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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Nigeria: Civil Liberties Organization, 1

Nigeria: Civil Liberties Organization, 1
Date distributed (ymd): 980107
Document reposted by APIC

CORRECTION: In the posting on January 2, 1998, the URL reference to a site on El Nino contained a misprint (nooa instead of noaa). The correct URL is:

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
Summary Contents: This posting contains part 1 of a year-end summary report on human rights from the Civil Liberties Organization, Nigeria, as well as pointers to other recent documents on Nigeria. The CLO report was originally posted on the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.nigeria by the Nigerian Democratic Movement (NDM; e-mail:, as OPPRESSION WATCH 22 (December 20, 1997). This and other postings on Usenet newsgroups can be located on the Web by using a search engine which includes Usenet (such as Part 2 is in the next posting.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For recent news on Nigeria, see

For a even wider variety of news sources see

For an archive of action-oriented documents from the shellnigeria -action listserv, see

Important documents recently distributed on that listserv include news articles on the Abacha regime's lobbying efforts involving businessman Gilbert Chagoury, National Baptist leader Rev. Henry Lyons, and DC Mayor Marion Barry; the World Council of Churches September 1997 statement on Nigeria; news of the successful naming of Kudirat Abiola Corner in New York City; and comments on other current developments in Nigeria. To subscribe to the listserv send the message "subscribe shell-nigeria-action [your name]" to






From direct threats of hostility to actual consummation of same, the Gen. Sani Abacha regime has clearly acquired the image of a regime that harbours, a most insignificant if any tolerance at all for the opposition.

The list of political detainees lengthens virtually daily even as relations of those government considers as rebels suffer untold harassment, sometimes culminating in detention that stretches for weeks and even months. This year alone, Mrs Ladi Olorunyo has been arrested and detained twice for no other reason than the fact that she is married to Dapo Olorunyomi, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Independent Communication (publishers of The News and Tempo) who is currently in exile.

Today, activists in exile are in fact, as many as those in detention, each of them having to escape into safety after series of unmistakable threats to their lives even after some of them had been detained for several months. Pa Anthony Enahoro (in his 70s) and Chief Cornelius Adebayo, both leaders of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) were in 1995 detained for more than eighty days without any charge. Before they were picked up, Chief Frank Kokori, former Secretary General of NUPENG had been and he is still there. Although the likes of Chiefs Enahoro and Adebayo had to forcibly abandon the comfort of their homes, others like Pa Alfred Rewane and Alhaja Kudirat Abiola (wife of detained Bashorun Abiola, winner of the June 12 Presidential election) were not lucky. They were hacked to death by those suspected to be government agents. Till date, the Nigerian Police has not come up with any discovery on the death of these two prominent Nigerians.


The death, on Monday December 8, 1997 of the former Number two citizen of Nigeria, Retired Major Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'adua, has further confirmed reports by Human Rights activists, former prisoners and even the prison authorities about the deplorable situation of Nigeria prison system. Recounts Chima Ubani, Head of Human Rights Education Project of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) detained between July 1995 and October 1996;


"It is quite easy to see how a detainee or prisoner can die in custody. First of all in Ikoyi Prison there is no standard medical facility. During the periods I was there, Ikoyi prisons had no doctors at its clinics. All they had was a matron who did he diagnosis which at best is incompetent. Based on that, she will make prescription and then the medicine will not be there. Then the prisoner is now required to find a way of buying the medicine. And in prison, you have no income and have no access the outside world.

What this translates to is that the prisoner now has to find a way of contacting his relations with this prescription and wait until his people bring the medicine. In the process, valuable time that can make difference between life and death is lost.

If you are a political detainee it is worse because prisoners had visiting days on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays from morning to Crowds usually come for these visits. But for the political prisoners he is not entitled to any visit by Decree 2. at sickness you are at the mercy of the matron. If you are lucky they may have panadol or chloroquine. At a point when I was sick the matron diagnosed malaria and prescribed chloroquine.

The drug is not even given to you. The notion is that you might take overdose and commit suicide with it in your cell. The matron gave me some tablets two of which were chloroquine, one capsule say of tetracycline and the other were panadol. As a lay man, I know that a dosage is 4 tablets of chloroquine. So I complained and then she made it four. Ikoyi is supposed to be a highbrow prison. So if it is this bad, you can imagine what goes on in Abakaliki prison.

The theory here is that if the condition is not bad you are supposed to be taken to Kirikiri where they have a doctor. But I never went there so I can't verify. But in practice I saw a lot of inmates sick to the point of death and there were no federal vehicles to take them to Kirikiri. Even to take persons to court it was BlackMaria. There was a time of epidemic that caused stooling contacted by a lot of awaiting-trial persons. They were stooling and vomiting, that was in late 1996, August or September. Sometimes you will have 2-3 deaths in a day until it got to an unbearable situation when the inmates rioted and broke open the roof into the yard. Mobile policemen were brought in to quell the riot and the deputy controller of Ikoyi prisons was removed.

