybody sponsoring us. If anybody brings money we will collect because we have programmes to do. We have not collected a single kobo from anyone. Any one willing to finance our programme, we will welcome wholeheartedly. There is nothing wrong with that," he added.

Besides, Mahmud said that the state did not ignite the violence in Kaduna.

Attributing the violence to economic reasons in Kaduna, Mahmud said that any governor that wants to adopt Sharia should go ahead and not rely on Zamfara State.

Also at the workshop, a former legal adviser to the late Gen. Sani Abacha, Professor Auwalu Yadudu said that neither the Zamfara nor the Niger initiative could be said to have violated section (10) of the 1999 Constitution which prohibits states from adopting a state religion.

Yadudu stated that by pioneering the expansion of the application of Sharia, the two states are only meeting the yearnings and aspiration of the electorate.

He said the Sharia bills were passed after following all due political and legislative process of open and unhindered debates at public level and deliberations by the legislatures. To him what both arms of government have done in the states are in accord with democratic process.

The workshop was organised by the Constitutional Rights Project (CRP) in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, March 2, 2000

President lists cost of violence

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday said Nigerians must urgently find ways of curbing violent ethnic and religious strifes if they truly desire rapid socio-political growth.

According to him, efforts being made to revive the economy and restore investors' confidence would be futile if violent strifes are allowed to persist in all parts of the country.

In an audience with a delegation of the Delta State House of Assembly which visited him at the State House, Abuja yesterday, the President also said with measures the Federal Government had put in place to ensure probity and transparency in the conduct of public affairs, there was no reason why all citizens should not enjoy better living conditions. The catch is; a peaceful and stable polity is fundamental to that goal.

He noted that the recent violent upheavals in Kaduna State and some parts of the South-East would set back efforts to revamp the economy by at least three months, adding that the damage done to such efforts at attracting vital foreign investment to the country would be much worse if the violence was not immediately halted.

The President also spoke of the continuing vandalisation of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta area, and urged members of the assembly and other community leaders in the region to play a more active role in prevailing on their people of the Niger Delta to end the acts of sabotage against oil production.

He warned that government was being forced by the continuing disruption to provide additional security. Hence, funds which would have been spent on roads, hospitals, water and power supply, schools and other basic amenities for the people of the Niger Delta are being spent on security.

President Obasanjo also told the delegation led by the Assembly Speaker, Mr. J.F.K. Omatsone, that what had been spent on security could have been sunk into infrastructural development. He remarked that he had been forced by the persisting acts of sabotage to approve the purchase of helicopters and four-wheel drive jeeps to patrol the oil pipeline.

Responding to the delegation's appeals, he affirmed that states in the Niger Delta would be represented on the Niger Delta Development Commission. While the commission's chief executive officer would be picked from the region, his appointment will not be zoned to any particular state to ensure merit.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, March 2, 2000

Obasanjo laments crisis, warns anarchists

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo reached for moral philosophy and things that bind Nigerians in a common fate yesterday as he expressed outrage and shock over the scale of the devastation that trailed the recent religious riots in some parts of the country.

Speaking in a national broadcast in the wake of his visit to riot-torn Kaduna, a visibly sad president said he "could not believe that Nigerians were capable of such barbarism against one another."

Obasanjo who also revisited the decisions of Tuesday's National Council of State's meeting on the Sharia question that were announced by Vice President Atiku Abubakar, warned that anarchists who seek Nigeria's break-up had better forget the dream to avoid being caught by the fangs of the law.

"Let our motto be 'reconciliation for development," said the president who indicted the Nigerian state for encouraging and practising, "tyranny and mindless violence" for "so many years."

Apparently defending the government against accusations that it did not respond swiftly to curb the Kaduna riots, President Obasanjo pointed out that the imperatives of democratic federalism as well as Nigeria's multi-religious and multi-ethnic nature dictated caution and consultation with other levels and organs of government.

Specifically, he pointed out that in such situations, the state government's and "in special cases," the Police Inspector-General's requests for troops to strengthen security have to be made before the federal authorities can deploy them.

