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Nigeria: Recent Developments
Nigeria: Recent Developments
Date distributed (ymd): 980502
Document reposted by APIC
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
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
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
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL - PUBLIC STATEMENT
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
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
JOINT ACTION COMMITTEE OF NIGERIA (JACON)
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- That military dictatorship be terminated forthwith.
- That all political detainees and prisoners including labour leaders
be released immediately.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- JACON calls for the immediate de-proscription of all organised bodies
including labour unions, student unions, professional associations etc.
- 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
- 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
COMMITTEE FOR UNITY AND UNDERSTANDING
CAMPAIGN FOR INDEPENDENT UNIONISM
CD - Campaign For Democracy
GFSA - Gani Fawehinmi Solidarity Association
STUDENT UNION OF LASU
FBKCC - Free-Beko Kuti Campaign Committee
NATIONAL ACTION 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:
- Publicly denounce the current transition process of the Abacha regime
as undemocratic and illegitimate
- Hasten steps towards economic sanctions on Nigeria.
- 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.