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Nigeria: Africa Fund Update
Nigeria: Africa Fund Update
Date distributed (ymd): 970426
Document reposted by APIC
THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM IN NIGERIA
A Special Update For the National Consultation on Africa, April 18-19,
1997, Washington DC
The Africa Fund, 17 John St., 12th Floor, New York, NY 10038. Tel: 212-962-1210;
fax: 212-964-8570; e-mail: email@example.com.
by Michael Fleshman
[Note: for more information on the Consultation, please contact the
Nobel Laureate Among 16 Democracy Leaders Charged With Treason
Nobel-winning author Wole Soyinka, exiled pro-democracy leader Chief
Anthony Enahoro and 14 other leaders of Nigeria's largest democratic organization,
the National Democratic Coalition of Nigeria (NADECO), were charged with
treason on March 12 by the country's military government. The indictments
drew immediate condemnation from the international community and human
rights groups, and fueled mounting skepticism about the regime's announced
commitment to the restoration of democracy in 1998.
Significantly, the charges came 72 hours before the scheduled beginning
of local elections, a carefully orchestrated centerpiece of the dictatorship's
transition program. Four of the accused, including Soyinka and Enahoro,
are already in exile and were charged in absentia. The remaining 12 opposition
leaders are being held without bail in a military prison -- among an estimated
7,000 pro-democracy activists imprisoned by the regime.
Imprisoned Environmentalists Tortured
Attorneys for 19 imprisoned Nigerian environmentalists filed an urgent
motion for bail in early April, charging the military government with torture
and abuse of their clients. The motion charges that one prisoner lost several
fingers under police torture and that another had gone blind due to inhuman
prison conditions and lack of medical care. The 19 were active in a non-violent
campaign against the Shell oil company's environmental pollution in Nigeria.
The head of that campaign, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight others were hanged
by the dictatorship in November 1995 after a trial denounced by Amnesty
International and the United Nations as a travesty. Two detainees have
already died in prison. The surviving 19 are entering their third year
in prison without trial. They face the same trumped-up murder charges used
to convict and execute Saro-Wiwa. The Africa Fund is working with Amnesty
International, The Sierra Club and other organizations on an international
campaign to free the Ogoni 19.
Cities, Pension Funds Target Companies In Nigeria
The Africa Fund is working closely with a growing number of institutional
investors, including five New York City pension funds worth over $60 billion,
who have adopted policies to vote for shareholder resolutions favoring
human rights and democracy in Nigeria. Nigeria resolutions will be introduced
at Shell, Chevron and other corporations' shareholders meetings this spring.
The investor actions complement efforts by municipal and state legislators
to pass local pro-democracy resolutions and sanctions laws. New York, Oakland
and New Orleans have already adopted Nigeria measures and similar acts
have been introduced in a dozen other cities and counties, including Alameda
County California, Amherst, Massachusetts and St. Louis Missouri. State
and local government sanctions were critical to the success of the campaign
for anti-apartheid sanctions.
Flawed Elections Raise Doubts About Democracy Transition Timetable
Widespread irregularities and political interference in last month's
local government elections in Nigeria have given new ammunition to critics
who charge that the regime's timetable for the restoration of democracy
is a sham. Voting in 138 of 779 districts -- nearly 1 in 5 -- was so badly
flawed that the results were annulled by the National Election Commission.
The allegedly independent Commission was later forced to restore the results
in three of the 138 disputed districts at the insistence of the local military
The commission also conceded that in many parts of the country the number
of "registered" voters exceeded the total population, suggesting
massive voter fraud. In another embarrassing indication of military manipulation,
the head of one of the five legal political parties -- all carefully screened
for their pro-military sympathies -- was dismissed and briefly arrested
by the government after suggesting he would challenge dictator Sani Abacha's
expected candidacy for the Presidency in 1998. It is widely expected that
all five approved parties will nominate Abacha as their Presidential candidate,
lending a democratic veneer to continued military rule.