In the case of Kaduna, "once that request came from the Deputy Governor, I immediately ordered that troops should move in to support the police and take necessary measures to put an end to the killings and destruction in that city and its environs," President Obasanjo remarked.

He said he was constantly briefed in the course of the disturbances by the Deputy Governor, who was acting for his boss who had travelled abroad. Although, as the riots simmered down, he sent a ministerial team to assess the situation, the president said he "decided travel to Kaduna, to see things for myself."

"And what I saw was disheartening and upsetting," the President said. "The devastation was so massive, it seemed as though Kaduna had overnight been turned into a battlefield. My visit confirmed in every single detail all the reports I had been getting - the mindless killings and maimings, the wanton destruction of property, the fear and uncertainty on the faces of those who survived the carnage, and the pervasive mutual suspicion."

The president also discovered that a majority of those killed in the riot had lived all their lives in Kaduna, and could not truthfully call anywhere else their home.

Obasanjo went on: "All so suddenly, people who had been their neighbours for decades turned on them and massacred them. And yet, those who were responsible for these murders claim that they were acting in defence of faith or religion. I cannot believe that any religion in this day and age can sanction the taking of innocent life."

He, however, thanked the leaders of various segments of Kaduna society who, he said helped to restore normalcy to the state.

On the disturbances in Aba, the president said they were engendered by "a group of renegades who were under the misguided but fatal impression that they were taking due revenge for the murder of their kith and kin in Kaduna..." Then, in a tone dripping with agony, President Obasanjo said:

"When all the statistics of the devastation in Kaduna, Kachia, Aba and Umuahia are recorded, we will find, I am sad to say, that this has been one of the worst incidents of blood-letting that this country has witnessed since the Civil War," Obasanjo said.

"And all this at a time when we do have a constitution in place, when we have duly elected representatives both at the local, state and federal levels, when the fundamental freedoms of worship and speech, and the freedom from all forms of discrimination are guaranteed to every citizen. We cherish and uphold these fundamental freedoms."

He then pleaded: "These acts cannot, and must not go on. We must bring to a very prompt end the temptation to always resort to violence in any disagreement between groups, whether religious or ethnic or political. We must rid ourselves of the mentality of murderousness that stems from fear and suspicion of the other person. We must rediscover the value of dialogue."

Throwing more light on the National Council of State's decision on Tuesday, the president said: "The council also reviewed the remote and immediate causes of the disturbances, and noted that the Penal Code currently in force in the Northern States is substantially based on Sharia Law, with the modifications that imprisonment is substituted in place of amputation of limbs as punishment for stealing, and also as punishment for adultery, instead of stoning to death. The council noted that these modifications are consistent with the human rights principles enshrined in our constitution and considered the punishments adequate in the circumstances.

"The Council unanimously agreed that all states that have recently adopted sharia law should in the meantime revert to the status quo ante. That is, Sharia, as practised in Penal Code, continues to be practiced by all States concerned. The council urges all Nigerians to remain calm and law-abiding, Provocative and inciting utterances will not be tolerated. This position by the council is a triumph of love of fatherland, triumph of maturity and sustenance of security of the nation and preservation of our corporate existence. There can be no winners in the destructions, all Nigerians are losers. And in peace and cessation of destructions of life and property, all Nigerians are winners. But to respect the feeling of one another and to hasten the process of reconciliation, there is no victory to be celebrated and no loss to be mourned."

President Obasanjo also assured investors, Nigerians and other foreigners of their security, saying: "In the course of our development, let me say for the benefit of investors in our economy that this tragic event is a hiccup which is not unusual for a nation like Nigeria which has been oppressed and suppressed by its rulers in recent years. The hiccup will be put behind us and we will Insha Allah move full steam ahead."

He enjoined all Nigerians to embark on the "urgent task of reconciliation and confidence building which is vital to the rebuilding of relations and communities."

He further remarked: "Let us move forward to enjoy the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution and to develop our country politically, economically and socially. Let our motto be 'Reconcilliation for development.'

"What we must now do is to begin to return to the fundamental faith that life, all life, is sacred. There is nothing in our culture that even remotely justifies the cynicism with which so many of us today respond to acts of lawlessness and wickedness. We have lost our sense of outrage and moral sensitivity. The casualness with which we react to corruption and other forms of criminal behaviour does not come from religious faith or from cultural tradition.

