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Date: Wed, 19 May 1999 21:21:32 -0500 (CDT)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: NIGERIA: Rights Groups Vow To Keep The Military In Barracks
Article: 64690
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.19061.19990520153555@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 518.0 **/

** Topic: NIGERIA: Rights Groups Vow To Keep The Military In Barracks **

** Written 9:05 PM May 18, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Rights Groups Vow To Keep The Military In Barracks

By Remi Oyo, IPS, 18 May 1999

LAGOS, May 18 (IPS) - Rights groups in Nigeria have vowed to keep the military, which have dominated the country's politics since independence in 1960, in barracks.

We plan to mobilise the Nigerian people to defend democracy and ensure that this country never again experiences military rule, says Clement Nwankwo of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of 62 non-governmental organisations (ngos).

There will be no let up by the civil society, says Nwankwo.

Abdul Oroh, who is executive director of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), a member of the TMG, told IPS in the commercial capital of Lagos that emphasis will be placed on the training of key sectors of the Nigerian society.

We will target judges, the clergymen in the Churches and in the Mosques, he says.

The training begins in June shortly after the military hand over power to civilian government. Nigeria's military ruler, General Abdulsalaam Abubakar, has pledged to step down on May 29, to make way for civilian rule after more than 15 years of military government.

In an eight-page memorandum titled Agenda for the Promotion of Good Governance in the Fourth Republic, Olisa Agbakoba, a lawyer and head of HURILAWS says: ...it is evident that military dictatorship is at the root of Nigeria's decline. It is also the reason for the debilitating trauma of the civil society, the lopsided distribution of privilege, the monumental corruption, failure of government and other distortions in society.

Agbakoba, who was detained without trial by the late General Sani Abacha's regime (1993-1998) says the Abacha years witnessed unprecedented violations of human rights and brutalisation of civil society...it is only the peak of a structured and well-orchestrated design by the military to dominate and appropriate the country.

It is necessary to put on record that the rape of institutions of civil society, assassinations, arbitrary detentions and imprisonment, the intolerance of dissent and other human rights abuses so manifest in the Abacha years, was a well coordinated war on democracy, he says.

Those who suffered under Abacha include the late Ken Saro- Wiwa who was executed, together with eight other minority Ogoni leaders, in 1996.

Businessman Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1994 annulled presidential elections, also died of a heart attack, while in detention, last year.

Only a few prominent figures such as president-elect Olusegun Obasanjo, who was detained for an alleged conspiracy to overthrow Abacha, made it out alive.

Agbakoba says the failure by government to take action against military and police officers who perpetrated acts of brutality during the Abacha years poses a major challenge to democracy.

There has been no opportunity to make the military and police officers understand the moral and legal contradictions in their actions which are in contradiction to conventions and principles governing law enforcement, Agbakoba says.

Another landmine, he says, lurks in the quality of people elected into the National Assembly early this year.

That assembly is likely to be controlled by men who owe their allegiance to military and who may not be aware or interested in human rights issues, he says.

Agbakoba warns that the many years of involvement in governance have exposed the military to the nuances and intrigues of power. What has emerged from that exposure is a contempt for human rights and democracy.

Agbakoba has presented to the in-coming civilian government a list of 16 demands, including the repeal of all absolutist decrees, abolition of all special tribunals and closure of all detention centres, a probe of past expenditures of governments, a trial of human rights abusers, affirmative action for women and a restructuring of the police force.

Agbakoba says he expects at least half of the demands to be met in the first six months of Obasanjo's four-year term. The major tasks of the new government should be the building of democracy and promotion of human rights, he says.