GUARDIAN - Monday, December 3, 2001 - From Oghogho Obayuwana, Abuja

American soldiers on training mission to leave Nigeria soon, says embassy.

AMERICAN soldiers who have been on training programme in Nigeria, may depart soon. This follows the completion of the crucial third phase of the training of Nigerian battalions in Serti and Ilorin. This was disclosed in the bulletin of Operation Focus Relief made available to The Guardian by the Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the United States (U.S.) embassy in Abuja. Already, the battalion in Birnin-Kebbi has graduated, leaving the 12th and 13th of this month as the dates for the passing out of Serti (20th Nigerian Infantry Battalion) and Ilorin (22nd Nigerian Infantry Battalion). Approximately 2,000 Nigerian soldiers are participating in the operation, which is being conducted by U.S. Army Special Forces from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The operation emphasises the fielding and use of individual equipment and operations up to company level. Even though both countries claim not to have signed any military pact, members of the U.S. 3rd Battalion Special Forces Group (Airborne) have been working with their Nigerian counterparts to enhance combat skills among others. Human rights and civil-military operations are also part of the programme of instruction. An obviously elated Lt. Col. Olukayode Oludare Keshinro of the Nigerian Army First Battalion said: "Our army is very familiar with UN operations, but we have never experienced this level of extensive training in preparation for a particular mission and no knowledge acquired is ever wasted." The U.S. initiated the programme under the Clinton Administration in the wake of the violations of the Lome Agreement by the Sierra Leone-based Revolutionary United Front and attacks against units of its UN mission in early 2000. The earlier phase of the operation conducted from September to December 2000 provided training for two Nigerian battalions - the 195th Mechanised Infantry based in Ibadan and the 26th Mechanised Infantry in Sokoto, both battalions are currently deployed to Sierra Leone. Soldiers from Ghana and Senegal, each trained in their respective countries, received phase II of the training which ran for 10 weeks from May until August of this year.


Sunday Tribune - Nov. 25, 2001 [Hardcopy Forwarded by Laolu Akande


U.S. shops for alternate Nigerian presidential candidate

*Considers Emeka Anyaoku, Harry Akande
*Drops Rimi for supporting bin Laden

Top U.S. government officials are beginning to shop for alternative Nigerians to back for the 2003 presidential election amid reports that the American government is becoming increasingly concerned with the spate of ethnic and religious violence which has taken a worrying upsurge recently.

Diplomats confirmed to the Nigerian Tribune in Washington D.C. earlier this week that the Bush administration, having invited the incumbent Nigerian president to the White House twice already within two years are unsure whether he would run again in 2003 and are also worried that he has not been able to check the spate of violence in Nigeria in recent time.

It was gathered that after Obasanjo's first visit in June this year, the U.S Secretary of State Mr. Colin Powell concluded that Obasanjo was getting old and Nigeria's problems were exasperating him. It was felt that by 2003, Obasanjo may have completed his mission and could become ineffective in a second term.

The main concern of the Americans, especially in the U.S. State Department, now seem to be finding a candidate who can put in place an economic programme that would result in mass employment which in turn would engage the several Nigerian youths who are currently being used now to fan embers of violence across the country. "Americans want a peaceful Nigeria where there oil investment are secured, under a friendly government who will always guarantee enough supply of oil, especially as the mideast situation become dicey by the day.

Nigerian Tribune can confirm to date that U.S. government officials have met with at least three likely presidential candidates, who are being considered for a run in 2003. They have met with General Ibrahim Babangida, who is believed to have some old thin links with the former President George Bush. The Americans have also met with General Abdusalami Abubakar and Chief Harry Akande.

Sources said efforts to link up with Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, Nigeria immediate past Permanent Representative to the United Nations, is also on, as he is being touted as a likely compromise candidate-being both Fulani and Yoruba.

But it is Chief Harry Akande, chairman of the APP board of Trustees who is said to have gotten substantial encouragement already among several top Americans both within and outside the U.S. official circles.

The strength of Akande's candidacy according to the sources is that he is believed to have played a major role in ensuring the success of the Abubakar transition programme by encouraging the AD-APP alliance, and because he is currently in the APP, a largely Northern party, it is believed that he can be a bridge builder, since he is also closely connected with the Afeniferes.

Akande's American training and immense wealth are also considered crucial, while many have also pointed to his business acumen, because the argument in U.S. official circles now is that an adequate economic program can provide jobs for many of the youths who are currently involved in violence in the country. Akande is seen as a manager, whose business skills are believed to be capable of changing things around in Nigeria economically.

