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Nigeria: InterPress on US Policy
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Nigeria: InterPress on US Policy
Date Distributed (ymd): 960313
Title: NIGERIA-U.S.: Nigeria Crisis Industry Thrives In Black
by Rose Umoren
WASHINGTON, Mar 6 (IPS) - Nigeria's political crisis has
produced a thriving industry in black America.
Hardly a month passes without a group of U.S. blacks reporting
its ''fact-finding mission'' to Nigeria. The aim, say
participants, is to promote dialogue among Nigerians some
6,000 miles away, and between the Bill Clinton administration
and the Sani Abacha regime.
A 10-person group returned last month-end from an eight-day
trip that was arranged by Steve Hayes, who runs the American
Centre for International Leadership (ACIL) from the University
Louis Farrakhan, head of the 20,000-member, Chicago-based
Nation of Islam, visited Nigeria twice in February, also on a
''fact- finding mission.''
A variety of groups visited last year. One was a group of
''black journalists'', even though some like Roy Innis, head
of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), had practiced
little journalism. Following their return, Innis declared that
''all Nigerians were happy with their government''.
Nigeria has also seen an array of lobbyists, some of whom have
placed advertisements praising the Abacha regime in the New
York Times front section under various umbrellas, some
hitherto unheard of. A full-page ad in the Times costs as much
as 125,000 dollars.
Former U.S. deputy assistant agriculture secretary Joan
Wallace signed one of the ads last Feb. 16, criticising
Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, one of nine Ogoni activists
executed by the regime last November. Wallace claims to have
walked ''through the streets of Ogoniland, talking with
The ad listed a telephone number as belonging to the National
Coalition for Fairness in African Policy which purportedly
paid for it. But several telephone calls by IPS over a
three-week period have failed to be returned.
The Abuja government had directly paid for most of the trips.
This may have changed with the latest mission. The regime
appears to be getting its friends abroad to search for more
credible black Americans to launder its image and plead for a
stay of U.S. sanctions which have been anticipated since
The financier of the last trip appears to be Kamel Ghriby, a
wealthy Tunisian national. According to a report by delegation
member, Dave Peterson of the National Democratic Institute
(NDI), Ghriby sells Nigerian oil on the spot oil market, a
particularly lucrative business, says the World Bank, for
Nigerian military leaders.
Accounts vary as to when the nine other delegates -- which
included the past president of the African American Institute,
Vivian Derryck, former congressional aide Frank Kiehne, and
former Pentagon lawyer James Woods -- knew of their sponsor's
link to the regime.
In his report to the NDI, the international wing of the
Democratic Party here, Peterson says it was ''immediately
before our departure.'' Before that, ''I had been told
(Ghriby) had no direct investments in Nigeria and no
relationship to Shell.''
Melvin Foote, another delegation member who describes the
mission of his Constituency for Africa (CFA) as sensitising
''African Americans, in particular, about the need to support
the socio-economic development of Africa,'' has a different
story. He told IPS he only got to know of the 34-year-old
Tunisian's business dealings with the Abacha regime a day
before the visit ended.
In a telephone interview Monday, trip organiser Hayes at first
insisted that the trip was financed by 'Olympic Management'
and referred IPS to its Italian headquarters. Pressed about
Ghriby, however, Hayes asserted that he had ''personally
briefed (every delegate) before the trip'' about Ghriby's
connections. When? ''Several days before the trip,'' he
He declined to discuss the matter further, beyond confirming
that Ghriby runs 'Olympic Management' and that Hayes had
approached him for the funding.
Foote, however, said Ghriby ''is very wealthy'' and wants to
be compared to George Soros, the investor-philanthropist known
as ''a promoter of peace in the world.'' The group travelled
aboard Ghribi's airplane, said Foote.
Peterson, on the other hand, described Ghriby as ''a generous
sponsor,'' but pointed out that ''he was ... probably under
some pressure to please the Nigerian authorities.''
Once in Nigeria, the government altered the group's
pre-arranged itinerary. Their chief host, they discovered,
would be Nigeria's oil minister Dan Etete. They were wined and
dined by government appointees, oil companies and other
associates of the regime.
On the other hand, they were kept away from human rights
groups, members of the opposition and the survivors of
Saro-Wiwa and the eight other Ogoni rights activists executed
Some, like Peterson, nonetheless returned with an informative
account of the deteriorating situation. He reports: ''The
current level of repression, in fact, is undoubtedly the
highest Nigeria has ever known. The transition programme is
even more orchestrated and lacking in credibility than that of
(former President Gen. Ibrahim) Babangida''.
''The level of repression in Rivers state is probably the
worst in Nigeria, the fear is palpable, and the oil companies
are likely playing an active role in this,'' he said.
