PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                        JUNE1996NIGERIA:Crisis	  	  of	  	  Nationhood	  	...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                             JUNE1996Contents	  	  	     Introduction	    ...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                            JUNE1996                    In...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                             JUNE1996           democratic...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                       JUNE1996        legitimacy is hinge...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                             JUNE1996                    F...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                        JUNE1996        personalisation of...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                             JUNE1996         that this ca...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                          JUNE1996     freedom of movement by incessant se...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                           JUNE1996                Since t...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                            JUNE1996     remained silent on whether it wou...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                            JUNE1996             Even in the cases of extr...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                          JUNE1996              By June 4, 1996, even thos...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                           JUNE1996         b)       Arson...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                            JUNE1996        Kuti actually ...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                         JUNE1996     the Civil Liberties Organisation, Dr...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                          JUNE1996     lawlessness. Foreign observers were...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                          JUNE1996                As if th...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                     JUNE1996             finally the trib...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                             JUNE1996     succeed in abducting or even cau...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                             JUNE1996           the highes...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                                     JUNE1996             the conference a...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                              JUNE1996     maintain a “track record of not...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                         JUNE1996     daughter detained and later released...
PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP                                        JUNE1996     enlightenment campaigns, and. Not onl...
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
Nigeria:  Crisis of Nationhood
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Nigeria: Crisis of Nationhood


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Nigeria: Crisis of Nationhood

  1. 1. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996NIGERIA:Crisis    of    Nationhood    by  Kayode  Fayemi        Parliamentary  Human  Rights  Group     June  1996   NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 1
  2. 2. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996Contents       Introduction                 3       Transition  without  end             5       Human  Rights  Situation  in  Nigeria,  1995-­‐1996   10       The  Role  of  the  International  Community     30       Conclusion                 34       Recommendations               35       Appendices                 37                INTRODUCTION NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 2
  3. 3. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 In many respects, the Nigerian crisis has worsened since the publication of The Crisis of Nationhood 1, the Parliamentary Human Rights Group’s last report of June 1995. Several of the cases to which the 1995 report drew attention and on the basis of which the Group urged the international community to take decisive actions received less than adequate attention from the international community. Of the numerous violations highlighted in that earlier report, the unfair trial and extra-judicial execution of Ken Saro Wiwa, the author and environmental campaigner and eight other Ogoni activists exercised world’s conscience the most and catapulted the Nigerian crisis of the last three years to the international media’s front pages. Even so, the opprobrium sufferred by the regime only lasted a few months. The Commonwealth organisation [which, rather belatedly, took the most decisive action by suspending Nigeria from the body at the Auckland summit] had found its position undermined by conflicting views within the Ministerial Action Group charged with responsibility to recommend appropriate measures on the Nigerian question - between those in favour of comprehensive sanctions against the junta, notably Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica and those against led by Britain ably supported by Ghana. Through a game of carrots and stick diplomacy, the military junta preyed on the desperation of other international organisations angling for relevance outside of the Commonwealth and tried successfully in luring the United Nations and the Organisation of Africa Unity to dissociate themselves from the worldwide sanctions campaign against the military junta.1 In the event, even unilateral actions by countries with sufficient mettle to make the junta buckle suffered as the United States and the European Union refrained from imposing any serious measures under the pretext of searching for comprehensive multilateral arrangement. Even the few measures imposed became subject to different interpretations giving countries sufficient excuse for not implementing them. Meanwhile, there is little evidence to show that the regime has been honest even in its dealings with individuals, countries and organisations who chose to invest in it some measure of confidence. Nor has the human rights conditions in the country improved in spite of the various facades put in place since last year’s report. If anything, the efforts to appease through “constructive engagement” and not transform through decisive measures underlines why the regime gets hardened by the day. But it also explains why the attempt to manage rather than overhaul the nation-state project is now in severe jeopardy in Nigeria. While most Nigerians are still in favour of a truly federal country, many Nigerians of unimpeachable nationalist credentials have started to question the viability of the nation-state if it is left in the hands of a unitarist military junta. The most worrying dimension of this drift from nationalism to balkanisation is the loss of hope in due process, and the growing resort to violence, as all avenues for legitimate and peaceful challenge to the illegalities of the military regime remain blocked. Following a spate of arson attacks and assasinations of vocal opponents of the regime, there is repeated allegation of state sponsored terrorism. Equally, bomb attacks on military and other institutions of state have led discerning analysts to conclude that the absence of decisive international intervention may have given the “militarist” wing of the opposition an edge over peaceful, and1 In the wake of the judicial murder, opposition groups and human rights organisations launched a report, The Oil Weapon: The Case for Sanctions against the Nigerian military regime. Present at the launch was the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tony Lloyd MP who informed the audience that a future Labour government will implement a comprehensive trade embargo, targetting oil in particular if the situation remained unchanged. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 3
  4. 4. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 democratic means of resolving the Nigerian crisis. It may be the case that Nigerians do not want a violent resolution of the crisis after going through one bloody civil war but there is a clear groundswell against continued military rule. The issue remains how to achieve the latter peacefully on the basis of the people’s expressed wishes. This year’s report confirms the fact that Nigeria’s military dictatorship requires a systematic abuse of fundamental human rights to maintain its increased centralisation of political power since legitimacy is denied it by the people’s free will. The report catalogues various human rights violations ranging from the violation of the rights of citizens to choose their rulers to extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions of politicians, human rights workers and pro-democracy activists to harassment of journalists, and intimidation of independent media. It underlines the lack of freedom of movement, association and expression. It also highlights the increasing flight of respected opposition figures into exile to indiscriminate arrests of relatives in place of wanted critics. The report examines the role of the international community in the light of the recently published findings of the United Nations Fact Finding team that visited Nigeria between March 29 and April 10, 1996. In particular, it highlights the independent UN mission’s confirmation of the following human rights violations documented in last year’s Parliamentary Human Rights Group’s report on Nigeria: the abolition of habeas corpus in Nigeria, the military junta’s regular flouting of court orders, decisions and judgements; harassment of the media, including detention of journalists without trial, proscription of newspapers and radio stations for criticising the regime or publishing materials critical of the government; the military’s seizure of control of labour unions and professional associations, abolition of due process, the undermining of the judiciary’s impartiality and the right of appeal; widespread detention of citizens without charges and without trial. Within this context, the role of the United Kingdom is specifically addressed not only as the immediate constituency of the Parliamentary group but also as Nigeria’s former colonial master. In the light of this historical antecedents, the report looks into the extent of Britain’s fulfillment of the expectation of the world community. Also examined are the steps taken by the Commonwealth since its justified outrage which led to Nigeria’s suspension after the Ogoni nine were executed. The report expresses doubt about the military regime’s stated intention to return the country to democratic dispensation and makes specific recommendations to the Nigerian government and the international community on the most appropriate mechanisms for resolving Nigeria’s crisis of nationhood.‘Transition Without End’2: Arbitrary violation of the rights ofcitizens to choose their rulers Of the several arguments used by the current military regime - it is the one about its stated commitment to return the country to democracy that its2 “Politics of Transition without end” is the title of a forthcoming book on Nigeria’s failed democratic experiment of the last eight years edited by Oye Oyediran, Larry Diamond and Anthony Kirk-Greene. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 4