Even with the best medical facilities, the conditions are at horrible levels. Nutrition is appalling which affects ones immunity to sickness. Throughout three weeks I was at Ikoyi, I was served beans for breakfast, not the type properly prepared and th it was of small quantity. This was breakfast everyday. In the afternoon, everyday except on Sunday it was eba with very watery soup and in the evenings it was either amala or eba with same kind of watery soup. On Sunday afternoon we were served coloured rice called jollof rice. Taken together, it is a starvation diet. It is easy to see how a man's immune system can collapse.

This lack of proper diet is complimented by unhygenic living conditions. At least I can speak authoritatively on the awaiting trial sections. Cells are congested without toilet and bathroom facilities. In my own cell called 'B ward single' which is ordinarily meant for one person had eight persons. It was even considered privilege because it had a waste bin serving as toilet. And when you want to ease yourself you can use the blanket to screen off yourself. The filled bucket stays there throughout the day until the following morning when it is evacuated by some of the convicted prisoners. Another corner of same cell-served us as bathroom, drained by a hole at the wall. It was meant for passage of water. Wale Oshun former Secretary of NADECO, Chief Adisa Akinloye and John Odum of NUBIFIE had passed through this same cell. For those of us who were considered privileged, we had blanket, mattresses and bed. But for others there was nothing like these and for the vast majority not even mats. In such cells there were about 80 to 100 persons. I know this because every morning the warder will come to take inventory of every member of each cell to ensure no escape and how many to feed. And this is announced to the hearing of us all.

Ventilation was another thing, except for fancy blocks with holes. In the general cell there are windows mostly one each, so there is no cross ventilation. This made spread of skin rashes, tuberculosis fast, which is why most inmates are walking skeletons.

Warders pilfer prison food. Senior warders diverted prisoner's food. When the riot of 1996 broke out, the Controller-General of Prisons in Lagos visited the prison. Because the inmates were up in arms, he set up a forum in which each cell nominated ea person to testify about the cause of the riot. The single cell nominated me. One of the allegation inmate made was the pilfering of inmates food and funds meant for them. At the end, prison officials were either retired and redeployed. It was during his period that I was released. Basic toiletries such as soap, insecticide etc are provided for in the budget but never released. And a vast majority of these inmates have been abandoned by their people. Perhaps, after getting tired of waiting long fo their release.

Prisons need to be decongested. There are more inmates than the prisons were built to accommodate. It seems there are more inmates the government can cope for either because it cannot provide for them or deliberately keeping them in those conditions as art of a general punishment.

In Ikoyi prison, the Monday following the last Saturday of every month you see youngmen and women. They have been picked up on environmental sanitation days. And believe you me some may stay for years. So such persons whose offences are of such nature should be released."


Only on October 5 this year, Reth Adeloye of Fame Magazine died two weeks after he was released from police custody. His death was believed to have stemmed from the unhealthy condition of the environment in which he was detained. In 1995 also, a MOSOP a activist, Clement Tusima, detained in Port Harcourt died inside prison on August 14, 1995 due to harsh prison condition and series of torture by the agents of Internal Security Task Force (ISTF). The late MOSOP activist was said to have fed on small quantities of food and dirty water glaringly unfit for human consumption.


Fifty-four (54) year old Gen Yar'Adua retired from the Army at the age of 39 in 1979 after he had been appointed as the Supreme Headquarters in the Gen. Obasanjo regime. After his retirement, Yar'Adua went into politics and reached a prominent height during the government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida when he sought to become the President on the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) before Babangida annulled the primary election in which he beat Chief Olu Falae and others.

Yar'Adua bounced back into a heightened political activism in 1994 when he and some of his political associates in the People's Democratic Movement (PDM) contested and won the delegates to the National Constitutional Conference convened by the Gen. Abach government. On December 6 1994, a major agenda of Yar'Adua and his lieutenants crystallised into reality when the conference passed a motion calling on the Abacha government to hand over power to democratically elected president in January 1996. Four months later, Gen. Yar'Adua was arrested by a 16-man team of uniformed and plain-clothed security agents on the trumped charge of being involved in the alleged 1995 coup. It was the beginning of his journey to the end.

Yar'adua died after he had slumped twice on Sunday December 7 and December 8, 1997. Following the alarming degeneracy that his health suffered on those two days, Yar'adua was rushed to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu 4.30p.m on December 8, 1997 in a convoy of military and police vehicles. He reportedly died before the hospital team could attend to him. "We were actually assembled by the CMD (Chief Medical Director). But we could not do anything because by the time we came to the man, he was already dead" a hospital source was quoted as saying (The Guardian, Thursday, December 11, 1997). The Guardian further reported that a doctor at UNTH who pleaded anonymity said the late Yar'adua had intermittently taken ill for about one year before his death. Ebonyi State Administrator, Commander Walter Feghabor was said to have informed the Federal Government on December 1 that Yar'adua needed medical attention. It is not clear if any steps were taken by the Government to provide adequat treatment for Yar'Adua.