In 1993 the Nigerian army annulled free and fair Presidential elections
and jailed the winner, businessman Moshood Abiola. Two years later, under
growing international and domestic pressure, the regime announced its own
rigidly controlled democracy timetable, with local and regional elections
leading to new Presidential elections in 1998. Many Nigerian and foreign
observers argue that with thousands of democracy activists in jail, press
freedom banned and the Constitution suspended, the dictatorship lacks the
legitimacy to conduct a credible transition process.
Journalist Arrested as Press Assault Continues
A leading Nigerian journalist, Ladi Olorunyomi, was arrested by Nigerian
security police on March 20. The wife of National Consultation on Africa
panelist Dapo Olorunyomi, remains in prison without charge. In New York,
the Committee To Protect Journalists, a press freedom group headed by Walter
Cronkite, condemned the arrest as "a blatant attack on press freedom,
journalists and their families." The Nigerian media has been hit hard
by repression since dictator Sani Abacha seized power in 1993.
U.S. Religious Leaders Press For Sanctions
In February a national delegation of religious leaders, headed by Reverend
Wyatt Tee Walker, former Chief of Staff to Martin Luther King, and National
Council of Churches General Secretary Reverend Joan Campbell met with White
House and corporate leaders to press for economic sanctions against Nigeria.
The delegation met with National Security Council Advisor Samuel Berger
and with senior officials of the Mobil Oil company, the second largest
producer of Nigerian oil. The delegation presented Berger with a statement
signed by over 70 religious leaders condemning repression in Nigeria and
a copy of the World Council of Churches' report on human rights abuses
in the Nigerian oil fields.
Reverend Walker, President of the Africa Fund's associate, The American
Committee On Africa, said that the delegation had reminded Mobil executives
that "slavery too was profitable. We must never accept that profits
are more important than human life."
Tailor Jailed For Insulting Dictator
A tailor in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, Nigerian dictator Abacha's
home town, was arrested in January for publicly criticizing the military
ruler. Bashir Musa was the 47th person arrested since December 1996 for
"insulting" Abacha and other members of the ruling elite.
Legislative Action For Democracy In Nigeria
What You Can Do
"The international interest in Nigeria's human rights record is
not interference in its affairs but legitimate concern expressed by the
international community. Hence sanctions...must be viewed as intervention
and not interference." -- Nigerian Methodist Bishop Sunday Mbang
State and local legislators played a critical role in the international
campaign against apartheid by passing resolutions condemning apartheid
and legislating local sanctions. Today it is Nigeria's 100 million people
that are struggling for democracy against a brutal military dictatorship.
They have asked us to impose sanctions against U.S. and European companies,
particularly Shell, Mobil and Chevron, who generate the billions of dollars
needed to finance the regime. The Africa Fund can help you support the
restoration of democracy and human rights in Africa's largest country with
information and analysis, direct contact with Nigerian democracy leaders
and expert testimony. Below is a sample resolution for freedom in Nigeria
that you can introduce in your state legislature. Some cities have gone
further, imposing selective purchasing and other sanctions on the dictatorship.
Contact the Africa Fund for more information.
WHEREAS in 1993 a free and fair Presidential election in the west African
nation of Nigeria was annulled and a military dictatorship seized power,
suspending the constitution, banning the free press and independent trade
unions, removing thousands of democratically elected officials and conducting
a bloody crackdown on the democratic opposition,
WHEREAS the democratically elected President of Nigeria, Moshood Abiola,
has been imprisoned without trial for nearly three years, leading political,
cultural and human rights leaders have been jailed, murdered or forced
into exile and human rights organizations like Amnesty International have
documented the widespread use of torture, rape, assault and extra-judicial
execution against pro-democracy leaders,
WHEREAS the 1995 execution of internationally respected Ogoni environmentalist
Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight supporters after a trial before a military tribunal
was condemned by world leaders from President Clinton to Nelson Mandela,
and another 19 environmentalists face execution on the same false charges
used to convict Ken Saro-Wiwa,
WHEREAS the Nigerian dictatorship depends on the sale of oil for 90
percent of its export earnings and over 80 percent of all government revenue
and the United States, which buys nearly half of Nigeria's annual oil output,
has powerful economic leverage over the dictatorship,
WHEREAS the citizens of the State of
______________________________, support the immediate restoration of human
rights and democracy in Nigeria and believe that the United States should
use its economic influence to assist the Nigerian people in their non-violent
struggle for freedom,
RESOLVED that the Legislature of the State of _________________________
commends the Nigerian people for their courageous and peaceful struggle
against repression and tyranny, demands the immediate release of Moshood
Abiola, the Ogoni 19 and all other political prisoners and calls on the
United States government to take all practical steps, including economic
sanctions, to secure the prompt restoration of democracy and respect for
human rights in Nigeria.