  5. 5. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 legitimacy is hinged. On October 1, 1995 following relentless pressure on the regime to relinquish office since it overthrew the quasi-military interim regime headed by Chief Shonekan in November 1993, General Abacha announced a three year plan to install democracy in October 1998. In the National day speech, he spoke about combating corruption, accepted the principles of derivation and rotational presidency and promised to create more states in a country where only two of the 30-states are economically viable. He announced a military appointed Transition Implementation Committee, a National Electoral Commission and a State Creation, Local Government and Boundary Adjustment Committee. To buttress this stated commitment, the regime and its officials cite the holding of the local government election on a non-party basis in March 1996 as evidence of its firm and irrevocable commitment to handover power to a democratically elected civilian administration. Indeed, according to its High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, the success of the local government elections led the Leader of United States’ Observers, to say “the people have demonstrated their acceptance of the political transition programme of the Federal government”3 The irony of the United States Embassy’s denial that it had no observer team at the election was completely lost on the regime’s spokesman in the UK. The fact that the team of observers also turned out to be paid agents of the regime’s foreign lobbyists in the United States was discounted in the High Commisioner’s judgement. Obviously, the contradiction of an unelected regime imposing democracy on its victims is completely lost on General Abacha. Taken on its face value and based on the evidence of the regime’s transition programme so far, it seems improbable that General Abacha intends to leave office. Indeed, it will be no exaggeration to conclude that he intends to succeed himself either directly or through surrogate forces. Generally, discerning observers have noted that the Transition programme announced by General Abacha on October 1, 1995 is in several respects a copy of the one imposed on Nigerians by his military predecessor, General Ibrahim Babangida in 1987.[see Appendix 1 for the two programmes] Indeed, many have argued that the October 1 speech is remarkably similar to a transition postponement address to the Nation by General Babangida on November 17, 1992, exactly a year before General Abacha seized power. The above apart, independent political analysts have also suggested that the March 1996 local election on a non-party basis provides the first concrete evidence of the regime’s determination to violate Nigerians’ right to choose their democratic leaders. Not only were those elections riven by ‘mass banning, rigging and outright intimidation of credible candidates, giving room to the junta’s lackeys to claim “victory”4, the similarities in the methods used to that of the erstwhile military regime is exemplified by the various decrees promulgated. For example, Section 45(1) of Decree No.6 of 1996 which empowers the Head of State to remove from office a council chairman or an elected councillor if he is found “compromising his ‘non-partisan’ political standing or to be using public funds to advance the cause of a political party or association” bore remarkable resemblance to General Babangida’s infamous Section 34 of Decree 15 of 1989 which empowered the then Head of State to remove elected representatives at will.3 Acting High Commissioner’s letter to Lord Avebury, Chairman, Parliamentary Human Rights Group, ref.BA.55/5, 11 April 1996.4 Ike Okonta, “An election that never held,” Nigeria Now (London) Volume 5, Nos.3 & 4, (April-May 1996), p.8. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 5
  6. 6. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 Furthermore, in the effort to legitimise its own version of democratic transition, the regime betrayed its hidden intentions by ignoring one of the fundamental planks of democratic change: divergence of views and tolerance of critical opinion. Although General Abacha in his speech on October 1, 1995 unbanned three major national newspaper groups hitherto proscribed since June 1994 - [The Punch, Concord and the Guardian groups whose cases were highlighted in last years’ report,] freedom of expression especially on political rights remained a rare commodity. Indeed, Section 6 of the Transition Decree No.1 of 1996 prescribes fines and imprisonment for those who criticise the regime’s transition programme. Not only will the regime not brook any critical view of its transition programme, as Nigerians soon found out in the case of nationalist icon and Leader of the National Democratic Coalition [NADECO], Chief Anthony Enahoro, its operatives were ready to use any means in silencing the vocal opposition. For suggesting to the country that General Abacha subject his own three year transition programme alongside NADECO’s proposal of a one year transition programme to a ‘military controlled’ referendum [see appendix II for Chief Enahoro’s call for referendum], the elder statesman was forced to take “evasive action”5 after a visit by unknown gunmen to his Sheraton Hotel base in Ikeja, South West Nigeria. After remaining underground for a lengthy period of time, he finally managed to flee the country in May 1996(See section on Human rights situation). Prior to and since his flight abroad, other prominent and vocal opponents of the regime have lost their lives in mysterious circumstances described by some analysts as state sponsored terrorism. The assassination of the wife of the detained winner of the 1993 election, Mrs Kudirat Abiola on June 4, 1996 has underlined the rapid deterioriation in the violation of human and political rights. Although who is killing who remains unclear, the climate of terror that has been created by the regime since it seized power cannot go uncited in the spate of attacks on individuals with well known political views in particular and the increasing threat to life and property in the country, in general. Perhaps this is what led the United States’ Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Democracy, Mr John Shattuck to tell the Cable News Network [CNN] after a recent visit to Nigeria, “There is a reign of terror in the land...There is the equivalent in Nigeria of a Russian Gulag.” With the society so atomised by fear and willed into being by the desperate authoritarian hands of state, it would seem that the hope of the ruling junta is that Nigerians will become permanently beholden to its political machinations and military machismo. Perhaps more crucial to the erosion of the rights of Nigerians to decide their political fate is the ominous message contained in these seemingly disparate but inextricably intertwined political actions. The increasing desire to clamp down on the vocal opposition under the slightest excuse negates the very principles of democracy the current regime espouses. As this report went to press, three elder statesmen and prominent leaders of NADECO, Chief Solanke Onasanya (80), Senator Abraham Adesanya (76) and Chief Olu Adebanjo (73) have been taken into custody ostensibly under the pretext of ‘routine interrogation’ in connection with the killing of Mrs Abiola. As the process of engineering consent takes shape in the civil society, sterner measures are being put in place in the barracks. With the recent retirements in the military, General Abacha is believed to have raised the stakes in the struggle for the control of the military constituency which is crucial to the control of the entire political establishment. It is this complete5 David Pallister, “Abiola relatives held ‘to help murder inquiry”, The Guardian(London) 15 June 1996. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 6
  7. 7. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 personalisation of political power and the total abandonment of the erstwhile facade of a collegial military regime whose strength is drawn from a wider military constituency that is being seen as the strongest evidence of the General Abacha’s quest for succeeding himself in office. Skeptics insist that this abandonment of a supposedly institutional project to the rule of the individual autocrat completely dents any hope of a military that will not stay in power “ a day longer than necessary” and reinforces the perception now known as “Military politricks” in academic and activists circles.6 Devoid of any superior arguments to that of its political opponents, the regime increasingly resorts to diversionary measures to legitimise itself. Given the fact that public opinion is tired of military adventurism and is permanently desirous of exercising its rights to have a civilian democratic government, the attempt to cast mainstream politics as the threat to the people’s free will has met with a resounding failure. While politicians may be discredited for their lack of principles, Nigerians are increasingly of the view that however imperfect the process of conciliating naturally different interests is, it is still incomparable to tyranny, oligarchy, dictatorship and despotism which has been their lot for at least twenty seven out of Nigeria’s thirty six years of political independence. It is for the above reason that Nigerians continue to argue that a flawed democracy is better than the most benevolent military regime, not to mention a military regime which has even failed to confer on them any of the modernising characteristics like discipline, honesty, frugality and honour with which some cases of military intervention have been justified in other parts of the world. Even in the area of anti-corruption crusades where General Sani Abacha’s regime has earned some kudos from analysts and political commentators, it is too early to say what the regime’s real intentions are. It is clear however that there is more to this crusade than meets the ordinary eyes. Three crucial points about its variegated nature ought to be made, namely - the lack of due process in the work of the Failed Bank’s Tribunal now trying corrupt bankers especially with regard to arrests and detention of alleged suspects, the substantially skewed nature of arrests which leaves out those with military connections and the superficial measures adopted which are only tough on bank corruption and not on the causes of the banks’ failure. Observers have argued that the role played for instance by the regime in which General Abacha was defacto deputy in foisting the bank deregulation programme on the country also needs to come under critical scrutiny.7 Given its determination to erode the rights of Nigerians to decide how they will be governed of their own free will, the politics of transition without end has taken on a wider manipulation strategy, even as the pressure for the military to quit assumed a new vigour in the local and international community. While there may be some variations in the current regime’s plans to distinguish itself from the previous military regime, the evidence suggests6 Kayode Fayemi, “Nigeria’s Military Politricks”, Nigeria Now (London), Vol.5, Nos.3 &4, (April-May 1996), pp.4-7.7 For a comprehensive analysis of the regime’s anti-corruption crusade, see Kayode Fayemi, “The truth behind General Abacha’s anti-corruption crusade”, Nigeria Now (London) Volume 5, No.6, June 1996. Also see report of the Savannah Bank of Nigeria’s conference on Bank Fraud in West Africa Magazine, 1-7 July, 1996 NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 7