Although Yar'adua was said to have been intermittently ill over time, the spokesman of UNTH Donatus Egere in an interview with The Punch stated that "official records do not show that Gen. Yar'adua or anybody else like that was a patient here". (The Punch, Thursday, December 11, 1997).

In its reaction to Yar'Adua's death, the United Action Democracy (UAD) a coalition of human rights and pro-democracy groups declared that it placed "the responsibility for this death squarely at the door step of Abacha dictatorship" adding that he may no have received prompt and adequate medical attention?."

The CLO asks "How many more" must die behind bars or in chains because the military dictators of this country refused to do the right thing?

National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) summed them up: "if it could happen to Yar'Adua who is a prince, a former army general and an advocate of justice, then nobody is safe"



Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, reportedly slumped into coma after hearing the story of Yar'adua's death. According to PM News edition of December 12, 1997, Gen Obasanjo was so devastated that he fainted immediately the news was broken to him and even slumped to coma. The paper further reported that the presidency was immediately notified and has since dispatched a medical team to Yola Prisons, where Obasanjo is being held.


Relations of the detained winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election Bashorun MKO Abiola on Wednesday December 10, 1997 raised alarm on the fate of the detained politician. In a statement signed by Adebisi, Abiola's wife, the family claimed that was shocked by Gen. Yar'adua's death adding that it is a source of "genuine fears about Abiola's condition". The letter reads in part:

"The news of the death of Major-General Shehu Musa Yar'adua at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, while serving a 25-year jail term at Abakaliki Prisons came as a rude shock to the family of Bashorun M.K.O Abiola, and we are yet to come to terms with the reality of his demise... Meanwhile, I seize this opportunity to appeal to General Sani Abacha to allow the immediate family, as well as the personal physician, Dr. Ore Falomo, access to Bashorun Kashimawo Olawale Abiola to ascertain the state of his health. Persistent request from us to see the Bashorun have been turned down by The Presidency. Dr. Ore Falomo was last allowed to see him in March - about eight months ago! With the sudden death of General Yar'Adua, due to health complications, I have genuine fears about Abiola's condition. In the true spirit of national reconciliation, General Abacha should release all detainees immediately. I beg all Nigerians to join us in pleading with General Abacha to set our husbands, fathers, brothers and sisters free while they are alive. The nation cannot afford to see Bashorun MKO Abiola and all other political detainees die in detention camps and prisons. Please, Abacha let them go!"

Meanwhile, Dr. Ore Falomo has stated (Weekend Concord December 13, 1997) that "Abiola has always been in danger because he is in detention... he is safer in his house than being in prison... Nothing is better than his own house and his own bed. No matte what they try to do to make him comfortable, he would be better off in his house". Reacting to the question on the possibility of Abiola' being injected with AIDS virus, Falomo remarks that "anything is possible". He added "The HIV... have been injecte by a medical man into a woman whom I think had a quarrel... Now under detention anything is possible".


He is CLO's Project Officer in charge of Annual Report Project. Ogaga was arrested at Seme Border town on November 7 when he was returning from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which held in Scotland in October 1997. He was kept at 15 Awolowo Road Ikoyi office of the State Security Service (SSS) for about two weeks. He has since been moved to another detention facility called Inter-Centre. The duo of Abdul Oroh and Chima Ubani- Executive Director and Head of Human Rights Education project of CLO respectively - spent nine months there. Since his incarceration, Ogaga has been denied access to his lawyers, doctors and relations who have all made efforts to visit him.


The Gen. Sani Abacha-headed military government has in the recent time intensified efforts to further reduce the opposition, especially the independent press, to a more insignificant size. This it has been doing by outrightly abducting and arresting mo journalists, human rights activists and political activists.

In some other cases still, victims are threatened to leave the country or lose their lives. The situation adds another dimension to the strategy it employed in February and March 1997 when it conducted the Local Government election. Then, a number of opposition politicians and human rights activists were arrested and hurriedly arraigned before a court for having hands in the spate of bombing incidents the nation was witnessing. All those so arraigned are still in detention (except those already in exile.)

In the prevailing circumstance, no charges have yet been framed even as the election into the state houses of assembly has been concluded while no explanation are offered either.

[continued in part 2]


CLO, 24 Mbonu Ojike St., Off Alhaji Masha Road, Surulele, Lagos, Nigeria.
Tel: 015-840288, 848513, 836972; fax: 5876876.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups individuals.

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