"We do not have any such religions or cultures. Rather, what seems to have happened is that after so many years of tyranny and mindless violence, encouraged and practiced by the state itself, we have all grown indifferent to the moral, even religious duties that we all owe, one to another.

"But today, we are no longer hostages of a mean and lawless government. Our conduct, our relationships, whether religious, ethnic or political, must be governed by the laws of the land. We must begin again to deal with one another in transparent comradeship, and seek to settle our misunderstandings peacefully, decently and humanely."

Obasanjo thanked the National Assembly for its concern and support during the crisis, noting that he was encouraged particularly by the pronouncement of the Senate President that the executive will be fully supported to deal firmly and decisively with disturbances that may emanate in any part of the country."

He also praised the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) and "our brothers and sisters in all parts of the country who, through prayers and positive action and efforts, contributed to moving us away from another precipice. Encomiums were poured on the media "for the understanding of the restraint of the government and for the moderation and balance most of them exhibited during the difficult period."

The president who promised that "consultations will be stepped up to increase interaction and to enhance reconciliation," said "governors, ministers, members of the National Assembly and all political officers and appointees are returning to their states and their constituencies to help in the process of binding the wounds, removing fear and suspicion and bringing about reconciliation from now till the weekend.

He added: "However, in matters of religion and conscience, restraint must be exercised at all levels of government but particularly at the highest level. This has conditioned the Federal Government's action throughout the Sharia controversy so far."

However, he did not mince words in sternly warning trouble makers, saying: "Law enforcement agents have been instructed to deal decisively with anyone or group who disturbs public peace and order...

"I must not end this brief address without assuring all our fellow citizens of the firm determination of our government to resist any attempt from any quarter to pursue a line that can lead to the disintegration of this country. Those who break our laws will be punished to the full extent of the law. There will be no sacred cows." "Those who extend the hand of fellowship to their fellow citizens will find understanding and friendship," he concluded.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Feb. 28, 2000

French investors indicate interest in Nigeria's privatization programme

By Anayo Okoli

FRENCH investors have indicated interest in Nigeria’s on-going privatisation programme, saying they intend to buy shares in some of the nation’s companies.

The French investors are specifically interested in the banking sector, cement industry, water, motor assembly plant, transportation, refinery and telecommunications.

A 40-man trade delegation, under the umbrella of French Enterprises Association (MEDEF), comprising about 12 members, visited Nigeria last week and held talks with government and the private sector on the possibility of engaging in joint ventures.

The delegation, according to its leader, Mr. Mkhel Roussin, was in Nigeria to ascertain the real situation in the country because Nigeria is very important in the economic development of Africa.

Roussin told newsmen at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Friday night shortly before the delegation’s departure home that French firms were willing to do business with Nigerians.

"We are waiting for a clear political policy before investing. French investors have interest already.

We were able to ascertain the real situation in Nigeria.

"We have a very positive feeling about Nigeria. Nigeria has a very good image. We have come to become a very strong and good partner of Nigerian economy", Roussin said.

According to him, the French firms have carefully not shown interest in the oil sector, but rather in other sectors like water distribution, agriculture, railway transport system and power generation.

He said the delegation held meetings with President Obasanjo, Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, officials of the Nigerian Economic Summit, NACCIMA, Minister of Industry, Energy and Water Resources, as well as officials of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE).

The delegation said that French firms were ready to be involved in the privatisation programme of Nigeria and "we are ready to buy stocks". Besides, he said they were interested in the proposed Abuja urban railways system, but noted that no deals had been sealed yet.

"We have just come to get information and get precise political situation. The results will come later. It takes time, but the result will come", Roussin stated, adding that another delegation would visit Nigeria between March 26 and 29, while some members of his delegation would remain behind to conclude their appointments.

Vanguard Transmitted Monday, 28 February, 2000

PDP woos party MPs for Obasanjo

By Fidel Agu, Katsina

THE leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is waving the olive branch at the party’s federal legislators to take things easy with President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Although the PDP has a majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, this has not translated into a smooth relationship between the federal executive and the legislative arm.

