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Focus efforts to remove small arms from Niger Delta
Nigeria angry at being rated second most corrupt
Citizens divided on state of nation on 43rd anniversary
Reports on Ethnic Relations  /  Rapports sur les relations éthniques

The following section is consisted of part, full or summaries of articles from diverses sources (newspapers, newsletters, etc...).
La section suivante est constituée d'exraits, de la totalité ou de résumés d'articles provenant d'origines diverses (journaux,bulletins, etc..).


10 / 13 / 2003 

IRIN

"Focus efforts to remove small arms from Niger Delta"

In Okrika, a small town near Nigeria's oil industry capital, Port Harcourt, two local chieftains had by inconvenient coincidence scheduled funerals of relatives on the same day in September.

When efforts to get one or the other to move his event to another date failed, their rival supporters engaged in a shootout, using automatic rifles that included AK-47s. Three people died.

Earlier in August, a disagreement between Ijaw communities in the same Niger Delta region had resulted in gunmen from Ogbodobiri and Oboro raiding the Ekeremor community, razing scores of buildings and shooting dead at least 10 people.

Rights activists and security agencies worry that the Niger Delta - for long a centre of discontent among impoverished communities feeling cheated out of the region's oil wealth by government and oil companies - is awash with small weapons.

Residents in the area resort to the gun even over minor communal disputes, leading to ever increasing insecurity that manifests as armed robbery and piracy on the regions innumerable waterways.

A favourite pastime of the criminals is theft of crude oil by tapping into any of the thousands of kilometres of pipelines that criss-cross the region.

The illicit trade on oil is believed by President Olusegun Obasanjo s government to be funded by influential businessmen and politicians, who arrange to sell the stolen crude - usually transferred from barges that operate in the creeks to ships offshore either in the region or in the international oil market.

Security agencies believe proceeds from the trade are eventually used to procure more arms that are funneled back into the region towards, fuelling further unrest and criminality.

"The situation we have now was largely a fall-out of the (April) general elections," Azibaola Robert, rights activist and president of Niger Delta Human and Environmental Rescue Organisation (ND-HERO), told IRIN.

"We discovered that the politicians had armed youths who acted as thugs for them during the elections with promises of financial rewards," he said. "The politicians have failed to fulfil the promises and these youths now use the guns to cause serious insecurity in the Niger Delta."

Robert is the secretary of a coalition of non-governmental organisations which in June launched the Mop up the Arms Campaign (MAC), aimed not only at halting the proliferation but also ridding the Niger Delta of small arms and light weapons used in growing political violence and criminal activities in the region.

The MAC coalition is headed by Ledum Mitee, president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), the minority ethnic group campaigning for more access to the region s oil wealth.

Concerned that the rule of the gun will deflect attention from genuine political demands of the inhabitants of the region, the coalition has embarked on an enlightenment campaign to make local communities, opinion leaders, students, government officials and security agencies aware of the dangers posed by the proliferation of small weapons and light arms in the region.

Apart mass media campaigns using radio, television and newspapers, the group has also undertaken advocacy visits to the governors and police authorities in three key Niger Delta states: Rivers, Cross River and Bayelsa.

Next on the MAC coalition's programme are advocacy visits to Obasanjo, leaders of the federal legislative houses, heads of the police and other security agencies.

During these visits, coalition members will be seeking to convince the Nigerian authorities not only to declare amnesty for those who surrender their weapons but also promise them financial rewards ranging between 10,000-20,000 naira (US $77.5-155) for each returned gun.

After a successful advocacy campaign, the MAC coalition is hoping that an amnesty will be declared in January 2004 for all who surrender their weapons.

"If the youths are encouraged to return the illegal arms with good financial reward, they can abandon their restiveness and invest the money in useful ventures," said Robert. "One gun retrieved means several lives saved and property protected."

While the government is yet to accept the guns-for-cash proposal, it appears to agree that a solution to the Niger Delta violence could be found in ridding the region of the easily available guns.

Government conviction on this was apparently strengthened by the surge in ethnic and criminal violence in the western delta, near the oil town of Warri, which at a point this year disrupted the flow of about 40 percent of the country s entire oil output of about two million barrels daily.

Security sources said more than 500 undercover security agents have been sent into the Niger Delta in recent times to identify sources of weapons used by ethnic militants and criminals in the region and where they are stocked.

Nigerian army spokesman Colonel Chukwuemeka Onwuamaegbu, has called on members of the public to come forward with information that will help the authorities retrieve weapons and disarm the armed youths of Niger Delta.

Onwuamaegbu told reporters he was skeptical about the likelihood of voluntary surrender of weapons, pointing out that after ethnic clashes in March the army had urged surrender of weapons with only "few retrieved".

