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Nigeria: After Abacha, 1
Nigeria: After Abacha, 1
Date distributed (ymd): 980628
Document reposted by APIC
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +US policy focus+ |
This posting contains statements following the release of nine political
prisoners on June 17 by the Nigerian military government headed by General
Abdulsalam Abubakar, following the death on June 8 of General Sani Abacha.
Last week, on June 25, 17 more political prisoners were released. Those
released do not yet include the winner of the 1993 elections, Chief Moshood
Abiola, nor Ogoni environmental activists. The statements below are from
the Africa Fund, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP),
and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General
Workers' Unions (ICEM). The next posting contains testimony by U.S. Assistant
Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice.
While foreign governments tend to see hope in these tentative moves
by the new regime, pro-democracy forces are still sceptical. They stress
that the test of the new regime will be whether it meets demands for release
of all political prisoners, unbanning of political parties and an end to
repression of dissident voices. A genuine transition must involve a role
for the imprisoned winner of the June 12, 1993 election, Moshood Abiola,
and an opportunity for Nigerians to elect new leaders under free and fair
Speaking to the BBC last week, former head of state General Olusegun
Obasanjo, one of those released on June 17, said that even if Abiola is
also released, that would be far from sufficient. "After you have
had two successive military governments that lied, deceived, oppressed,
covered up, ... it would take more than just releasing one individual --
or even all the political detainees -- to really establish credibility
For Immediate Release, June 18, 1998
Africa Fund Statement on the Release of Nigerian Political Prisoners
"Keep The Pressure On" For Freedom
Contact: Michael Fleshman (212) 785-1024
The release yesterday of the first nine Nigerian political prisoners,
a group that includes former head of state Olesegun Obasanjo, trade unionists
Frank Kokori and Milton Dabibi, democracy leader Beko Ransome-Kuti and
journalist Christine Anyanwu is a victory for the Nigerian democratic movement.
We welcome this long overdue step. The releases are the first concrete
indication that the newly installed military government of General Abdulsalam
Abubakar is prepared to break with the repressive policies of the late
and unlamented dictator General Sani Abacha.
But it is only the barest beginning. The Africa Fund calls upon the
military to end human rights abuses, release all political prisoners, and
negotiate with the democratic movement a quick return to barracks.
Thousands of other prisoners of conscience still languish in what has
now become General Abubakar's Nigerian gulag. Among those still imprisoned
is President-elect Moshood Abiola, whose installation in office remains
the non-negotiable demand of the democracy movement. Twenty indigenous
Ogoni activists approach their fifth year in prison without trial for their
peaceful opposition to the environmental destruction of their land by the
Shell Oil Company. Human rights and democracy leader Olisa Agbakoba is
still held without charge or trial for his role in organizing protests
against the previous dictator's scheme to preserve military rule through
Thousands more remain in exile, including such outstanding democracy
leaders as Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, and independence movement leader
Chief Anthony Enahoro, and Ogoni rights activists Ledum Mitee and Owens
Wiwa. The Abubakar regime must move quickly to release the remaining prisoners
and allow the return of exiles. There can be no reconciliation in Nigeria
while the authentic leaders of the people are jailed or exiled.
The release of prisoners, while welcome, cannot of itself resolve the
present crisis. The Abubakar regime must accept the peoples' demand for
genuine democracy and for the immediate return of the military to barracks.
We call on General Abubakar to abandon Abacha's failed election program
and open talks with the democracy movement on the rapid and orderly transfer
of power to President Abiola.
Abubakar should immediately withdraw his occupation troops from the
Ogoni oil fields, respect human rights and begin a dialogue with the legitimate
representatives of the Ogonis, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni
People on the full range of environmental, economic and social grievances.
We condemn the Clinton Administration for failing to support the democracy
movement and for continuing to support instead a discredited military-controlled
election that has been rejected by the Nigerian people and the entire international
human rights community. Clinton's "constructive engagement" accommodation
with the army undermines the freedom movement and can only encourage Nigeria's
military rulers to retain their illegal and absolute hold on power.
It is illusory to think that the conditional release of nine prisoners
demonstrates the Nigerian military's commitment to human rights and democracy.
On the contrary, we believe that the releases are the product of the tenacious
resistance of the Nigerian people and the growing international sanctions
movement. The encouraging events of the past week proves that pressure
works. If the opportunity opened by Abacha's death is to lead to a resolution
of the Nigerian crisis the United States must speak clearly and forcefully
in support of the democratic alliance. In the meantime we urge concerned
Americans to keep the pressure on both Abubakar and Bill Clinton for Nigerian
The Africa Fund. 50 Broad Street, suite 711, New York NY 10004
(212) 785-1024. Fax: (212) 785-1078
Founded in 1966 by the American Committee On Africa, the Africa Fund
works for a positive U.S. policy Toward Africa and supports African human
rights, democracy and development. For more information about The Africa
Fund's Nigeria human rights education program contact Human Rights coordinator
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 03:40 GMT June 19th 1998
CONTACT: Tim Concannon, Ledum Mitee
email@example.com, (+44) (0)181 563
MOSOP DEMANDS THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF THE OGONI 20
LONDON - MOSOP welcomes the release of former head of state retired
General Olusegun Obasanjo by the military authorities, and the announcement
that another eight prominent political prisoners are to be released. MOSOP
notes media reports that the authorities intend to release all Nigerian
political prisoners in the near future.
Nigeria's new de facto leader General Abdulsalam Abubakar has stated
that the initiative is an effort to 'facilitate the process of national
reconciliation, reconstruction and successful completion of the socio-political
transition programme'. General Abubakar is calling for the return of opposition
figures from 'self imposed exile'.
Responding to the developments in Nigeria, MOSOP's Acting President
Ledum Mitee remarked:
"This is certainly an encouraging development. However, previous
military administrations have made gestures like this, buying time to consolidate
their own position in power. If he is sincere in making a call for national
reconciliation - and if he wishes that process to be effective - General
Abubakar must demonstrate his commitment to real and lasting change in
Nigeria. There now has to be a genuine effort to right the wrongs of the
past, and embrace all sections of society in creating a new Nigeria".
"Nigeria's period of isolation from the international community
began with the murder of MOSOP President Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other
Ogoni leaders by the military in November 1995. The military continue to
refuse to release the bodies of the Ogoni 9 to their families for proper
"20 Ogoni political prisoners have languished in a cell in Port
Harcourt for more than four years awaiting trial. They face the same politically
motivated charge, the same violations of their human rights and the same
hangman's noose that killed Ken Saro-Wiwa. This month the military authorities
refused to obey a court ruling to release them on bail".
"Nigeria and the world must not forget the suffering the Ogoni
people are enduring for the sake of Shell's profits and Nigeria's oil revenues.
We still live under military occupation. Our environment remains devastated.
2000 Ogoni people have been killed and thousands have escaped state orchestrated
violence as refugees".
"We urge Nigerians and the international community to treat the
immediate release of the Ogoni 20, and release of the bodies of the Ogoni
9 to their families, and MOSOP's other immediate demands as benchmarks
to measure the new regime's commitment to real change and genuine reconciliation".
MOSOP calls on General Abdulsalam Abubakar to:
- immediately and unconditionally release all Ogoni political prisoners
- including the Ogoni 20 - and 25 other Ogoni activists currently detained
at various locations by the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force -
RVSISTF - (a combined Nigerian military operation currently occupying Ogoni)
- immediately release the bodies of the Ogoni 9 to their families for
- immediately and unconditionally release all Nigerian political prisoners,
including Chief Moshood Abiola
- immediately demilitarise Ogoni and guarantee freedom of movement, assembly
and association in Ogoni and the Niger Delta region as a whole, by disbanding
the RVISTF and all structures of the security apparatus operating in Ogoni,
in connection with the suppression of MOSOP and legitimate Ogoni political
- immediately repeal military decrees militating against the due process
- immediately implement the recommendations of the United Nations fact-finding
Mission concerning the economic development of the Ogoni people, and the
payment of compensation to the families of the Ogoni 9
- immediately undertake to form a transitional government of national
- undertake that part of the mandate of a transitional government will
be the formation of a sovereign and national conference, made up of elected
representatives of all Nigeria's ethnic groups, with equal voting rights
(since independence in 1960, there has been no occasion for Nigeria's 247
plus ethnic groups to meet together to reach a consensus on issues like
the fair allocation of oil revenue s and the federal structure of the country)
- immediately respond to the Ogoni Bill of Rights, which was presented
to the Nigerian Federal Government in 1990, and to which the Ogoni people
have still not received a reply.
MOSOP calls on Shell to:
- immediately issue a public statement calling for the release of the
Ogoni 20, the release of the bodies of the Ogoni 9, and supporting all
MOSOP's immediate demands
MOSOP calls on Nigerians, supporters of the Ogoni people and the international
- call for the immediate release of the Ogoni 20, and release of the
bodies of the Ogoni 9
- call on General Abdulsalam Abubakar to meet all of MOSOP's immediate
- call on Shell to issue a public statement supporting MOSOP's immediate
Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP),
Suite 5, 3 - 4 Albion Place, Galena Road,
London W6 0LT, United Kingdom.
Tel. (+44) (0)181 563 8614 Fax. (+44) (0)181 563 8615
e-mail: MOSOP International secretariat <firstname.lastname@example.org>
18 June 1998
The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy,
Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):
NIGERIAN UNION LEADERS HOME:
CROWDS GREET KOKORI IN LAGOS. DABIBI RECUPERATING WITH FAMILY.
Nigerian oilworkers' leader Frank Kokori arrived back in Lagos yesterday
to a noisy welcome from crowds of supporters and the media. He immediately
called for an overhaul of Nigerian politics - and of the Nigerian unions.