  8. 8. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 that this can only be in form rather than substance.8 Just like the Babangida regime, it is prepared to feed the international community with the usual weasel words that it can continuously renege on with yet more convoluted logic. Backed with the machinery of repression inside the country, its record of human rights violation since the publication of Crisis of Nationhood 1 last year gives little confidence that this is a regime willing to put in place a pluralist democratic dispensation were it possible for such an undemocratic force to do this. Beyond the vagaries of the current experiment however, one myth the current transition programme seeks to perpetuate is that the main event that brought the country to this near state of collapse - the annulled June 12 presidential election should be forgotten because it is irrelevant to the Nigerian body politic. Although this is the position the regime and its officials are selling to the world9, it would seem not to be the views of the fourteen million Nigerians who voted in that election. Indeed, perhaps no other issue exemplifies their belief of the military regime’s desperation to violate their fundamental rights to choose their democratic leaders than this particularly unfortunate incident in the life of the precarious nation state. Unlike most things in the country, the strength of views on the annuled election seem not to have been caught in collective amnesia unless with regime apologists. If anything, the general view remains that no political resolution is possible in Nigeria without the events of June 1993 serving as a departure point. Even as there exists no consensus among the supporters of the mandate on how best to actualise it amid doubts, despair and tactical differences, there is still a very strong conviction that a future democratic state can only be built on the foundation of restoring the truncated mandate of June 12 1993. However, the call by the democratic opposition for a sovereign national conference recognises the fact that the June 12 election is not an end in itself but a way of creating and consolidating the democratic space toward ensuring the full democratisation of the country. The current regime and its officials believe that the June 12 mandate can be wished away and every means is being applied to make this a reality. Through a mixed bag of terror tactics and conciliatory gestures the regime continues to confuse less discerning observers about its intentions. On the one hand, the regime would have the world believe that its transition programme is on course as the junta’s representatives recently tried to bamboozle the Commonwealth Ministerial Group in London. According to these parallel diplomats of the Nigerian dictatorship, parties are being formed. freedom of association, of movement and of expression flourish in an uninhibited manner. On the other hand, the same advocates of international understanding and constructive engagement tend not to vouch completely for the commitment of the regime to relinquishing power in 1998 as promised. The best one gets from them is the hope that the regime “does what it promises to do.” Aside from these make-believe scenarios sold to outsiders as the regime’s unique advantage, the reality is that the state security apparatuses continue to arrest citizens at will, stop peaceful assemblies and blocks8 In one significant respect, there is a strong suggestion that the military may abandon any explicit disavowal of political involvement. or any notion of the military in governance as an abberration. Some political actors believe that while several parties (up to eight) may be registered in the current scenario, including one opposition grouping, the ultimate outcome will see the success of a military or military backed party with General Abacha as its candidate. It is believed in pro-military circles that the Rawlings example of 1992 in Ghana can be replicated in Nigeria.9 For the latest example of the regime’s effort at rewriting the June 12 election history, please see “June 12 and the Future of Democracy in Nigeria, (Lagos: Federal Ministry of Information, 1996) NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 8
  9. 9. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 freedom of movement by incessant seizure of travelling passports. [see section on human rights situation]. What may not be immediately apparent to the less discerning outsider is the form and content of party formation and the inherent booby traps placed within the registration regulations. For example, the regime’s National Electoral Commission guidelines unlike what is applicable in every civilised countries legislate on how parties should run their organisations, disallow independent candidates from running if they wish; and prefers open ballot to secret ballot. Besides, only with at least 40,000 “authenticated passport photographs of members in every state will be eligible for registration.” The last condition may seem ordinary to outsiders but it is almost impossible in Nigeria given the logistical problems likely to be encountered. All these guidelines are themselves guided by provisions of a constitution purportedly in existence but which no party or individual has seen. It does not exist and has not been signed into law. Even by the junta’s standard disregard for anything legal, their advisers ought to know that provisions can not be made on the basis of law that is non-existent. What seems clear in the interim is that these booby traps are aimed at blocking those perceived to be “enemies” of the regime’s attempt to decide who rules Nigeria in particular, and a general attempt to decide its successors by open manipulation and remote control. Interestingly, these tactics are still backed by arbitrary arrests and harassment of political opponents, refusal of the right to peaceful assembly, intimidation of journalists and human rights activists, closure of independent newspapers which question the logic of the current transition, violation of rule of law and international covenants to which Nigeria is a signatory, and, increasingly resorts to extra-judicial measures against real and perceived enemies of the state. All these violations are detailed in the next section of this report.HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN NIGERIA, 1995 - 96 NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 9
  10. 10. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 Since the publication of Crisis of Nationhood 1, the plethora of reports and fact finding missions to Nigeria10 for the purpose of investigating human rights abuse underlines the ever worsening scale of human rights violations under the current military regime. At no time in the history of Nigeria has so much attention been focussed on any regime’s human rights record than now. This unusual attention by the international community should have been unnecessary if the regime has not gone to several lengths to trample on the freedom and rights of the Nigerian people. Ironically, General Abacha cannot see the point of the concerns expressed by the broad spectrum of the international community. The General and other regime officials continue to insist that the regime is a respecter of human rights, upholder of justice and the rule of law whose efforts are only aimed at restoring democracy and ensuring the safety and security of its citizens. To buttress this assertion, the regime cites a variety of steps taken in recent times such as its recent inauguration of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission - whose handpicked members are described as independent11, its exemption of armed forces personnel from Judicial Tribunals and the recent abrogation of Decree No.14 of 1994 which removed court powers to order that persons held under Decree 2 of 1987 be produced in court.12 These were not steps voluntary taken by the regime, neither are they far reaching in reality. Human rights and democracy activists in the country have in fact described them as “cosmetic steps...deceptive smokescreen calculated to impress the international community.” Coming in the wake of the severe indictment in the report of the United Nations’ Fact Finding mission to the country in March 1996 and just days before its representatives were to meet Commonwealth officials, it is difficult to conclude otherwise. In substantive terms, what these concessions amounted to is the culpability of the regime for the murder committed against the Ogoni nine without a corresponding admission of that guilt. The fact that the regime has now granted convicted persons the right of appeal against tribunal’s decisions can not explain why such rights were not honoured in the Ogoni nine case. Besides, not many in the human rights and political community believe that anything has changed with these obnoxious decrees. First, the most notorious one, Decree No.2 of 1984 is still in the military statute books. As many in the human rights community continue to insist, the regime has10 See for example, Michael Birnbaum QC, Nigeria: Fundamental Rights Denied: Report of the Trial of Ken Saro Wiwa, published by Article 19 in association with the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the Law Society of England and Wales; CHRI, Nigeria: Stolen by Generals - Abuja after the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, Report of a Mission by the non-governmental Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, September 1995; Final Communique of the 2nd Extra- Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peopls’ Rights, 18th - 19th December 1995 Kampala, Uganda; US Department of State: Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1995, Washington, February 1996; Final Communique of the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group Meeting, London 23-24 April 1996 and Report of the United Nations’ Fact Finding Mission to Nigeria, June 23 1996.11 In one dramatic reaction to the inclusion of one of its members, the respected Civil Liberties Organisation, issued a statement dissociating its members’ involvement in a body set up by a regime “actively assaulting every single human rights guaranteed to Nigerians under their constitution..” It continued, .we wish to make it clear that the CLO will not, and can never be a party to a charade called the National Human Rights Commission under an oppressive and dictatorial regime such as the Abacha led military junta”, the statement concluded.12 The two new decrees promulgated are - the Civil Disturbances (Special Tribunal) Amendment Decree of 1996, which removes military personnel from physically serving on Special Tribunals and grants an appellate right to accused persons. The second decree is the State Security (Detention of Persons Repeal) Decree of 1996. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 10