Foote, on the other hand, chose to celebrate a meeting with
the long-detained winner of the 1993 presidential elections,
Moshood Abiola, as ''as an opportunity of sorts to promote
dialogue'', as he wrote in a memo to Susan Rice, the Africa
director on the National Security Council (NSC).
Foote argued that there was yet no need for new sanctions and
that the regime should be given more time to follow through on
its promises of a transition to democratic rule.
A sombre-sounding Foote, however, admitted Monday that his
group made little headway at the NSC and that the
administration ''seems focused on sanctions.''
For his part, Farrakhan has said he would soon return to
Nigeria with a team of lawyers to review the records of the
executed Ogoni's trial.
Asked who was funding the Muslim minister's trips, James
Muhammed, editor of the Nation of Islam newspaper, the Final
Call, dismissed the question. ''What is important is that we
went and are helping to get black America involved in
resolving the situation,'' Muhammed, who accompanied
Farrakhan, told IPS Tuesday. (END/IPS/RU/YJC/96)
Title: U.S.-NIGERIA: U.S. Plans to Increase Pressure on
by Rose Umoren
WASHINGTON, Mar 7 - The United States has indicated that it
has completed its Nigeria policy review and has strengthened
its efforts to ''secure change'' in that country along with
This is in part because ''the situation in recent months has
deteriorated very seriously in Nigeria,'' Under-Secretary of
State for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth said here Wednesday.
Washington has singled out Nigeria, of all African countries,
as one of the world's worst human rights abusers. The
assessment is contained in the State Department's annual human
rights report Congress around the world.
Nigeria ''presents a more classic picture of human rights
abuse (than Cuba), as the regime of General Sani Abacha
continues ruthlessly to suppress dissent,'' says the overview
of the country-by-country report.
The west African country's unfavourable comparison with Cuba,
on which the Clinton administration has just unleashed a
barrage of new sanctions, has sent many in Washington into a
Nigeria is grouped in the overview with Burma, Cuba, Iran,
Iraq, Libya and North Korea -- all so-called ''pariah'' or
''rogue'' states in the U.S. political lexicon.
In briefings on the report Wednesday, all administration
officials have harped on Nigeria.
Worse, unlike some of its fellow human rights pariahs, the
Abacha regime is also a main item of U.S. narcotics war.
''It is no coincidence that two nations singled out in our
reports, Nigeria and Burma, were also featured in our drug
decertifications last week,'' Secretary of State Warren
Christopher told reporters Wednesday. ''Their disdain for law
protects the drug trade even as it harms ordinary citizens.''
According to Wirth, the Nigeria policy review convinced the
administration it must focus a spotlight on the regime's human
Some think the long-expected new sanctions against the regime
The human rights report on Nigeria is a chilling account of a
government that has declared war on its citizens. The horrors
range from rampant extra-judicial killings to torture,
arbitrary arrests and detention in ''life threatening''
The icing on the regime's cake last year was its November
hanging of renowned writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni
minority rights activists. The report describes their trial by
a special tribunal for the murder of four Ogoni chiefs as
''completely lacking in respect for due process.''
It also charges that ''mobile anti-crime police patrols
routinely shot people suspected of armed robbery'' in Nigeria.
Apparently following in the central government's footsteps,
some state governments' task forces, such as Lagos state's
''environmental task force,'' carried out their own
In the course of the year, this task force shot dead ''several
citizens who failed to stop at checkpoints or failed to comply
with task force orders,'' says the report which cites dates,
places and names of victims.
Political detainees include the winner of the June 1993
presidential election annulled by the military, Moshood
Abiola. Abiola has been held largely incommunicado since June
1994 when he declared himself president on the anniversary of
Other political detainees cited in the report include the
internationally respected former head of state General
Olusegun Obasanjo, as well as journalists, human rights
activists and trade unionists.
Quoting the Nigerian Civil Liberties Organization, the report
says the number of political detainees could be as high as
50,000. If true, that represents nearly 77 percent of the
total prison population of 65,000.
It says: ''The government continued to enforce its arbitrary
authority through the Federal security system (the military,
the state security service and the national police), and
through decrees blocking action by the opposition in the
courts. All branches of the security forces committed numerous
serious human rights abuses.''
In a quick reaction to the report, Amnesty International has
called on the administration to match ''the strong rhetorical
position on Nigeria in this report'' with action.
''The U.S. should lead the effort to pass a resolution at the
upcoming United Nations Human Rights Commission and should
also support the appointment of a special rapporteur on
Nigeria,'' said Amnesty, which, with other international NGOs,
has been campaigning for a tougher international stance
against the Abacha junta.(END/IPS/RU/JL/96)
Origin: Washington/U.S.-NIGERIA/[c] 1996, InterPress Third
World News Agency (IPS) All rights reserved
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