Some members of the National Assembly have accused the President in particular of exhibiting dictatorial tendencies while the executive believes the legislature is trying to frustrate it.

But now, Deputy National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Iro Dan-Musa says the PDP leadership is not comfortable with this situation, especially threats by the legislators to impeach the President.

Speaking in an interview in Katsina, Alhaji Dan-Musa said: "We became worried over the constant misunderstandings between the President and members of the National Assembly.

"We became more uncomfortable when we realised that even the PDP members who are in the majority are not sparing the President.

We see the positions and utterances of our members on the President as a danger signal and we cannot afford to keep quiet."

He admitted that the party had not done enough to make its members in the legislature and executive see themselves as members of one family, noting that it was this lack of understanding that had brought about the problem.

Said he: "The situation is under control. This is more or less a teething problem.

I must confess that we as a party did not do much to harmonise the two bodies even when we have PDP in the majority in the two houses and also in the executive. So, it is our responsibility to see that they work harmoniously and we are working towards that.

"We had a meeting recently with PDP members in the National Assembly and we are still consulting with a view to settling them, and I hope very soon the problem will be over. The problem has been that of communication gap, between the two bodies but we are intervening," he stated.

The party chieftain observed that "if the two arms had been involved in the process of policy formulation at the early stage, these problems wouldn’t have been occurring. "But now I can assure you things are taking shape as a result of the intervention of the party leadership. The party is now moderating to make sure that the two arms of government understand and agree with each other. We are not actually after who is right but what is right," Alhaji Dan-Musa added. The PDP Deputy National Chairman, however, realises the incessant crises were part of the problems associated with the presidential system of government, where according to him there is no clear-cut separation of powers.

He said: "This is the problem with the presidential system of government when it comes to separation of powers. It has its problems and that was why some of us in the constitutional conference proposed modified presidential system so as to have a bit of fusion and separation in the system. That was how the idea of appointing some members of the National Assembly as ministers came," Dan-Musa explained.

Vanguard Transmitted Monday, 28 February, 2000

Monday, February 28, 2000

Students protest police presence in OAU, manhandle teachers

From Sola Shittu, Ile Ife

THE on-going strike by the non-teaching staff of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife took a new turn yesterday with students protesting the presence of policemen on the campus.

The students, who also want their examinations postponed by a week to enable the institution's authorities and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) resolve their differences, said they do not want policemen on the campus.

The authorities had in a bid to restore electricity and water supply invited the police to guard the institution's source of power.

Irked by the action, the students trooped out of the Afrika Theatre, venue of their congress, shouting "No to MOPOL" (Mobile Police) and singing songs in support of the striking non-academic workers.

Tension was, however, calmed by the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roger Makanjuola who ordered the policemen to leave the campus.

Shortly after, the students on sighting vehicles belonging to the chairman of the institution's chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Dr Otas Ukponwan and his predecessor, Dr Idowu Awopetu descended on them, deflating their tyres.

They accused the academic staff of sabotaging the strike by the non-teaching workers.

A recent statement by ASUU had sparked off controversy between the teaching and non-teaching staff of the institution.

ASUU had in the statement insisted that the examinations must go on because, to cancel them "will suggest that the lecturers and the students who represent the main actors in the academic activities in the universities are not relevant and that people who have nothing to do with our academic programmes are dictating the pace."

"We know that our students are primed for the examination, lecturers are ready and are looking forward to some rest before the commencement of the next session. It is the strong belief that the administration, if it is willing, has the capacity to provide water, electricity and healthcare services for students and other members of the university community," the union added.

It then urged its members and senate not to support any move to close down the university.

But the students after their congress meeting requested for extension of the examinations by one week.

They argued that "in a situation where there is no water supply, epidemic looms" and they "can not continue risking our lives when the health centre is also not working."

However, NASU and SSANU expressed their readiness to help the students.

