Date: Sat, 28 Mar 98 23:49:29 CST
Lucien W. <029WALT@cosmos.wits.ac.za>
Organization: University of the Witwatersrand
Subject: Human Rights violations in Nigeria
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)
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
. 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
what is good for the goose may not be good for the
. 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
the statement said.
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
One of the speakers, Titi Ajanaku, a woman political activist with
close links with the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua urged
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.