  11. 11. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 remained silent on whether it would repeal Decree No.12 (Supremacy and Enforcement of Powers) of 1994 which gives supremacy to whatever action the government takes while section 4 of Decree 2, the State Security (Detention of Persons) of 1984 which ousts the jurisdiction of the courts from questioning anything done under the decree has not been repealed. Second, judges are still tied to the apron strings of the military generals and those among them who dispense justice without any regard to the regime’s positions end up giving orders, decisions and judgements which are regularly flouted or simply ignored by regime officials. More importantly, the recent steps taken may mean a change in the tactics of repression by the regime. In fact, some within the vocal opposition see in it the beginnings of South African style “third force”, the notorious combination of security forces and civilian rogue elements who were responsible for fomenting violence in apartheid South Africa in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is difficult to know the truth behind these allegations, but there has been a history of alliances between law enforcement agents and criminals. Police officers have been known to supply weapons to criminals for a fee. In recent times, there is a strong circumstantial evidence that political assasinations and extra-judicial murders have become a permanent feature of Nigeria’s unstable political terrain and it is not unlikely that the pattern of the recent killings betrays a sinister dimension that is more than criminal intent. The fact that most of the victims have also been vocal critics of the regime has raised a few eyebrows in the human rights community.Extra-Judicial killings, arson and torture Extra-judicial killings, arson and torture a) Extra-judicial killings As the 1995 report highlighted, the crisis that engulfed oil-rich Ogoniland presents the most gory example of extra-judicial killings in the last three years. On November 10, 1995 this culminated in the state hanging of nine minority rights activists of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People [MOSOP], including their president, celebrated writer and activist, Ken Saro Wiwa. Barinem Kiobel, Baribor Bera, John Kpuniem, Paul Levura, Saturday Dorbee, Felix Nwate, Nordu Earwo and Daniel Gbokoo were also victims of what the regime has now indirectly accepted as extra-judicial murders. Both the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative mission report of September 1995 and the United States Country report on Nigeria’s human rights 1996 highlighted other extra-judicial murders related to robbery. Indeed, Nigerian newspapers regularly report on bodies dumped in cemetries without any explanation by government officials. There have been various speculations as to whether these were soldiers feared dead in the Liberian peacekeeping missions or victims of the extra-judicial murders in Ogoniland. [see appendix III ] NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 11
  12. 12. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 Even in the cases of extra-judicial killings of alleged armed robbers which is generally seen as less deserving of any sympathy, it is important to place it wthin its socio-economic context. In the face of severe economic and social deprivation, armed robbery has become a rampant problem in the urban parts of the country. This material fact has led however to indiscriminate killings of those suspected to be involved in robbery even when unarmed. In August 1995, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr James Danbaba boasted of his men killing 30 suspected armed robbers in a series of raids in July 1995. This type of indiscriminate killings is replicated in other parts of the country including the rural areas where armed vigilantes roam the streets and sometimes kill and maim. Even though this has been a feature of the Nigerian nation prior to the seizure of power by the Abacha led junta, this violation of fundamental human rights of an accused person to be charged and tried in accordance to the due processes of law and justice exemplifies the regime’s distaste for the rule of law and proper procedures. So intense is this distaste that most criminal offences had been taken out of the jurisdiction of the courts to tribunals managed, controlled and sometimes directed by soldiers. Yet what is lost in due process has not produced any tangible gains in efficiency or crime reduction. Neither has it served as a deterrent to armed robbers, many of who are said to be unemployed graduates forced into this unenviable lifestyle as a way of survival. If anything, the “shoot at sight” policy of the armed forces and the police has only succeeded in militarising the society. This is now reflected in the incidence of assassinations which is made more poignant by the all pervasive climate of fear in the country. The assassination for example on October 7, 1995, of Pa Alfred Rewane, elder statesman and well known critic of the military dictatorship gave the first worrying signal of the existence of a shadowy assassination squad. Pa Rewane was at the time of his assassination a major financier and stalwart of the umbrella opposition grouping -National Democratic Coalition [NADECO]. He was drowned in a hail of bullets inside his Lagos apartment. Although the police claimed it arrested some suspects in connection with the murder, human rights workers in the country have insisted that the police ought to have followed up the strange coincidence of a certain “Committee of friends” taking advertisements in the Nigerian newspapers against Pa Rewane just before his untimely death. In one of their adverts titled, “Rewane, IBB and Public Accountability”, the Committee of Friends warned Rewane to desist from accusing ex-military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida of corruption. The advert ended with an ominous warning that “he should take this as Number One.” Yet, law enforcement agencies refused to look at any other options apart from seeing every murder case as the handiwork of “hoodlums and armed robbers”. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 12
  13. 13. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 By June 4, 1996, even those who had hitherto given credence to police stories that the spate of assassinations were indeed the handiwork of hoodlums started to think otherwise. On that day, the outspoken wife of the detained winner of the 1993 election, Mrs Kudirat Olayinka Abiola was murdered in broad daylight, a few meters away from a police checkpoint. Nothing was stolen by those the police immediately referred to as “hoodlums.” Again, because of the focus of international attention on the assassination of a woman who had become the most vocal symbol of the June 12 mandate in the Abiola household, police investigators quickly changed their initial asessment accepting the possibility that it could be an assassination. To justify their change of heart however, several members of the Abiola family including Chief Abiola’s first son and business manager, Kola who was still in detention at the time this report went to press, were arrested. Equally detained for interrogation are prominent National Democratic Coalition’s leaders, 80 year old Chief Solanke Onasanya, Senator Abraham Adesanya, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, and Chief Ganiyu Dawodu. Several others including lawyers, friends of the deceased and casual aquaintances have not escaped the interrogators’ subpoena. As the octogenerian leader of NADECO, Chief Adekunle Ajasin argued, “it is unreasonable to link Kudirat’s death with any NADECO member because she was a friend of the association.” Discerning observers have also argued that these arrests would appear to be purely diversionary especially in the wake of the regime’s offer of reward for information with regard to this particular assassination. Many wonder why the tentacles of the interrogators busy arresting friends, family members and close political associates of the murdered woman have refused to wander in the direction of her well known enemies. There is credible evidence that the security service had been on Mrs Abiola’s trail for two months prior to her death. There is also evidence that she was arrested, detained and charged to court for being in possession of “seditious material” in May, just a month before her killing. That the regime saw Mrs Abiola as the stumbling block against their effort to obtain the family support in exchange for the release of the detained election winner has also never been in doubt. In fact, Nigerian newspapers were regularly awash with statements by people who profess their closeness to the regime asserting that her ‘obduracy’ was primarily responsible for the delay in her husband’s release from detention. This eventually led to some family schisms between those regarded as moderates and ready to let go the electoral mandate given Chief Abiola and those who insist that it must be actualised. Hence, in the absence of any concrete evidence yet of state sponsored terrorism (and many don’t believe the one track direction of police investigations will produce any), Kudirat’s death is generally being interpreted as a message from those who are seeking to convey in the most violent terms possible the fact that they will not tolerate opposition, protest or change. The climate for this message had been created earlier with the attempted assassination of Mr Alex Ibru, the publisher of the liberal newspaper, The Guardian and the murder in broad daylight of Rear Admiral Eddy Omotehinwa, a retired naval officer known to be close to one of NADECO’s chieftains in exile - retired General Alani Akinrinade in May. There is evidence that the upward spiral of political assassinations may not abate in the coming months. It is even possible to conjecture a backlash from within the ranks of the opposition where peaceful agitators are being sidelined by those who argue that their diplomatic and non-violent strategies have failed. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 13