"Our students have suffered enough and we are also parents. We have children among them, so we have to find a way of helping them on humanitarian ground irrespective of any provocation from any quarter," said the SSANU chairman, Reverend Ogidiolu Afolabi.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, February 28, 2000

Police arrest 300 over riot

From Saxone Akhaine, Kaduna

NO fewer than 300 persons may have been arrested by the police in connection with last week's Sharia protest in Kaduna.

Police sources told The Guardian at the weekend that most of the suspects are Nigerians and Chadians.

Adding that the police command has intensified efforts to arrest those still at large, they said that "dangerous weapons imported from neighbouring states" were found on them.

"Those we arrested, some of them were caught with dangerous weapons imported from the neighbouring states. The command will ensure that it gets to the root of this problem," one of the top police sources assured.

Meanwhile, the state government has released N5 million to the Christian Association of Nigeria and Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) leaders to enable them provide interim relief measures to those displaced in the crisis.

A statement by the Information Ministry's Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Bashir Ismaila Ahmad at the weekend, urged the associations to ensure smooth distribution of relief items to the victims.

Disclosing that "medicines and food items have been distributed to various hospitals to assist the victims," Ahmad appealed to corporate bodies, wealthy Nigerians and international agencies to assist the state.

The statement reads in part: "Concerned about the plight of persons displaced as a result of the recent religious disturbances in the state, the state Emergency Relief Commission has commenced efforts to render assistance to such persons in various centres.

"Medicines and food items have been distributed to various hospitals to assist the victims.

"The government has enlisted for the cooperation of the leadership of the two religious associations (CAN and JNI) in the distribution of the relief materials and the sum of N5 million has been provided as an interim measure to assist the victims.

"Government further wants to use this medium to appeal to public spirited individuals, organisations, corporate bodies, international agencies, and non-governmental organisations to render assistance in any form towards alleviating the suffering of the victims".

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, February 28, 2000

Death toll hits 90 in Kachia

THE death toll in Kachia and Walijo towns of Kachia Local Council into which the Kaduna violence spread last week, has hit 90 it has been confirmed.

Agency sources said council chairmen in the Southern part of Kaduna state moved by the casualty rate have begun send relief to surviving victims in Kachia, chairperson of Zongon Kataf Council, Mrs. Laurentia Mallam, has said.

Speaking through the spokesman of the council, Mr. Philemon Zamani, Mallam said in Zonkwa, at the weekend, that the councils were "making combined efforts to assist the victims of the disaster".

The councils involved are Zongon Kataf, Kaura, Jema'a Sanga, Jaba, Kachia and Kagarko.

At a meeting in Zonkwa, the council, chairmen decided "to embark on a peace mission towards ensuring peaceful co-existence among the religious sects" within their zone, through consultations with the affected communities.

The move they noted, became necessary, "following the unfortunate religious incident that took place in Kaduna, which ignited that of Kachia town, where thousands of victims are taking refuge at the Nigerian Army School of Artillery (NASA) and the rehabilitation centre in Kaduna".

They also cautioned members of the public within the senatorial zone against "any negative reactions to the deaths of their relations that might have fallen victim during the Kaduna crisis.

The chairmen stated that as elected representatives of the people, they were more concerned with progress and development in their areas than issues of retrogressive nature.

About 90 persons including a policeman have been confirmed dead during the crisis, which engulfed Kachia and Walijo towns in Kachia council.

In the meantime Dr. Joseph Bagobiri, Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan, in Jema'a council, has called on the people of Kafanchan and environs to shun any act that was capable of destroying the current peaceful atmosphere and religious harmony prevailing in the area.

Bagobiri made the call in Kafanchan at the weekend, after a peace meeting held between religious leaders and traditional rulers, presided over by the chairman of the council, Mr. Leo Gambo.

The Bauchi state government has taken measures to prevent a breakdown of law and order, in the state.

Muazu, in a broadcast on the security situation in the state, appealed to residents to maintain the peace, adding that "the government will not sit back and watch some selfish and disgruntled elements foment trouble in the state".

He said: "necessary measures have been taken to ensure that such elements are not allowed to carry out despicable acts, and the government will take decisive action against those who try to exploit the situation insome parts of the country to disrupt the peace here".

