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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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: Recent Developments

Nigeria: Recent Developments
Date distributed (ymd): 980502
Document reposted by APIC

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

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains several recent documents concerning recent developments in Nigeria, from Amnesty International, from the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACOM), and the International Roundtable on Nigeria (IRTON). For links to additional background, news and analysis, see the Africa Policy Nigeria action page

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

Note: The recently released report of the Special Rapporteur on Nigeria of the UN Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/1998/62) is available at the web site of the UN High Commissioner


News Service 77/98, AI INDEX: AFR 44/27/98

1 MAY 1998

NIGERIA: Reported releases
-- a smokescreen for six facing execution after secret military trials?

The reported release of more than 120 detainees in Nigeria should not be used a smokescreen to distract attention from the six death penalties passed after grossly unfair and secret military treason trials, according to Amnesty International today. The organization is calling on the Nigerian Government not to carry out more political executions.

On 30 April the government confirmed that it had released detainees, but it had made no official statement. Most of the detainees appear to be common law prisoners released because they were over the age of 60 or had served long prison terms. Only five are reported to be prisoners of conscience -- held without charge or trial for months because their papers criticized the government.

They include four journalists. Mohammed Adamu, bureau chief in Abuja for African Concord news magazine, and Soji Omotunde, editor, African Concord, have been detained since July and October 1997 respectively. Onome Osifo-Whiskey, managing editor, Tell news magazine, Babafemi Ojudu, managing editor, The News newspaper group, and Ogaga Ifowodo, a human rights activist with the Civil Liberties Organisation, a leading human rights group in Nigeria, have all been detained since November 1997.

The government has however continued to detain other journalists and newspaper employees from the same newspapers, and sometimes reports of releases have proved to be false or premature. On 20 and 22 April eight employees of The News group were arrested and reportedly beaten, their offices ransacked and computers seized. They were administrative and security staff Mufutau Lateef, Anthony Nwana, Wale Odofin, Samson Adeyemi, James Ayoola and Hassan Turaki, and journalists Rotimi Obasa Yomi Osoba and Austin Uganwa.

The government has been under considerable pressure, including during the recent visit of Pope John Paul II, to fulfil a commitment made by head of state General Sani Abacha in November 1997 to release political detainees. Since then, senior government officials have denied that his words implied any such commitment or that there are any political prisoners in Nigeria. The release of uncharged detainees, while welcome, does not therefore suggest any change of policy with regard to human rights.

Indeed, the head of state and the military government, the Provisional Ruling Council, are currently considering the sentences of the six sentenced to death after the latest unfair treason trial conducted in camera. They are Lieutenant-General Oladipo Diya, former Vice-Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council, and two other senior members of the military government of General Sani Abacha who came to power in a coup in November 1993 -- Major-General Abdulkarim Adisa and Major-General Tajudeen Olanrewaju. Also convicted were armed forces officers, Major Olusegun Fadipe and Lieutenant-Colonel Olu Akinyode, and a civilian, Bola Adebanjo, an electrical engineer and associate of General Diya.

They were convicted of plotting a coup after a grossly unfair trial by Special Military Tribunal conducted in secret. Journalists were only allowed to attend the first day of the hearings, before any charges had been brought, and the last day, when the convictions and sentences were announced. There is no right of appeal to a higher court; all convictions and sentences have to be confirmed or disallowed by the Provisional Ruling Council. Executions could therefore be imminent.

The accused were charged in connection with a coup plot which the government announced that it had uncovered in December 1997. Unofficial reports suggest that senior military officers may have devised the coup plot in order to entrap General Diya and other senior officers, mostly from the Yoruba ethnic group. However, the Special Military Tribunal, in its announcement of the sentences, reportedly said that it had not enquired into who had initiated the conspiracy. At the start of the trial, there were 26 defendants; by the end there were 30.

Four defendants, including journalist Niran Malaolu, were sentenced to life imprisonment for "information gathering" and implication in the alleged coup plot. Six defendants were convicted of lesser offences and sentenced to prison terms of between two and 14 years. Fourteen defendants were acquitted. ENDS.../

International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street,
London WC1X 8DJ, United Kingdom
tel +44 171 413 5500, fax +44 171 956 1157



April 29, 1998

(posted on the usenet newsgroup soc.culture.nigeria)

Pro-democracy and Human Rights Organisations throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria met today in Lagos, April 29th 1998 and did a thorough review and assessment of the state of the nation. Considering the undeniable fact that the Nigerian people have been subjected to untold hardship, unending agony and mass frustration under military dictatorship.