  14. 14. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 b) Arson Since the nationwide strike of July to September 1994, arson has become a regular weapon used against opponents of the military junta. On August 26 1994, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and retired Air-Commodore Dan Suleiman, prominent leaders of the pro-democracy movement both suffered arson attacks on their residences. The State organised terrorists left an ominous message with Chief Fawehinmi’s house guards, “we will kill you, we will kill your boss because he is an opponent of this government.” Since then, several newspapers, interestingly always those critical of the military, had experienced arson attacks in mysterious circumstances (see section on press). In May 1996, the Lagos residence of retired General Alani Akinrinade was fire bombed by “unknown hoodlums” and his son barely escaped being burnt alive. Although regime officials regularly deny any knowledge of these attacks, there has always been an uncanny link to government operatives. Prior to the attack on retired General Akinrinade’s house in May 1996, a military panel had secretly accused him and other retired officers - Brigadier- General David Mark and Colonel Sambo Dasuki of responsibility for the sporadic attacks on military installations in the country.13 The arson attack occurred around the same time relatives of Brigadier-General David Mark were assaulted in Lagos by “unknown persons” who warned that they should take that as “number one”. It also coincided with the deposition of Colonel Sambo Dasuki’s father the supreme caliph in the north - the Sultan of Sokoto. These seemingly disparate incidences would appear inextricably intertwined and controlled from a single source. The most probable source would appear to be the ruling military junta and/or its agents. c) Torture In the period covered by this report, July 1995 - June 1996, torture remained a regular tool of the law enforcement agencies and other security apparatuses. It is no secret that police, armed forces and environmental task force officials regularly beat, torture and sometimes kill their victims due to excessive use of force. Although this is also consistently denied by the regime, eye witness accounts and all the recently published independent human rights reports have cited the increasing tendency of security officials to “take the laws into their hands”. Political prisoners, including the detained winner of the presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, have been victims of torture and severe beatings. Before his release after one year of incarceration since January 1995, the Campaign for Democracy’s Secretary-General, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine was reportedly beaten and thrown out of a moving truck on his release from jail. Before then, letters smuggled out of prison cells by military officers and civilians arraigned before the Brigadier-General Aziza panel for the alleged coup plot of March 1995 confirmed human rights bodies’ allegations regarding torture of the accused by military intelligence officers.14 There were claims, not denied by government that Colonel Lawan Gwadabe, Colonel R.S.B.Fadile and Major Akinyemi had to undergo physiotherapy from injuries sustained from incessant torture. Another convicted human rights activist and Chairman of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr Beko Ransome13 Report of the Inquiry on Attacks on Military Installations by Brigadier General Oladayo Popoola to GOCs, Corps Commanders, etc, April 29, 1996., (Lagos. Army Headquaters)14 For detailed information on the torture of victims, see Nigeria Now, “Human Rights Monitor -Nigeria’s House of Torture”, Volume 4, No.6, November/December 1995. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 14
  15. 15. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 Kuti actually referred to a certain Assistant Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Biu as the Chief Torturer at Alagbon Police Detention Camp in Lagos.15Arbitrary Arrests, Unlawful Detention, Unfair Trials, and Flightto Exile a) Arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention It is often difficult to estimate the number of political detainees arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained in Nigeria.[see appendix IV for latest estimates] According to the US State Department Country Report 1995, “most often the authorities did not charge detainees with any crime, held them for only brief periods and questioned them about their activities and statements.”16 However, because it is often not known why several thousands of Nigerians held in jail, it is no exaggeration when the United States’ Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Labour and Democracy, Mr John Shattuck claimed Nigerian jails contain “thousands of political prisoners.” While most figures of people detained without charges are hotly disputed by human rights organisations and government agencies, what is not disputed by prison authorities is the large presence of illegally detained citizens. Nigeria’s leading human rights organisation, the Civil Liberties Organisation estimates that 50,000 of Nigeria’s estimated prison population of 65,000 are held in jail without any charge proferred against them. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Alhaji Baba Kingibe admits to a lower figure: According to him, 25,000 of 50,000 prisoners in jail, have never had charges brought against them but the government is trying to rectify the situation.17 Even if one accepts the Ministers’ figures, it seems improbable that a regime that claims to be a great respecter of human rights would allow this to happen in its domain especially when some of those detained without charges were children. The CHRI report referred to earlier detailed the appalling conditions under which children were held.18 The only reason why the cases of these often arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained people has not been highlighted is due to the fact that they are relatively unknown unlike the more prominent leaders of the human rights and democracy movement. Since the tone of arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention is however set by the number of prominent people arrested and kept behind bars, the government continued the pattern of arrests reflected in last year’s report in the period covered. In the month of July, prominent lawyer and human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi was arrested and detained for two weeks without any charge. Also arrested in the same month were Chima Ubani, Secretary of the Democratic Alternative, Osagie Obayuwana, one of the Campaign for Democracy’s[CD] vice national chairmen, Abdul Oroh, Executive Director of15 Personal communication from Dr Beko Kuti while still in detention in Lagos, June 1995.16 US State Dept, Human Rights Report, Country Report on Nigeria, op-cit.17 Mr Babagana Kingibe admitted this in a BBC World Service interview, May 22, 1996.18 CHRI, Nigeria: Stolen by the Generals, op-cit. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 15
  16. 16. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 the Civil Liberties Organisation, Dr Tunji Abayomi, President, Human Rights Africa and General Obasanjo’s defence lawyer. Gani Fawehinmi had been picked up twice after the July arrest, once in September for three days along with three other members of his National Conscience Party. They were all charged for unlawful assembly. He was arrested again on 31st January just before addressing a Students rally at the University of Lagos and has been held since in Bauchi prisons despite his failing health. Prior to their arrests and detention, Chima Ubani, Abdul Oroh and Tunji Abayomi have also been detained without charges proferred against them since June 1995. As this report went to press, there were unconfirmed reports that Messrs Abdul Oroh and Tunji Abayomi had regained their freedom. Also believed to have been released in a cosmetic gesture presaging the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group with representatives of the Nigerian junta, included two student leaders - Hilary Ojukwu and Charles Titiloye and Matthew Popoola a human rights worker. Conditions attached to their freedom are unknown. All of them were held under the notorious Decree No.2 of 1984 which the regime now claims to have amended. Still in detention without charge or trial are Chief Gani Fawehinmi, National Coordinator of the National Conscience Party currently detained in Bauchi, Barrister Femi Falana, President of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers[NADL] arrested at his Ikeja office on February 13, 1996 and Mr Femi Aborishade, Fawehinmi’s deputy in the National Conscience Party arrested on February 14, 1996. Messrs Falana and Aborishade are believed to be held in Hadeija prisons near the northern city of Kano. Several other activists in the pro-democracy, human rights and labour movements arrested since the national strike in 1994 remained in detention. Frank Kokori, Secretary-General of NUPENG., John Adoga and Milton Dabibi, Secretary-General of PENGASSAN detained without trial since January 24th 1996. Some leading democracy activists detained without charges since 1994 also regained their freedom in January 1996. Prominent among them were Mr Demola Adeniji-Adele, the local government Chairman of Lagos Island before the military seized power, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, the Campaign for Democracy’s Secretary-General, Mr Olu Akerele, an aide to Chief M.K.O.Abiola, Mr Wale Oshun, Acting Secretary-General of NADECO, R.Addo, ex-president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association [PENGASSAN] and Peter Aidelomon, a branch chairman of PENGASSAN. Also, as this report went to press, unconfirmed reports claim that NADECO Secretary, Mr Ayo Opadokun and Chief Abiola’s personal assistant, Mr Fred Eno have been released. It is not clear if they are asked to report to the police for a period of time as a condition of release. In Ogoniland, citizens continued to be subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention by the Rivers State Internal Security Unit now under a new officer, Major Paul Omahi after the exit of notorious Lt.Colonel Okuntimo who dubbed himself a killing machine on British television. In August, there were credible reports of the arrests of four MOSOP activists, Messrs Lekue Lah Loolo, Baton Mittee, Meshack Karanwi and a cameraman. During the trial and since the execution of the Ogoni nine, regime agents continued to harass, arrests and detain several MOSOP activists in Ogoniland. Others like Dr Owens Wiwa, brother of Ken Saro Wiwa went underground until they were safe to flee for their lives. In spite of pretensions to the contrary, the regime repeatedly detained anyone perceived as unfriendly, including human rights workers, democracy activists, politicians and journalists who point out the instances of executive NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 16