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, February 28, 2000

Why govt won't sue states over Sharia, by official

From Emeka Nwankpa, Abuja

FEDERAL Government's belief in the potency of moral suassion coupled with the need not to be accused as the prosecutor and a judge in the Sharia controversy, may have informed its resolve not to press charges against states which have introduced the Islamic legal code.

On the cards are a combination of options to appropriately deal with the development which has resulted in real agony in Kaduna State.

The Guardian learnt at the weekend that the resolve was also in government's unwavering belief in the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law.

A top government aide said President Olusegun Obasanjo had been "extremely careful, intensely agitated but unpredictably tactful" in handling the matter during all meetings at which measures to be adopted were discussed.

He said a suggestion that an aggrieved person or group of persons be officially sponsored was rejected by the president.

It was consequently learnt that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mr. Olisa Agbakoba had dragged the Zamfara State government to court joining the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister Kanu Agabi (SAN) as one of the defendants.

The Guardian learnt that government is keenly interested in the suit especially as it believes that it would eventually get to the Supreme Court for final determination, upon which it could now base its actions against the state especially if the Sharia rule is declared unconstitutional.

Part of such "lawful and legitimate" actions, it was learnt is the possibility of denying Zamfara state allocation of money realised from the sale and consumption of alcohol which accrues into the Federation Account monthly.

A senior government official hinted The Guardian.

"When you say that because of Sharia, you have banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in your state, it automatically means that you have denied yourself a share of such money which comes from that commercial activity in other parts of the country.

"So, in the sharing of the Value Added Tax (VAT), you have no moral justification to collect such money from the Federation Account. This is just one of the measures which shall be taken within the strict confines of the law," an aide explained.

He added: "so that suit filed by Agbakoba and such others that we envisage will come up eventually, have provided a litmus test for the operation of the Sharia in Zamfara state and such other states that toe that line. And this is to say that any such action arising from the Sharia which the court has declared unconstitutional and illegal will automatically have a retroactive effect. We will not go beyond this point because the matter in already in court."

He re-echoed the president's first reaction to the Zamfara declaration, saying the issue had become very sensitive and volatile and should be treated with utmost caution.

"The president as a Christian has been very tactful on this issue whenever it is discussed in the house. He has been quite alert to reason that any drastic or impulsive action taken on the matter could be easily interpreted to mean declaration of a religious war and he will be the last to do that.

The factor of federalism has also played a major role in his treatment of the issue. Above all he has often cautioned against acting against the rule of law," the aide stated.

Asked what would form government's submission to the Zamfara High Court where Agbakoba's suit had been filed, the aide who said the government team had almost finished preparing its submission, disclosed that its kernel would be that:

 

bulletThe Zamfara state government has vidated the provisions of section 10 of the 1999 constitution which forbids any state of the federation from declaring any part of the country as a Sharia state;
bulletWhile the Sharia legal system can be adopted, the limit to the adoption of such a system can be found in section 262, subsection 1 of the 1999 constitution which says that the Sharia Court of Appeal shall have jurisdiction to entertain civil jurisdiction involving questions of Islamic personal law, that is, marriage, guardianship, family relationship, custody of children, succession, etc but with a rider which stipulates that it only involves where all parties are Muslims;
bulletSince the constitution does not confer criminal jurisdiction on Sharia courts in the country, what the Zamfara state governor and the House of Assembly have done is tantamount to passing a law to give the Sharia (area) courts powers to implement Sharia and exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction which runs counter to the constitution.
bulletan example of the unconstitutionality and illegality is in an event where a Muslim denounces Islam otherwise called Ridda in the Islamic statutes while the Sharia stipulates death as a capital punishment, it is contrary to section 38 of the constitution which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and freedom of religion;
bulletalso, the ideas that women must wear veil and males and females can not sit together in public are a clear violation of the freedom of movement and association which is embodied in the Fundamental Human Rights provision of the constitution;
bulletalso, the ban on the sale and drinking of alcohol throughout Zamfara State is unconstitutional, including any such punitive measures taken by the Zamfara state authorities against such persons found to be engaged in that activity in as much as the supreme law of the land allows and recognises it.