And whereas the Nigerian people have shown sufficient determination and willingness to shake off the yoke of oprression and tyranny; We the undersigned representatives of Pro-democracy and Human Rights organisations hereby resolve as follows:

  1. All Pro-democracy and Human Rights groups, Associations and Coalitions unite to form the Joint Action Committeee of Nigeria (JACON). This is to give impetus and verve to the national struggle to restore democracy through collaborative efforts of all our people.
  2. JACON rejects the endorsment of General Abacha for president by the five (5) government-controlled parties and will take action to ensure that General Abacha does not succeed himself in office.
  3. That the current fraudulent transition programme should be discontinued forthwith, having been rejected by the Nigerian people as manifested in the total boycott of all the elections and particularly the so-called April 25, 1998 National Assembly Elections.
  4. That military dictatorship be terminated forthwith.
  5. That all political detainees and prisoners including labour leaders be released immediately.
  6. That the June 12 mandate be actualised and the winner of that election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola should head the Government of National Unity.
  7. That the Government of National Unity should convene a Sovereign National Conference to address and resolve the country's lingering socio-economic and political problems.
  8. In solidarity with the oppressed and working people of Nigeria whose plight has been greatly undermined by successive military dictatorships, and particularly the present one, JACON hereby endorses all the activities mapped out by its component organisations including the United Action for Democracy (UAD) for May 1st 1998. JACON hereby calls on all well-meaning Nigerians to cooperate and participate fully in such activities.
  9. JACON calls for the immediate de-proscription of all organised bodies including labour unions, student unions, professional associations etc.
  10. JACON unequivocally condemns the verdict of Victor Malu's Special Military Tribunal that tried Lt Gen Oladipo Diya and others for allegedly plotting to overthrow the current military junta. JACON is convinced that coups and counter-coups can only stop with the restoration of genuine democracy in Nigeria.
  11. JACON calls on all Nigerians to cooperate with this national umbrella body to liberate our country from the current tyranny and oppression.


NADECO - National Democratic Coalition
NCP - National Conscience Party
UAD - United Action for Democracy
CLO - Civil Liberties Organization
CDHR - Committee for the Defence of Human Rights
CRP - Constitutional Review Project
CNYD - Congress for Northern Youths for Democracy
UDDHRA - Human Rights Africa
MNR - Movement for National Reformation
MOSEJ - Movement for Social and Economic Justice
EMU - Eastern Mandate Union
OPC - Odua's People Convention
NANT - National Association of Nigerian Traders
CD - Campaign For Democracy
GFSA - Gani Fawehinmi Solidarity Association
FBKCC - Free-Beko Kuti Campaign Committee
NADL - National Association of Democratic Lawyers

International Roundtable on Nigeria (IRTON)

April 24, 1998

Statement Regarding Cancelled Nigerian Elections

For more information, contact:
Kishi Animashaun, Essential Action, (202) 387-8030
Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International (202) 544-0200
Salih Booker, Africa Fund, (202) 518-3425

The International Roundtable on Nigeria (IRTON) condemns Monday's announcement by the military junta in Nigeria that it will stage a referendum in August in lieu of a formal election for civilian president. This referendum is intended to ensure that General Sani Abacha will continue to reign as the country's head of state, albeit in civilian garb. IRTON urges the Clinton Administration to support the democratic forces in Nigeria and heed their call to impose economic sanctions against the Abacha regime in wake of this blatant attempt to move towards self-succession.

General Abacha seized power in a 1993 coup and annulled democratic elections that favored, MKO Abiola. Abiola was promptly jailed and charged with treason, along with countless other pro-democracy activists that included students, labor leaders, and journalists. To quell dissent within Nigeria and the larger international community, Abacha announced a "transition program" to democracy that would culminate into elections in August and the installation of a civilian government in October of this year. This week's announcement of a "referendum" demonstrates the regime's intention to deny 110 million Nigerians their democratic rights and to continue its arbitrary and dictatorial rule in civilian dress.

Recent confusing and somewhat contradictory statements by US policymakers reflect the lack of a clear policy on Nigeria. The time has come for the Clinton Administration and Congress to show the leadership and principles they claim to hold with regard to human rights and democratic change in Nigeria. IRTON recommends that the US government:

  1. Publicly denounce the current transition process of the Abacha regime as undemocratic and illegitimate
  2. Hasten steps towards economic sanctions on Nigeria.
  3. Allow future dialogue and engagement with the Abacha regime to include the release of all political prisoners, repeal of repressive legislation, and a genuine transition process supported by pro-democracy forces.

IRTON is a coalition of trade unions, U.S. based Nigerian pro-democracy groups, environmental and human rights organizations devoted to restoring an accountable, democratic government in Nigeria.

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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