  17. 17. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 lawlessness. Foreign observers were not spared this regular spectacle of such daylight violations of peoples and human rights. For example, some NADECO leaders were arrested during the United Nations Fact Finding mission’s visit to the country between March 29 and April 10. In Lagos, it took a special appeal from a member of the UN mission to secure the release of Dr Frederick Fasheun, a NADECO leader who was arrested just before the meeting with the UN mission at the Sheraton hotel, Lagos. Equally, on the eve of the UN’ team’s visit to Ogoniland, there were credible reports that many family members, MOSOP members and aides to the executed Saro Wiwa were bundled away, and for a short period, the whereabout of Saro Wiwa’s aged parents were unknown after a raid on the house by Major Paul Omahi’s Internal Security Task Force. At least eighteen others including Anyakwee Nsirimonvu, executive director of the Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law [IHRHL] based in Port Harcourt were detained for several days in late March and early April. Such arbitrary arrests and detentions were to continue throughout the period of the report. The arbitrary arrests and detention in May of 13 year old British citizen, John Paul Mokuolu detained in place of his wanted father and 17 year old Bose Lijadu, daughter of Campaign for Democracy’s Ogun State Chairman, brought into clear relief the extent the authorities would go in violating the fundamental human rights of citizens’, including children and minors. The fact that the combined efforts of the British High Commission in Nigeria and several human rights bodies failed to secure an unconditional release for Mokuolu confirms the long held view of human rights groups that anyone related to an activist is a target of the junta’s repressive laws. It also laid to rest the unusual assertion by the British’ Home Office that relatives of political targets are not in danger of being used as human shield by State security officials. There is no reason to believe that the pattern is going to change in the near future, the few instances of political prisoners regaining their freedom notwithstanding. b.) Unfair trials If arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention were a permanent feature of this period, unfair trial was often the consequence in cases where detainees were charged. In the period covered in this report, three cases marked this out. The unending saga of the detained President elect, Chief Moshood Abiola who has now been in jail for more than two years. While the regime continues to claim that “Chief Abiola is in police custody under judicial order awaiting trial”, as they told the visiting UN mission, court orders sanctioning the release of the detained politician had been regularly flouted by the authorities. In November 1994, a Kaduna Federal Court of Appeal ordered Chief Abiola’s release although the same court later overruled itself. In May 1995, eight supreme court justices withdrew from hearing Chief Abiola’s case because of a libel suit involving the justices against the Concord Newspapers group owned by Chief Abiola. This effectively truncated any hope of hearing Chief Abiola’s case at the Supreme Court as the regime is not in a hurry to appoint a full complement of new supreme court justices. On the other hand, the regime has suspended the phantom treason trial it had been pursuing against Chief Abiola indefinitely. Despite repeated calls to release Chief Abiola whose health has deteriorated in jail, the regime continues to ignore both international and local appeals for his release. Not even the loss of his most senior wife in an attack that smacked more of regime culpability than armed robbery, has persuaded the authorities to release Chief Abiola. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 17
  18. 18. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 As if this did not represent enough travesty of justice, the regime announced on July 14 that it had convicted 40 of the 51 persons interrogated in connection with the so called coup plot of March 1995. They were given various jail terms ranging from life to six months for treason, conspiracy, concealment of treason and accessory to treason. Some were declared wanted for their roles19, seven were released and one was cleared of charges but kept in prison for undisclosed reasons. Among those convicted following the trumped up charges included ex- Head of State, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, his ex-deputy, retired Major -General Shehu Yar’adua, Chairman of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr Beko Kuti and one of his National Vice Chairs, Malam Shehu Sanni who both received twenty five years jail terms later communted to fifteen years imprisonment. Others included General Abacha’s former Principal Staff Officer, Colonel Lawan Gwadabe and former Army Director of Legal Services, Colonel RSB Fadile. Even journalists were not spared in this onslaught against the perceived ‘enemies of the regime. Kunle Ajibade of TheNews, Ben-Charles Obi of Weekend Classique, George Mbah of Tell Magazine and Ms. Chris Anyanwu of TSM [see the section on press freedom violations] were also jailed. As the 1995 report extensively detailed, the coup plot was widely seen as nothing but a figment of the regime’s imagination. Credible reports insist that the whole coup story was a carefully designed ploy by the military regime to perpetuate a myth of invincibility by picking on the most vocal section of the opposition within and outside the military in order to silence the rest of the populace [see Appendix V for a full list of those affected and their sentences] Of all the unfair trials during this period, the Ogoni minority leaders trial and execution stood out. The 1995 report presciently noted that “in spite of legal orchestrations, it is believed that the trial is a prosection of a political agenda aimed at brutally aborting the Ogoni struggles which are encouraging other oil producing communities in the Niger Delta to protest the status quo of political marginalisation and environmental degradation.” We further went on to state that, “even though Ken Saro Wiwa has always maintained that their struggle was a non-violent one, the regime in connivance with Shell Petroleum are insistent on making him a scapegoat.”20 The above was precisely what happened on November 10, 1995 as Commonwealth Heads of State gathered in Auckland, New Zealand for their bi-ennial summit. As the United Nations mission which visited Nigeria to investigate the trial concluded, the constitution of the special tribunal, the lack of an investigative panel as a prelude to the tribunals’ work and the “overall procedures actually followed in the course of the trial were not fair.”21 The mission then pointed out in greater detail what it considered as critical elements of the trial’s unfairness. Namely, the accused’ lack of access to lawyers prior to the start, and during the trials, inhumane treatment between detention time on 21 May 1994 till the time the trial began in 6 February 1995; access to counsel limited by the inhuman conditions in the prisons thus precluding attorney/client confidentiality; involvement of the military junta in all phases of the trial; harassment of defence counsels by police and internal security task force, refusal of materials critical to the defence of the accused persons, prosecution’s reception of witnesses’ evidence under duress and19 Retired Colonels Tony Nyiam and Sambo Dasuki and Mr Great Ogboru were declared wanted in connection with the alleged coup plot.20 See “Nigeria: The Crisis of Nationhood I: An historical perspective on the state of human rights and democracy”, (London: Parliamentary Human Rights Group) June 1995, p.14.21 Report of the United Nations mission to Nigeria, New York: United Nations Publications Divison, June 23, 1996 NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 18
  19. 19. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 finally the tribunal’s refusal to stay proceedings despite a request from the Appeal court to so do.22 Although the regime had acceded to some of the mission’s requests for the removal of military men from special tribunals, it continued to argue that the Special Tribunals decree preceded this regime’s seizure of power. This argument, self serving as it is, obfuscates more than it explains. The fact that an arbitrary law has been in existence and used before does not make it a good law, only that those operating it are as bad if not worse than those who used it in the past. In effect, what is needed is not cosmetic accessions to the requests made by the United Nations but a fundamental overhaul of the entire system that has made it possible to trample on the rights of ordinary citizens. c) Flight into exile One major effect of the Ogoni extra-judicial murders was the external flight to safety that resulted. Internal flight from the army of occupation in Ogoniland has always been a feature of the crisis in the region. But despite international outcry over its execution of the Ogoni leaders, the regime is insisting on sentencing more Ogoni activists to death by hanging “if found guilty”. No fewer than 19 are already charged for complicity in the murders for which Ken Saro Wiwa and the others were hanged last November. Virtually turned into an army camp where every body is in open air prison and faced with repeated intimidation and torture, the Ogoni’s started their flight into exile. By 29 March 1996, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva confirmed that “about 1,000 refugees have arrived in neighbouring Benin”23. Eye witness accounts in Benin republic have since confirmed the desperate conditions under which these refugees exist in the camp near Cotonou, Benin republic. Flight into exile is however not restricted to the Ogonis. Since repression under this military regime recognises no tribe, other prominent leaders of the democracy and human rights movement like Chief Anthony Enahoro have had to flee for dear life into exile. Although there remains little evidence of forcible exile in Nigeria, the climate of terror and fear for which the Abacha regime is responsible is at the root of the flight into exile by prominent pro-democracy activists. The fact that their counterparts who had stayed back in the country either ended up in the morgue or in jail vindicates the decision of many to go into exile. At the time of going to press, many of the prominent and otherwise unknown opposition activists and leaders are on their way out of the country. Their desperation to leave is further heightened by the rumoured hit list of members of the democracy movement in the country. According to authoritative intelligence sources, the list is said to feature leaders of the democracy movement. Among those who managed to escape in the last three months include, Chief Enahoro, co-leader of NADECO, his Acting Secretary, Mr Wale Oshun, and Chief Cornelius Adebayo. They join the swelling ranks of democracy movement leaders in exile. Even so, many in the opposition still fear that the regime’s reach is unlimited. On a few occasions, prominent leaders of the opposition have been monitored and trailed by unknown persons believed to be working for the Nigerian junta. Although it seems highly improbable for the regime to22 ibid.23 The Times of London, “Opposition Ogonis flee to Benin”, March 30, 1996. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 19