"The Federal Government is very happy with this development (the Agbakoba suit) because we had preferred to allow the matter take a natural course. We don't want to be seen as prosecutor and judge at the sametime. Many private people or every corporate concerns who could have wanted us to go and challenge this in court could have done so but we presume they are reluctant for the same reason. The Federal Government has been cautions," he stated.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Monday, February 28, 2000

Obasanjo needs N12.5b to end power cuts

By Joseph Sesebo, Yakubu Lawal and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)

SOME N12.5 billion is required in the short term by the Presidency to end incessant power outages nationwide.

President Olusegun Obasanjo also requires about N2.37 billion to defray expenditure incurred in the last five months on military operations and national emergencies, and about N1.5 billion to augment proposed votes for overseas trips by himself and Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, as well as entertainment and hospitality votes for the State House.

With the required monies not included in this year's Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly late last year, and which is yet to get through the legislative mill, the President has requested the Assembly's appropriation through an Addendum to the 2000 Appropriation bill lately sent for the lawmakers' consideration.

In a set of Representatives Speaker Ghali Umaru Na'Abba and dated February 20, President Obasanjo solicited the legislature's understanding for the requests to facilitate appropriation.

He explained in one of the letters to Alhaji Na'Abba that there is need to buy and install a 600 mega watts gas turbine generator, "side-by-side with the existing (Lagos Thermal Power Plant at Egbin)˛ to bring the total combined national installed capacity to about 6500 mega watts."

The president had in the letter underlined the imperative of reviving the Egbin Plant "to boost electricity generation for the national grid."

Restating that "reduction of power outages across the country is one of the goals of this Administration in order to improve˛ the social and economic life of the citizens," he explained that additional power generated by the proposed new gas plant "will offset the reduction from hydro plants during the dry season so as to constantly have 400 mega watts.

On costs, President Obasanjo said: "The rehabilitation of the existing plant, at Egbin will cost $70,147,000 (N7,014,700,000) while the 600 mega watts gas turbine generator with installation will cost $55 million (N5.5 billion), bringing the amount required for the two items to N12,514,70,000.

"The amount has been included in the Addendum to the 2000 Appropriation Bill for your kind consideration and appropriation," he added in his letter to the House of Representatives Speaker.

The text of the President's letter to Na'Abba on "Financial Requirements of Military and other National Emergencies" reads:

"There are some outstanding expenditure incurred in the last quarter of 1999, as well as those for January and February, 2000, arising from military operations and national emergencies. These expenditure items were not included in the 200 Appropriation Bill now receiving the consideration of the National Assembly. Accordingly, the items of expenditure are hereby presented for inclusion and appropriation in the 2000 Appropriation Bill. They are as follows:

 

bulletSustenance of the operations of Nigerian troops in different parts of the country for the period October - December, 1999 - N404,424,675.00;
bulletSealift of petroleum products to NIGCON ECOMOG in Monrovia and Freetown for October, November and December, 1999 - N61,880,000;
bulletReplenishing the stock of petroleum products and lubricants to Nigeria troops in Liberia and Sierra Leone in October to December, 1999 and January to February, 2000 - N273,960,800;
bulletLogistic requirements for Ijaw-Ilaje crises in Ondo State, 28 to 30 November, 1999 - N22,800,000;
bulletSustenance of Operation of Nigeria Troops in Bakassi and North-Western/North-Eastern Zones against banditry - N1,200,000,000;
bulletAirlift of troops from Sierra Leone to Nigeria - N60,000,000;
bulletMilitary/Civilian Democratic Training - N350,000,000;

Total - N2,373,065,475.

"Consequently, provision has been made in the Addendum to the 2000 Appropriation Bill to be presented to the National Assembly."

The Presidency requested the National Assembly to approve over N1 billion as addition to an earlier proposal in the budget for overseas trips by the president and vice-president.

According to a letter addressed to the House of Representatives Speaker dated February 21, 2000, President Obasanjo is requesting for the sum because of the inadequacy of the earlier proposal of N486,226,440. For himself and N230,000,000 for Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

It is also to enable them undertake more overseas visits to boost relations with foreign countries and improve the economy's external sector.