However sources say nothing is as yet cast in stone as others are still being considered include Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and Chief Emeka Anyanwu. Arrangements to meet with Rimi were said to have been suddenly ended when he issued statements considered to be antagonistic of U.S interests and supportive of the Taliban regime of Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C.

Chief Anyaoku is said to have tactly turned down offers extended to him although he is said to be concerned whether in fact Nigeria was ready to concede the presidency to the East.

IBB's candidature which was being considered by the Americans before, especially through the influence of some Arab contacts, suddenly went cold after public opinion weighed heavily against him in the controversy of his appearance before the Oputa panel.

It is being argued now that IBB may have shot himself in the foot by his failure to appear at the Oputa panel, according to a top source, "especially after Obasanjo asked all three of them to appear before the panel but still refused."

Former Head of state, General Abubakar although has flatly, according to sources expressed wish to be left out, some intellectual stalwarts like Prof. Ali Mazrui are known to have mentioned him to several key U.S. dignataries as a likely civilian president in the mould of Obasanjo, who once handed over power to civilians and later ran and won as a civilian president. Abubakar who is currently a UN Goodwill Envoy is also believed to be capable of retaining the confidence of large sections of the country.

But there are concerns about unanswered corruption charges leveled against him and his refusal to attend the Oputa panel, which would have been seen as a statesman-like action.

But sources added that should Obasanjo advise the Americans that he is still interested in a second term and takes steps to curtail the eruption of violence in Nigeria, he may still eventually get the nod of the Americans.

But a source noted matter-of-factly, "everyone actually expects your president, President Obasanjo to do like Mandela and quit after one term. What may not happen however is that he is not likely to be the one to anoint a successor."


War against Terror: Gore Thanks Nigeria
bin Laden: US entices informants with citizenship
By Waheed Odusile and Chidi 'Uzor with agency reports

The 45th Vice President of the United States of America, Mr. Al Gore, visiting Nigeria for the first time, yesterday expressed his country's gratitude to Nigeria for her support in the US fight against terrorism.

This coincided with reports of an offer of American citizenship by US to anyone who supplies information leading to the arrest of Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 attack on America, and the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar and others suspected of terrorism.

Speaking as guest lecturer at the Third Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Memorial Lecture series held at the auditorium of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos, Gore who spoke of his happiness at being in the country, was very grateful for what Nigeria has been doing since the September 11 terrorist attack in New York and Washington.

"I'll like to thank Nigeria for standing with us against terrorism. Thank you," Gore said and the audience replied with a big round of applause for the new look Gore, who had grown a beard since he left the White House in January.

Recalling events in the US and around the world since the terrorist attack, Gore who was vice president for eight years under former President Bill Clinton, drew parallel from the biblical story of Joseph to illustrate these.

According to him, when Joseph's brothers threw him into a pit they meant it to be evil but God "had another plan" and turned it into good for him.

He said though the terrorist attacks were nakedly evil "much good has come from the pains we have suffered," as can be seen in the trend of events since September 11.

Speaking on the topic: "Genuine Women Empowerment: An Imperative for Achieving Concrete Human Development Objective," Gore praised the efforts of the womenfolk in Nigeria at achieving greater development.

He recalled the Aba women riot of 1929 as one of such efforts and called for greater development efforts on women and rural areas.

While decrying the tendency for men to see gender parity or development of women as mere token to appease the womenfolk, Gore said on the contrary, men and indeed the society need to develop women for their own good, saying that men of quality are not threatened by women of equality.

He said though men and women see things differently, there is the need to pull their differences together and maximise their effects for the greater benefit of the society, stressing that "we need the talents of women, their perspectives."

According to him, if women were to be involved in many areas, perhaps there would have been less wars, corruption and neglect of children in the world.

Gore, who looked less than the politician the world saw in the 2000 US presidential electioneering campaign and more in touch with humanity called for greater education for girls and women if the goal of women empowerment was to be realised.

He also called for improvement in healthcare system, stopping of all forms of violence against women as well as other similar acts that have combined to draw back real development efforts for women.

Recalling the unprecedented economic growth recorded by the Clinton presidency, Gore said most of it were recorded in the sphere of women entrepreneurship.

According to him, there was a triple growth in the number of business owned by women, adding "most of the economic growth we witnessed were done through women empowerment." Though admitting that he is a capitalist and a believer in the true market, Gore, the unofficial leader of the Democratic Party, moved to the left of centre politically a bit when he said everything especially human values should not be put down to dollars and cents.