  20. 20. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 succeed in abducting or even causing opposition figures to disappear, this will not stop efforts in this direction. After all, the Nigerian military has a history of abducting its perceived enemies outside its shores. The case of Alhaji Dikko’s attempted abduction in 1984 reminds keen observers that this phenomenon cannot be discounted.Attacks on Freedom of Movement and Violations of Freedomof Associationa) Attacks on Freedom of movement Since the publication of the last report, freedom of movement has been under severe restriction in Nigeria. On a general scale, the government has made the cost of owning travel documents unnecesarily prohibitive under this regime. The cost of owning a passport has increased from its earlier equivalent cost of £20 to £150 in a country where the per capita income hovers between $250 and $300. This dramatic escalation in cost of obtaining a passport has been accompanied by the recently announced proposal of exit visa for people travelling out of the country without which they would be refused the freedom to travel. Although this measure is yet to come into effect, tickets of prospective Nigerian travellers outside the country are now subject to reproduction by security and airport officials. No convincing explanation has been given for this new measure but it is thought to be another way of blocking perceived ‘enemies’ from travelling abroad especially now when the regime see behind every failed move the unseen hands of foreign manipulators. Human rights activists, politicians and journalists are always subjected to severe interrogation anytime they are travelling outside the country. Prominent members of the human rights, pro-democracy movement and the media have had their passports seized by the authorities on several occasions. In September 1995, several prominent women activists including Ms Glory Afi Kilanko, the National Coordinating Secretary of the Women in Nigeria and Ms Bilkisu Yusuf, Executive Editor of Citizens Magazine, were prevented from attending the Fourth United Nations’ Women’s Conference in Beijing, China. On April 10, 1996, the travelling passports of Mr Olisa Agbakoba, the former president of the Civil Liberties Organisation, that of his successor, Ms Ayo Obe and Mr Tunde Olugboji, Project Officer for the Constitutional Rights Project were seized on their way out to an International conference in London. In the intervening months, several others lost their passports to the security agencies. In March 1996, the passport of retired Major General Ishola Williams, a fearless critic of military misrule was seized by the State security operatives on orders from ‘above’ The same month, Association of Nigerian Authors’ president and TheNews magazine columnist, Mr Odia Ofeimun was prevented from travelling to Europe. Several others like Chief Sobo Sowemimo, Senator Abraham Adesanya, Chief G.O.K.Ajayi and Mr Alao Aka Bashorun have had their passports seized at various times by the military junta. The pattern of seizure of travel documents has continued. The regime’s paranoia has even extended to the borders of Nigeria with her neighbours. A suggestion to mine the borders has even been discussed at NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 20
  21. 21. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 the highest level of government following repeated escape of prominent pro- democracy and human rights activists through the country’s numerous porous borders. b) Continuing violations of freedom of professional and political associations. The Labour movement has come under serious attack since the inception of the Abacha administration. Following the role played by trade unions and professional associations in the struggle to enthrone democracy in the country prior to June 12, 1993, in the wake of that election’s annulment, throughout the pro-democracy agitation which followed that annulment in 1993, and its spearheading of the national strike in 1994, they have continued to be key targets for total annihilation or at the very least, control by the military junta. The Abacha regime intensified this plan with the promulgation of Decree No.9 of 1994 through which it dissolved the Nigerian Labour Congress by fiat and placed it under a handpicked administrator and Secretary appointed by the Labour Minister. Decree 10 - NUPENG and PENGASSAN (Dissolution of Executive Councils) of 1994 dissolved the executive councils of the two trade unions that had played a frontline role in the national strikes of July to September 1994. This was after several of its leaders were arrested and detained without trial, some are still held for close to two years now. (see section on Unlawful arrests and detention above) Human rights organisations have argued that by promulgating these decrees, the military regime violated Articles 3 and 4 of the International Labour Organisation convention concerning Freedom of Association, and Protection of the right to organise.24 To further weaken the powers of the trade unions to organise, the regime promulgated The Trade Union(Amedment) Decree No.4 of 1996. Ostensibly amended to effect a reduction in the number of trade unions through merger, it is widely believed the intention behind the decree was to cripple the unions and undermine their independence from state apparatuses. All sections of the amended decree are reflective of the government’s determination to interfere in the conduct and organisation of the unions. This attempt by the government through the Labour minister to control the labour movement led to the resignation of the Minister’s Special Adviser, Mallam Salisu Mohammed, who raised the alarm that the Minister was planning to arrest labour leaders. Not too long after his resignation, the erstwhile Deputy president of the Labour Congress and a known radical candidate for the union leadership in the forthcoming elections, Mr Adams Oshiomole of the Textile Union was arrested and detained on the orders of the Minister. There is no better evidence of the regime’s intention to control the labour movement than the way Comrade Billy Oro was manipulated out of the Maritime Union leadership even though he was the sole candidate at the election. The union conference was reportedly stalemated through an injunction obtained by one Malam Aliyu Sabo Abubakar, who later owned up to being used by the Minister of Labour. Even when the injunction was declared null and void in court, the Minister unilaterally changed the venue of24 Civil Liberties Organisation, “Continuing violations of Labour Rights by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria”, Presentation of the Civil Liberties Organisation(CLO) to the United Nations Fact Finding Mission to Nigeria: 12 April 1996. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 21
  22. 22. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 the conference and the election’s returning officer just to ensure that a certain Mr Okamuna, the ministerial candidate for the presidency emerged the winner.This tactic had been used to great effect in the past in professional associations and trade unions perceived to be anti-government because of their uncompromising stance in defence of workers rights. Professional associations like the Nigerian Bar Association and the Nigerian Union of Journalists and even the National Association of Nigerian Students[NANS] now splintered into pro-government and pro-students factions, have all fallen prey to this deliberate orchestration of internal schisms by the government and its agents. However, associations that have proved resilient to these obviously desperate tactics do not necessarily escape the regime’s noose. - they are simply banned. The case of the Academic Staff Union of Universities [ASUU] remains the classic example. Rather than address the grievances of the university teachers in terms of poor and universally incomparable pay, the gradual deterioration of the educational standards due to lack of facilities occasioned by bad governance and the structural adjustment programme’s insistence on removal of education subsidy, the government resorts to banning the lecturers’ union and threatening to dismiss its members. University teachers have been on strike since April 29 without any serious hope of an amicable settlement. Already, the government has resorted to the old tactic of reneging on agreements and then proscribing the affected union. Even newly formed political associations and socio-philantrophic organisations have been victims of the violation of the right to freely associate and assemble. There are credible reports that rallies and party meetings are now subjected to repeated stoppages on the grounds that they are “unlawful assemblies” or in “breach of peace” in a country where there is no ban on formation of political movements. It would appear that this elaborate effort to control the trade union movement and regulate the freedom of associations is part of the control mechanism put in place in the civil society. Given the critical role that professional associations and labour have always played in every progressive cause, including funding projects for the mass enlightenment of the masses, it is not surprising that the regime perceives labour as a major threat to achieving its ultimate objective of succeeding itself in office. Indeed the Minister, Alhaji Uba Ahmed had gone on record, according to human rights workers to say that “trade unions cannot be independent of government because the members are citizens requiring government protection.” 25 It is not difficult to conclude that the level of interference in the affairs of the trade union would continue as long as the regime insists on forcing its will on the citizens.Violation of Freedom of Expression: Arrests, Arsons,Proscriptions and Indirect Censorship Of the several institutions at the receiving end of state repression, the media has been the most hit. On seizing power in November 1993, General Sani Abacha tried to endear his regime to the media, aware as he was of their critical role in the demise of his predecessors . In his maiden speech, he expressed his belief in the freedom of speech. He said his regime wanted to25 ibid. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 22
  23. 23. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 maintain a “track record of not muzzling the press or impairing its ability to perform its duties”. As we highlighted in the Parliamentary Human Rights Report in 1995, the honeymoon with the press for want of a better word was over barely three months after the regime seized power. a) Physical violence and arson attacks The first evidence of the regime’s renewed but fiercer onslaught on Nigeria’s defiant and indomitable press came with the arrests of journalists alongside so called coup plotters in May 1995. At this point, it became apparent that the regime would stop at nothing in the agenda to scuttle independent publications believed to be connected to the pro-democracy campaign, impose its will on the media and the people of the land. Although the country had witnessed continuing arrests of journalists from the strongly critical section of the press, TheNews, Tell Magazine, TSM, Tempo, AM and PM News have been targets of various military intelligence raids, they have remained undaunted by these onslaughts. This pattern of torture and arrest culminated in the conviction and sentencing of journalists to several years in jail for reporting events as they saw it. Kunle Ajibade of TheNews, Ben Charles Obi of Classique, George Mbah of Tell Magazine and Chris Anyanwu of TSM are now langushing behind bars as accessories to treason, for a coup plot allegation that many believed to be largely unfounded. Other independent and inside military sources reached the same conclusions about the alleged coup d’etat. It was clear that the regime needed to send a message in the clearest of terms to journalists who are insistent on pursuing the truth behind every action of the military junta. Some, like Kunle Ajibade and Chris Anyanwu for example, who were not even involved in writing the stories in their papers found themselves implicated in this grand plan to unnerve opponents of military regime. The four journalists implicated in the coup plot eventually got life jail. It took a huge international outcry against the regime’s blatant miscarraige of justice before their sentence was reduced to 15 years. Even this reduction of prison terms have not saved them from been treated like criminals, subjected to severe psychological torture and poor diet, and at least one, Mrs Chris Anyanwu is believed to have been physically assaulted in jail. Even this has not restrained the fascistic tactics employed by agents of the government. In the intervening period, several journalists were harassed, arrested and detained without charge. Among them were Chido Unoma of PM News arrested in June 1995, Babafemi Ojudu, editor of the AM News and his news editor, Lekan Otufodunrin were also detained in June. Osa Director, the Norther bureau chief of the award winning magazine, Tell was arrested in August 1995, harassed and tortured before his release on bail on October 6. Others detained in the period leading to and after the execution of the Ogoni 9 included The Week’s magazine’s Managing editor, Chris Mammah and his General editor, Godwin Agbroko who were both arrested and released in September 1995. The spate of arrests intensified in the wake of the ‘judicial murder’ of Ogoni minority rights activists, including celebrated writer and environmentalist, Ken Saro Wiwa. On November 27, Chuks Ehirim and Tayo Lukula both of The News Magazine stable were declared wanted for reports on the trial and possible execution of the Ogoni activists. On December 10 1995, a 10 man squad of the State Security Services laid seige to the premises of AM News. The following day in Port Harcourt, Tayo Lukula, the correspondent of its sister magazine, TheNews had his wife and eight month NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 23
  24. 24. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 daughter detained and later released because the security operatives could not reach him. In December, Dejo Adebisi, Manager (Adverts and Promotions) for Tell magazine, Yemi Olowolabi, a reporter and two other members of staff, Iyi Isaac and Emmanuel Piper were all harassed and detained briefly when the State Security Services laid seige on Tell Magazine. Other victims of physical harassment and torture in December were veteran photo-journalists, Peter Obe and Bayo Ewuoso of AM News, Segun Olakitan of Tell and Abiodun Ajala of This Day newspaper. On December 10, the December 18 edition of Tell Magazine was confiscated from the printers. Since then, four consecutive editions of the magazine had been confiscated, totalling over 250,000 copies and resulting in huge circulation and advertisement losses. That same day, 18 December, the Rutam House headquarters of the recently deproscribed Guardian group was set on fire in suspicious circumstances. Prior to this incident, an anonymous fax had been sent to the publication editor, Eluem Emeka Izeze, warning him to stop his ‘anti-regime’ stories or else they were going to come after him. This can only be a euphemism for personal attack on the editor, and this was how he interpreted it even if undaunted by the threat. On 23 December, Nosa Igiebor, the indefatigable editor of the critically acclaimed weekly, Tell Magazine, was accosted by 12 armed policemen outside his gate, and dumped in a waiting van straight into the detention centre. He was moved into an unknown destination outside Lagos. As this report went to press, there were unconfirmed reports that he had been released after twenty seven weeks in solitary confinement. On the eve of the New Year, it was the turn of The News and Tempo Headquarters to be touched by arsonists in suspicious circumstances. The motive for these arson attacks is yet to be determined in a country where police investigation takes ages, if at all, and refuses to come up with anything conclusive in the end. Besides, there have been cases of collaboration between government agents and freelance criminals, and nothing can be ruled out in these brutal acts of forcing the media to succumb to the whims of the ruling junta especially in the wake of recent political asssassinations. b) Indirect forms of censorship These acts of physical violence, intimidation, and harassment have however gone on, pari passu, with other forms of censorship aimed at achieving the same objective of wiping out “unpatriotic” publications, or those referred to as foreign agents. For a government that recognises the usefulness of making a show of tolerance and in a desperation to improve its international image, subtler forms of censorship allow them to distort, stem or completely stop the flow of information from reputable journalists without the risk of being accused of violating their fundamental human rights. In effect, simple measures of economic strangulation, media monopoly and advert starvation and faking copies of critical newspapers are steps considered to be in the right direction in achieving this aim. Several issues of prominent independent newspapers like Tell, Tempo, TheNews, Dateline and TSM were faked. When the issuers of these counterfeit copies however discovered that its effect in distorting the entire outlook of these publications was limited, other measures were thought of. The first had to do with advertisement deprivation. Very few newspaper houses survive on circulation proceeds alone. In most cases they use advertisement and supplement resources to shore their revenue up. In Nigeria, the biggest advertiser remains the central government, state governments and its agencies which are often involved in various public NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 24
  25. 25. PARLIAMENTARY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUNE1996 enlightenment campaigns, and. Not only are clear instructions issued that some publications should not be patronised, private companies which handle government contracts are dissuaded from advertising in these papers. As the regime’s information Minister, Dr Walter Ofonagoro recently told a gathering of advertising agents in 1995, “it is because you support these media with advert patronage that they continue to exist”. He urged the agencies to help the regime by imposing an advert freeze on so called anti-government newspapers. As if this was not enough, the regime embarked on other measures to tighten the noose around independent publications, on the famished road to news starvation. Cut off from government adverts and private patronage, independent publications only had to depend on sales. Aware of the print media dependence on imported newsprint and other paper products for survival, one of the key areas government worked on was to create artificial scarcity of newsprint. Although newsprint and paper products were free of custom tariff in the past, the military regime imposed it, and a tonne of newsprints sold in 1994 for N12,000 now sells at around N120,000 at the end of mid-1996. Prices of other paper products also went up in the inflation ridden economy. Inevitably, some independent publications foundered and those left behind were forced to increase their cover price to meet escalating overheads and pay workers’ salaries. For example, cover price rose from N30 in 1994 to N70 for most weekly magazines by 1995. Yet over 90% of this cover price went on newsprint and other paper products. In a traumatised economy such as Nigeria’s, the government may have succeeded in reducing the readership of these publications and, thus their circulation, as very few people can afford to buy newspapers or magazines at such prohibitive costs. To ensure that the objective of muzzling the press was firmly in place, the regime then descended on newsagents found selling any of the ‘offensive’ publications. Several cases of Tempo, Tell, The News and TSM magazines’ newsagents were arraigned before the courts for selling these independent publications abound all over the country. A typical example was the case of Lagos vendor, Olabisi Akintoye, arrested for possession of “unpatriotic magazines”. Akintoye was found selling Tell and Tempo magazines. Akintoye only regained his freedom after parting ways with N5,000 (US$61) Even with this retinue of insidious measures, the regime was not done in its use of indirect mechanisms to inflict permanent damage on the independent press and destroy freedom of expression. The latest act in this retinue came when the regime’s Information Minister, Dr Walter Ofonagoro recently exhumed a 1993 still born decree, which among many other restrictions, imposes a non-refundable annual registration fee of N250,000, submission of advanced copies of the publication to the Information Minister, and the establishment of an office in Abuja, when most newspapers are based in Lagos and Kaduna. Although newspapers usually have stringers or offices in the administrative capital, for reasons of safety, they often choose not to publicise these offices. Besides, the added cost of registration and office establishment can only compound the escalating burden of newspaper running. The regime also extended its tentacles farther afield, to sensitive centres, like London and New York, where security operatives embarked on a policy of purchasing bulk copies of independent publications that found their way abroad as a mechanism for damage limitation to the image of the junta. But indirect censorship was not limited to the above steps - critical as they have become in the government’s control of the thought process. NIGERIA: CRISIS OF NATIONHOOD II 25