Cutting off the perceived sources of weapons supply appears to be one of the key objectives of the military task force sent to pacify the region after the fighting in Warri in August between ethnic Ijaw and Itsekiri militias that killed more than 100 people.

Named "Operation Restore Hope" and headed by Maj-Gen Elias Zamani, the force drawn from the army, navy and air force recently reported the arrest of 35 vessels and the arrest of more than 200 people involved in oil theft in the region.

"We aim to cut off the source of funds for all those weapons," a senior military official told IRIN.

But activists involved in the effort to mop up the weapons believe that even if the security agencies succeed in curbing the inflow of weapons into the region, a major concern will remain what to do about arms already in the area.

"That is where I believe the mop up the arms initiative comes in," a MAC official told IRIN. "The youths need some incentive other than coercion to give up the guns. Force will tend to drive them further underground."

10 / 09 / 2003 

IRIN

"Nigeria angry at being rated second most corrupt"

Nigeria has angrily disputed the 2003 annual Corruption Perception Index of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI), which for the second straight year said Nigeria was the second most corrupt country in the world.

A government spokesman said the index did not reflect efforts by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, a co-founder of TI, to curb corruption in Africa's most populous country of more than 120 million people.

"They are entitled to their opinions but we know we're doing our best" Remi Adebayo, spokesman in ministry of information, told IRIN on Thursday.

"We're corrupt, yes, but not to the extent they're putting it," Adebayo said. "I won't say we're number one, or two or three. That is their own judgment, but we know things from the West are always given a negative spin, especially if it concerns Africa."


Scoring a mere 1.4 points out of a possible 10 in a global survey of 133 countries, Nigeria was only topped by Bangladesh as the most corrupt country in the world in the perception of respondents that included businessmen, academics and risk analysts. The two countries again topped the chart last year.

Two other African countries, including Cameroon and Angola, are also in the top 10 of the most corrupt countries in the world, in a list in which Finland is rated the least corrupt globally, followed by Iceland.

TI said at least nine out of every 10 developing countries need practical support to battle corruption.

"Rich countries must provide practical support to developing country governments that demonstrate the political will to curb corruption...those countries starting with a high degree of corruption should not be penalised, since they are in the most urgent need of support," Peter Eigen, chairman of TI, said while presenting the report on Tuesday.

Adebayo told IRIN that Obasanjo, on taking office in 1999, had made it clear that fighting corruption was a cardinal objective of his government. He said apart from setting up an anti-corruption agency, every government department now had an anti-corruption unit. The effort, he added, had yielded immeasurable results.

Other officials told IRIN corruption had been introduced in Nigeria by British colonial rule and continued to be fostered by Western multinational companies keen on finding cheaper ways of doing business without following the full provisions of the law.

They referred to two recent incidents involving U.S. oil service companies Halliburton and Baker Hughes Energy.

Halliburton is being investigated by both Nigeria and U.S., following recent disclosures before the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission that its subsidiary paid a Nigerian tax official bribes worth US $2.4 million in 2000, to reduce its tax burden in Nigeria.

The case of Baker Hughes involves an employee who sued the company in the Uninted States alleging he was sacked by the company because he refused to pay bribes to Nigerian officials as he had been instructed by top company officials.

The suit was this week settled out of court by the company, which agreed to comply with the terms of settlement that the former employee demanded.

"Most of the cases of corruption in Nigeria are linked to the operations of multinationals in the country," a senior official of the Economic and Finacial Crimes Commission told IRIN.

However, critics of the government insist Obasanjo had mostly been paying lip-service to the anti-corruption effort.

"Why is it that not one person has been convicted in more than four years since the anti-corruption law was passed?" Dele Omorogba, a Nigerian analyst asked. "That's simply because the government is not serious and not because there are no culprits."

He said the government has been reluctant to move against sacred cows, either beause the government had compromised itself or lacked the courage to do so.

Early this week Nigeria was rocked by a major corruption scandal after a federal minister told a senate committee that two top senators had asked him for 54 million naira (US $418,604) in bribes to facilitate his approval in the upper legislature, as a member of cabinet.

Nasir El-Rufai said the deputy senate president Ibrahim Mantu and majority leader of the ruling People's Democratic Party, Jonathan Zwingina, had approached him with the demand for the money, ostensibly on behalf of other senators. Both men denied the allegations.

The scandal became public after El-Rufai told The Guardian daily last month that senators had asked him for bribes to confirm his ministerial appointment. An outraged senate asked its ethics committee to investigate. El-Rufia was summoned to testify at a public hearing on Tuesday where he mentioned the names.