It reads: "As you are aware, the vice president and I travel out to a number of foreign countries in order to improve the external sector of our economy and the overall relations with the countries visited.

"The visits have yielded immense economic and political dividends for the country and the economy. There will be need for more of such trips throughout the year, moreso, as Nigeria is the chairman of the Group of 77 Developing Countries, a responsibility which involves extensive travelling both by the vice president and myself."

Also justifying the expenditure which jacks the total request to N1.5 billion, the letter said: "There will also be used to pay increased fueling, lauding and over flying charges whenever short range aircraft(s) are used for some of the trips, as it will involve more stops and consequent higher landing and refueling charges."

The president also requested the approval of N270 million in addition to the N230 million earlier presented for "entertainment and hospitality for the State House."

Explaining the need for both sums now totalling N500 million, the president said: "meetings and visits to the State House have increased tremendously of recent.

"Also there is need for greater social events for more interaction and interface between the executive and the legislature."

Sources close to the Speaker say the legislators are unhappy with piece-meal method of the Presidency in making requests for budgetary provisions in the budget.

For instance, said a source 24 hours before this request was presented, the president had presented another for the purchase of a refurbished aircraft at an estimated sum of N8 billion.

He also reportedly requested approval for N15 billion for the completion of the Aluminium Smelter plant at Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, - all to be included as an "addendum" to the year 2000 appropriation bill.

This, according to the source, is frustrating the legislators effort to ensure a quick passage of the bill, expected to be passed by the representatives next week.

In yet another, the president explained that the recent streamlining of poverty alleviation agencies followed that their proliferation had given rise to ineffectiveness.

The streamlining includes the merger of the Peoples Bank of Nigeria with the Nigeria Agricultural and Cooperative Bank to form Nigerian Agricultural, Cooperative and Rural Development Bank.

The new institution is to effectively tackled the problem of agriculture, landing and rural development and will be supervised by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development which is charged with ensuring that loans are provided for farming, livestock, poultry and fisheries.

Other key decisions in the programme, according to the president include:

bulletretention of the National Directorate of Employment though it is restricted to training for skills acquisition, vocational training and other general programmes associated with employment generation;
bullettake-over of Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation by National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NICON);
bullettake-over of the Federal Urban Mass Transit Agency (FUMTA) by the Federal Ministry of Transport with a view to winding up its operation and all its debts recovered;
bulletwinding up of the National Agricultural Land Development Agency with its staff and equipment transferred to the agriculture ministry and other poverty alleviation agencies;
bulletwinding up of the Family Economic Advancement Programme with its assets and liabilities transferred to the new Nigerian Agricultural, Cooperative and Development Bank;
bulletwinding up of the Federal Agricultural Coordinating Unit (FACU) and Agricultural Projects Monitoring and Evaluation Unit (APMEU) while a unit in the agriculture ministry should take over their responsibilities, and;
bulletmerger of Nigeria Bank for Commerce and Industry, (NBCI), Nigeria Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) and the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND).

Obasanjo said these steps followed recommendation of a committee set up to study the Ahmed Joda panel report on the Streamlining and Rationalisation of Poverty Alleviation Institutions/Agencies constituted in July 1999.

The president said the Federal Executive Council had also approved the establishment of Small and Medium Industries Development Agency (SMIDA). He said: "A Poverty Alleviation and Eradication Council (PAEC) headed by the president and composed of the vice-president, 10 ministers and the chief economic adviser to the president as members, with the secretariat in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will take charge of the overall policy formulation and coordination of Poverty Alleviation and Eradication Agencies in Nigeria."

To give legal backing to these efforts, government is drafting a bill which will soon be presented to the National Assembly, he added.

The president urged the Assembly to note that all institutions and agencies being proposed for streamlining were currently operating under different laws and enabling decrees, therefore requiring legislative endorsement.

He also promised to forward a bill to the House for a minor amendment to the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission Decree of 1997, to make it relevant to the country's present needs.

This is in addition to another bill, which will make the first mine years of formal education compulsory in the country.

The letter, according to him is to keep the Assembly posted on steps being taken by the executive and to solicit their understanding and support.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper