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Date: Sat, 28 Mar 98 23:49:29 CST
From: Lucien W. <029WALT@cosmos.wits.ac.za>
Organization: University of the Witwatersrand
Subject: Human Rights violations in Nigeria
Article: 31178
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.20184.19980329121742@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Police arrest 50 Lagos protesters, one person killed

A-Infos News Service, Wednesday 4 March 1998

Armed policemen in Lagos, yesterday failed to halt anti-Abacha protestors despite threats of a vicious clampdown, while in Abuja an estimated 150,000 people made up of civil servants and local council employees rallied to support the 54 year old general who has not said he will contest elections but is expected to do so. Media reports said police fired teargas canisters and arrested 50 of the Lagos protesters, including human rights lawyer Olisa Agbakoba whose United Action for Democracy (UAD) had called the Lagos march to counteract a huge rally in the Abuja to press Abacha to transform himself into a civilian president. There is no way the police can stop this march while they let the Abacha campaigners go ahead with their own. It is complete double standards a student leader told our correspondent.

Those arrested were loaded into a police truck severely beaten and taken to an unknown location, one witness said. Agbakoba had a bruised eye. The bespectacled lawyer was repeatedly hit on the head with the butt of a rifle. His head was swollen and bleeding before he was taken away. Another witness said Agbakoba was taken to the Area C Police station, Ojuelegba with about 40 others including Comrade Ola Oni.. As at the time of filing this report, the UAD leader had not been released. A police spokesman said he had no news of any arrests. There may be an official statement tomorrow (today) he said.

Our correspondent who monitored events in Lagos said the anti-Abacha protesters stormed Yaba bus stop at about 2.30 pm in defiance of police warnings to keep off the area. The police responded by firing tar gas canisters and live bullets to disable the crowd. Opposition activists said the Lagos rally was broken into different venues to evade the police. Mini rallies were held at Yaba, Ebute Metta, Ojuelegba and Surulere. The fiercest confrontation took place at Evans Square, Ebute Metta, where activists broke all police cordon. As early as 5am, armed soldiers were noticed at the Yaba area of Lagos. The soldiers wielding automatic rifles cordoned off all roads leading to the venue and arrested ten social misfits otherwise known as area boys. Reports said one area boy was killed. At about 3.15 pm, huge crowds were noticed surging from the Ikorodu Road end of Yaba chanting anti-Abacha songs How may people soja go kill, dem go kill us tire the crowd chanted. Lagos lawyer Chief Gani Fawehinmi arrived at the Yaba rally at 3.20pm to a tumultuous welcome by the crowd. He spent about 10 minutes talking to the police and urged the crowd not to engage the police in any confrontation. Journalists who went to cover the event were chased and attacked by the policemen led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police, S J Akinyemi. Some were beaten and some had their clothes torn said our correspondent.

Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, yesterday chided the regime for attempting to stop the Lagos rally whilst allowing the Abuja jamboree to go ahead. Speaking on the BBC, Nadeco leader, Chief Abraham Adesanya said what is good for the goose may not be good for the gander. He said pro-democracy groups will meet later this week to decide on the next line of action. Adesanya said 95% of Nigerians are against Abacha's self-succession. The ethnic Afenifere Yorubas group, in a statement signed by its chairman, Chief M Koleosho and secretary, Alhaji Lam Adeshina, warned Abacha not no succeed himself. Those advising him not to stay are his true friends and not the sycophants and praise singers around him the statement said.

Abuja rally attracts 150,000

Nigeria's opposition radio, Radio Kudirat, monitored in Benin City last night by our correspondent said the campaign to keep Abacha in power beyond October this year ''flopped woefully'' but being able to attract an estimated 150,000 people must be seen as a success by the organisers. State power firm (NEPA) was ordered to provide uninterrupted power supply as state television (NTA) beamed the Abuja march live to millions of homes.

Reports said the Abuja march began on a faltering note but gathered momentum as civil servants ordered by their bosses to participate came out in their thousands. Thousands of youths converged from all the 36 states of the federation to show support for General Abacha, said Radio Nigeria, which covered live the two-day, youth carnival of music and speeches. All states of the federation are fully mobilised. So many people came to Abuja, said Emmanuel Okereke, a spokesman for Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha, one of the organisers. Alhaji Abubakar Issa, president of the Youth Movement of Nigeria, described the turn as impressive. masters of ceremony at the event included tri-lingual radio and television broadcaster, Bisi Olatinlo, Soni Iraboh, Ralph Obioha, Ikenna Ndaguba and Ernest Ifejika. Super Eagles stars Daniel Amokachi and Austin Okocha spoke at the rally and promised that Nigeria will have s successful outing at the world cup in France. Sources revealed that the footballers were invited to Abuja under the pretext that they were to be honoured for winning last month's football tournament in Hong Kong.

Others who addressed the crowd included Uche Chukwumerije, Alhaji Arisekola Alao, Bamidele Olumiluua and Chief Arthur Eze. Also noticed at the event was former Nigerian football striker, Segun Odegbami. The coalition of pro-Abacha groups in Abuja said they had set up loudspeakers with the power to generate more than one million watts of sound to direct their message towards the Aso Rock presidential villa where Abacha spends most of his time. Abacha is synonymous with Nigeria's progress, said Gbazuagu Gbazuagu, of the United Nigeria Congress Party, Nigeria's biggest political party and one of four to support calls for Abacha to stand in elections. Only one party is against. Some participants said they expected to receive a daily stipend for taking part in the rally and had engage some of the organisers in a brawl. In keeping with the media hype that preceded it, the carnival began at the Abuja new parade ground with a march past by the various youth organisations, featuring masquarade / cultural dances, as well as other musical groups, traders associations, women's groups and itinerant entertainers. As part of the stage decorations, some aircraft-shaped floating balloons hung at the centre of the venue as music blared from loud speakers at the political fun fair, organised by a coalition of pro-Abacha groups, led by the youths. The ceremony opened with a parade of a score of television, radio and newspaper journalists, lined up as masters of ceremony, with a battery of musicians and performing artistes waiting to entertain.

One of the speakers, Titi Ajanaku, a woman political activist with close links with the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua urged Abacha to accept the call of patriots and stand for the presidential race slated for August 1, under the military regime's transition to democracy programme. She said this was partly because up to now there is no presidential candidate of substance and since there cannot be a vacuum, Abacha should succeed himself. Officially, the two days have not been declared work free, but the federal secretariat and several schools were deserted for the march. The question of whether Abacha, will stand in elections he has decreed for August has dominates politics in Nigeria. Abacha, has not yet said he will stand for the presidency, but has done nothing to discourage his praise-singers. Suspicions that the campaign has official backing have been heightened by the pledged participation of many government agencies to ensure the two-day two million man rally in Abuja is a success. By now it must be visible to the blind and audible to the deaf that...Abacha is interested in continuing as first citizen, wrote Gbemiga Ogunleye in the Punch newspaper. Opposition groups have long dismissed Abacha's promise to restore democracy as a ruse to keep hold of power in the same way as most of his fellow West African leaders have converted from military to civilian rule. After strikes and protests that paralysed Nigeria in 1994, opposition to Abacha has diminished with the arrest or flight into exile of many key leaders and a growing sense of apathy due to severe economic hardship.