10 / 08 / 2003 

DAILY TRUST, Nigeria

"Police declare strike legal" (Kemi Ogedengbe)

The police yesterday declared the proposed Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) strike legal and warned against indiscriminate shooting of protesters, Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Mr Chris Olakpe a deputy commissioner of police (DCP), told newsmen after a close door meeting by the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Tafa Balogun with state commissioners of police throughout the country.

He said, “although strikes are legal, but it should not be used to disturb public peace”, and said the IGP had instructed the state commissioners against indiscriminate shooting and warned them against the use of teargas on protesters.

Olakpe said the IGP instructed the Cps to use any legitimate means to curtail any disorder under pretence of strike, and furnish his office with reports about the strike on an hourly basis.

The force PRO said that the IGP also ordered a 24-hour vehicle, foot and motorbike surveillance in all the states and frowned against the use of plainclothes policemen for patrol.

He said the police still intended to meet with the NLC before Thursday to reach an understanding and that to safeguard lives and property, the IGP has directed that all the various venues of the 8th All Africa Games be cordoned off by security agents and be well policed and directed the Cps of Kaduna, Lagos and Bauchi to carry out effective patrol and surveillance on the games venues and villages.

Olakape said that the police also discussed the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Kano and Lagos.

 

10 / 01 / 2003 

PAN AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY

"Citizens divided on state of nation on 43rd anniversary" (Segun Adeyemi)

Nigerians are observing Wednesday as a work-free day to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain, but the citizens of Africa’s most populous nation are divided on the state of the nation after four decades of supposed political and economic freedom.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, ever so positive on the prospects of the much-divided country, dedicated the anniversary to “the birth of optimism in our land”, in reference to the historical and successful civilian-to-civilian transition which returned him to office six months earlier.

“To have optimism in our land, we must all have optimism in our minds, in our soul and in our spirit,” the self-declared born- again President exhorted in his special 20-minute anniversary broadcast, which sounded more like a message from the pulpit than the words of a politician.

But opponents of the President and social critics charge that the nation remained a toddler at 43, and warned that unless a sovereign national conference is convened urgently to address the problems in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, the country could soon find itself on the list of failed states.

In spite of the successful political transition, the first in the country’s history, Nigeria remains at the crossroads with a worsening economic situation occasioned by dwindling earnings from crude oil and massive corruption, ethnic and sectarian clashes, rising unemployment and decaying infrastructure.

The newly-released 2003 Human Development Report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) rated Nigeria 152nd out of the 175 nations ranked, putting life expectancy at a lowly 51.8 years, gross school enrolment at 45 percent and GDP per capital at a paltry 850 dollars.

The anniversary itself is being marked under the threat of a nationwide workers’ strike, amidst indications that the government had finally “deregulated” the downstream sector of the country’s oil industry, a development many Nigerians have come to associate with higher fuel prices and its attendant fallouts like higher transport fares, increase in cost of foodstuffs and worsening poverty.

Obasanjo acknowledged the problems, but expressed the belief that Nigeria can bounce back to meet the aspirations of its founding fathers if the pervasive pessimism in the land could be replaced by optimism.

“Fellow Nigerians, we promise to uphold the spirit of optimism with which Nigerians conducted themselves in the elections and accepted the results, some of which had to go through due legal processes.

“It is with this spirit of optimism that we accept the challenge to deliver the dividends of democracy that will enhance the quality of life for all citizens. In the same vein, it is optimism that underpins the socio-economic reforms that we have embarked on,” the President said.

Under the reform, which the government believes will help turn around the economy and deliver the so-called democratic dividends to the citizenry, priority attention is being accorded to “responsible, sensitive and transparent” leadership; anti- corruption, agriculture and food security, infrastructure, industry, financial regulation and pension reforms.

Obasanjo called for sacrifice and attitudinal change from all citizens to ensure the success of the much-hyped reform programme, assuring that “this sacrifice will have manifold returns from the envisaged improvements in our social life and economic fortunes”.

But his critics said he must first tackle the widespread corruption in the land if the country is to move forward.

“This regime at the centre and in the states have given to Nigerians disillusionment and dissatisfaction because there is unprecedented corruption at all levels of government,” said social critic and opposition politician Gani Fawehinmi.

“In the last four years and four months, democracy has meant hardship for the poor masses of the country and more corruption by public officers and the people are beginning to ask: ‘What is the difference between military dictatorship and democracy?’” said Fawehinmi, who contested the presidency against Obasanjo last April.

Another opposition politician, Balarabe Musa, slammed the government’s anti-corruption crusade, saying the anti-corruption panel had yet to prosecute any known public officer under the present dispensation.

“The President initiated an anti-corruption commission by law and yet he sees the anti-corruption commission doing nothing in spite of the level of corruption in the country,” Musa charged.

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Other data on Nigeria / Autres données sur le Nigéria