Kokori, who is the General Secretary of the Nigerian oil and gas workers'
union NUPENG, had been detained without trial by the regime of General
Abacha since 1994. In that year, a strike by Nigerian oil workers and others
was put down by the military regime and a wave of repression against the
oil unions and their leaders was unleashed.
Milton Dabibi, General Secretary of Nigerian oil and gas workers' union
PENGASSAN, was released from prison on Monday night. He had been held without
trial since January 1996. He is now resting with his family at an undisclosed
location and is expected in Port Harcourt tomorrow. Sources close to Dabibi
said that he would be needing medical care. His conditions of detention
are understood to have been particularly harsh.
Both unions are affiliated to the 20-million-strong International Federation
of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions, which led a sustained
worldwide campaign for Dabibi's and Kokori's release. When Abacha died
last week, the ICEM, its affiliates and other union internationals immediately
asked his successor as Head of State, Major-General Abdulsalam Abubakar,
to order Dabibi's and Kokori's release. They are among the first nine detainees
to be freed. About a hundred political prisoners are still being held in
Observers say Kokori looked and sounded "frail" on his arrival
at Lagos airport yesterday. He subsequently told union officers that he
is "OK", but they note that the conditions in which he was detained
have "taken a toll on him."
But there was certainly nothing frail about Kokori's speech to the crowds
at the airport.
Thanking all those who supported him during his detention, Kokori roundly
condemned the Abacha regime and said that he had never really expected
to be freed while Abacha remained in power. In fact, "I never wanted
to be released under General Abacha, despite the pains I went through in
Turning to the military's annulment of the 1993 presidential elections
in Nigeria, Kokori called on Major-General Abubakar to "redress the
injustice that was done." The presumed winner of the elections, Moshood
Abiola, is among those still being detained without trial.
But some of Kokori's strongest remarks yesterday were directed at the
Nigerian trade unions - and more particularly the national union federation,
the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
"What has become of the organised labour movement that we left
behind?" Kokori asked his cheering supporters. The NLC had betrayed
the 1994 strike, he insisted. "At the peak" of the 1994 crisis,
Kokori recalled, he had spoken to the NLC's leader at that time, Pascal
Bafyau: "I said, 'Let us be on the right side of history.' Bafyau
replied, 'I don't care what side of history I'm on.' " Not long afterwards,
Kokori was arrested by the State Security.
ICEM General Secretary Vic Thorpe has congratulated Major-General Abubakar
on his prompt action in releasing Dabibi and Kokori, and has thanked him
for the particular attention given to these cases. At the same time, Thorpe
asked the Head of State to lift the remaining restrictions on PENGASSAN
In particular, Thorpe said, legal recognition of Dabibi and Kokori as
the unions' elected General Secretaries should be restored and the "sole
administrators" imposed by the Abacha regime should now be withdrawn
from the unions' offices. The ban on the check-off of union dues should
be lifted. The unions' bank accounts should be unfrozen. Any oil workers
sacked for their part in the 1994 strike should be reinstated. And all
decrees that restrict Nigerian unions' right to affiliate freely at the
international level should be rescinded.
In Washington yesterday, hundreds of demonstrators outside the Nigerian
embassy called for a return to full democracy in Nigeria and the release
of all political detainees there. The demonstrators applauded the release
of Dabibi, Kokori and seven other detainees.
The demonstration was co-sponsored by the ICEM, the US national labour
federation AFL-CIO, Amnesty International, Sierra Club, Friends of the
Earth, Public Services International, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists,
TransAfrica, International Human Rights Law Group, Free Nigeria Movement,
Nadeco (USA), Nigerian Democratic Movement, and United Democratic Front
"America's unions stand united with the people of Nigeria,"
said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka. "We urge the release
of all labour and political prisoners and call for democratic elections
in Nigeria. We will continue to lend our support to our Nigerian brothers
and sisters until democracy is restored."
Trumka was joined in addressing the demonstration by Cordelia Kokori,
Frank's daughter; Calvin Moore, Vice President of the Oil, Chemical &
Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW); Cecil Roberts, President of
the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Steve Rickard, Director of the
Washington Office of Amnesty International; and Steve Mills, Director of
the Human Rights and Environment Campaign at the Sierra Club. The OCAW
and the UMWA are ICEM affiliates.
Today, a government spokesman in Nigeria promised that more detainees
will be released "in batches" over the coming weeks. He did not,
however, say how many, when and whether Abiola will be among them.
Individual ICEM UPDATE items can be supplied in other languages on request.
Our print magazines ICEM INFO and ICEM GLOBAL are available in Arabic,
English, French, German, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.
Visit us on the Web at http://www.icem.org
ICEM avenue Emile de Beco 109, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium. tel.+32.2.6262020
fax +32.2.6484316 Internet: email@example.com
Editor: Ian Graham, Information Officer
Publisher: Vic Thorpe, General Secretary.
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.