on Ethnic Relations / Rapports sur les relations
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/ 13 / 2003
efforts to remove small arms from Niger Delta"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
favourite pastime of the criminals is theft of crude oil by tapping
into any of the thousands of kilometres of pipelines that criss-cross
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.
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.
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),
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
a successful advocacy campaign, the MAC coalition is hoping that
an amnesty will be declared in January 2004 for all who surrender
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
"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.
aim to cut off the source of funds for all those weapons,"
a senior military official told IRIN.
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.
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."
/ 09 / 2003
angry at being rated second most corrupt"
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.
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.
are entitled to their opinions but we know we're doing our best"
Remi Adebayo, spokesman in ministry of information, told IRIN
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.
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
said at least nine out of every 10 developing countries need practical
support to battle corruption.
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
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.
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.
referred to two recent incidents involving U.S. oil service companies
Halliburton and Baker Hughes Energy.
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.
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.
suit was this week settled out of court by the company, which
agreed to comply with the terms of settlement that the former
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.
critics of the government insist Obasanjo had mostly been paying
lip-service to the anti-corruption effort.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
/ 08 / 2003
declare strike legal" (Kemi Ogedengbe)
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
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.
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.
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.
said that the police also discussed the visit of Queen Elizabeth
II to Kano and Lagos.
/ 01 / 2003
AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY
divided on state of nation on 43rd anniversary"
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
“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
“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
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
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