Daily Challenge (Thursday April 10, 1997)
Rule of law in Nigeria was on the verge of collapse
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA Two U.N. rights investigators, warning that the rule of law in
Nigeria was on the verge of collapse, called on the military government
on Wednesday to halt extra-judicial executions and arbitrary arrests by
In a scathing report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, they called
on Lagos to release and pardon political prisoners including those convicted
in the 1995 trial of alleged "coup plotters," including former
head of state Olusegun Obasanjo.
Nigeria must allow the Supreme Court to hear an appeal by Chief Moshood
Abiola, the presidential claimant jailed on treason charges since June
1994, according to Malaysian lawyer Param Cumaraswamy, U.N. rapporteur
on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Senegal's Bacre Waly Ndiaye,
U.N. rapporteur on extrajudicial or arbitrary executions.
The murder of Abiola's wife, Kudirat, in June 1996 should also be fully
investigated, they added.
"It appears that under the military government of Nigeria today
the rule of law is on the verge of collapse, if it has not already collapsed,"
their joint report said. "Whether there is a Constitution left is
"The Government of Nigeria must take effective measures to prevent
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, as well as torture, ill-treatment
and arbitrary arrest and detention, by members of the security forces,"
"This situation is exacerbated by governmental lawlessness in the
form of refusal by the military government and its agencies to obey court
Some 70,000 people remain detained either upon conviction, remand or
without trial, according to the U.N. investigators. Some 60 per cent await
trial, and Abiola "continues to languish" in jail awaiting his
appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court.
The U.N. investigators repeated that they had called off their mission
to Nigeria in February after authorities denied them full access to detainees
including those already tried.
They urged the 53-member forum to appoint a separate country rapporteur
to closely scrutinize Nigeria Africa's most populous country. Their report
was based on allegations from non-governmental organizations and a recent
trip by an aide.
But Auwalu Yadudu, top legal adviser to Nigeria's military ruler, General
Sani Abacha, took the floor at the U.N. Commission on Tuesday evening to
defend his country's record.
Yadudu said by diplomats to "call the shots" on legal matters
in Nigeria rejected allegations of summary executions, torture and arbitrary
detentions as "unfounded."
"It is a matter of serious concern that events in Nigeria have
been deliberately misrepresented and exaggerated," he said.
Yadudu pledged that "all suspects" charged last month for
alleged involvement with a spate of recent bombings in Nigeria who face
the death penalty for treason would receive a public trial "in full
observance of due process of the law."
Rights groups fear that the 12 to 15 dissidents accused of treason who
include exiled Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka will be tried by
a special tribunal without a right to appeal in conditions like those of
author Ken Sara Wiwa and eight Ogoni activists hanged amid an outcry in
Along with Soyinka, others charged in absentia at a Lagos magistrate
court were several exiled leaders of the opposition group the National
Democratic Goalition (NADECO). The remaining 10 or so suspects are in detention.
Soyinka and other pro-democracy activists are fighting for Abacha's
annulment of 1993 elections to be reversed and for Abiola, who took a commanding
lead in that vote, to be freed and installed as president.
Abacha, who seized power in 1993 after previous army rulers aborted
a plan to return Nigeria to civil rule, has promised that constitutional
rule will start by October 1, 1998.
Yadudu also refuted the U.N. investigators' claim that authorities had
not been ready to grant them full access to detainees in line with normal
procedures for such missions. "We are unable to accept any such account,"
he told the Commission.
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