He explained his position with an American saying that "if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem then will look like a nail to you." According to him, if everything, all values have a price on them, then whatever money cannot buy is likely to be seen as worthless and of no value. Whereas, he said, it is not so.

Dwelling on Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe, Gore praised his efforts at according a pride of place for women in his work, especially in his position on the spiritual approach to issues.

Also speaking at the occasion, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemo III, who was the royal father of the day praised the efforts of the organisers of the event at immortalising the deeds and thoughts of late Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe.

He also enjoined Nigerians to learn from the former US vice president, Al Gore, for his strong belief in the rule of law as exemplified in his abiding by the US supreme court electoral verdict that gave the presidency to his opponent George Bush in the 2000 presidential election. He described Gore as a noble democrat, a believer in rule of law and conflict resolution through the rule of law.

Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was also in attendance, praised the foundation and said its philosophy was in line with the belief of his administration in women empowerment, stating that he has four women in his cabinet, more women than men as permanent secretaries in the state civil service and more women than men among the newly appointed High Court judges in the state and of course a woman as chief judge.

While welcoming Al Gore, the man from the land of freedom, to Nigeria and indeed Lagos State, Tinubu spoke of Nigeria's progress with democracy.

In his welcome address, the coordinator of the Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe foundation, Mr. Micheal Anyiam-Osigwe, said the foundation, in collaboration with the F.W. De Klerk Foundation in South Africa, is establishing the African Institute for Leadership, Research and Development in Nigeria.

While launching the institute, former South Africa President, Frederick W De Klerk noted the clarion call made by presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa for the establishment of new partnership for Africa's development, by making the 21st century the African century.

Though help is needed from outside the continent, he said, only Africans can decide whether the 21st century will be Africa's or not.

He decried the prevalence of wars and similar crisis in Africa saying such constitute impediments to development and foreign investment.

As the war for the control of Kandahar, the last bastion of the Taliban authority rages, the United States has made an offer of citizenship to any one who gives information leading to the arrest of the duo of Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 attack on America and his host Mullar Mohammed Omar and others suspected of terrorism.

But in Afghanistan, the supreme leader of the embattled Taliban regime has threathened to surprise the US in the current war against his regime.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft announced yesterday a programme to reward foreigners in the United States who provide information on terrorism with help in getting visas and eventual US citizenship.

In an interview with NBC television, Ashcroft described a new "Responsible Cooperators Programme," designed to encourage people to provide information that "helps to save American lives."

"Obviously, we think it's the responsibility of all people to cooperate in the fight against terror," he said. "For individuals who are visitors in this country, sometimes they might be in possession of information because of their language skills, or because of what they know from at home that might be especially valuable to us."

Ashcroft declined to call the new programme an amnesty for illegal aliens, but said "if they bring information forward, they're not going to be inquired of about their own status."

"We're interested in helping them with their visas in the United

States," he said. "This is a program to give them improved standing in processing visas and becoming citizens ultimately some day." The attorney general also said his department had arrested members of the al-Qaeda network of terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden in its probe into the September 11 attacks on US targets, but said he could not say whether arrests had prevented further terrorist acts.

"We do know that there haven't been additional acts of terrorism," he said, but said authorities could not know which security measures had worked.

On the current war raging in Kandahar, one of Poland's leading weeklies, Wprost, which claims to have interviewed Taliban leader Mullah Omar, in its latest edition due out on Sunday said Omar asserted that there are "40,000 well-equipped Taliban burning to fight in Afghanistan."

"We cut communications between Osama (bin Laden) and his men with the outside world a bit too quickly, under pressure from international organisations. He couldn't even call his family. It's different today," he said.

"We are arming our friends (bin Laden's al-Qaeda network) to prepare them better for the jihad (holy war). The United States can expect plenty of surprises," he was quoted as saying.

According to Omar, the September 11 attacks on the United States were "the work of India and Israel, two sworn enemies of Islam, who wanted to demonstrate that all Muslims are terrorists."

"I can assure you the terrorists had no links either with bin Laden or with any Islamic group," he said.

Jaroslaw Gizinski, the weekly's foreign editor, told AFP the interview had been obtained "via a very complicated route, thanks to intermediaries," but that he had "no doubt as to its authenticity."

Reporter Henryk Suchar, an expert on Afghanistan, made the interview by telephone last Friday. He spoke for 15 minutes from Warsaw with "an intermediary who transmitted the questions and Omar's replies."

Omar "did not take the telephone himself, so Wprost does not have a tape of his voice," Gizinski said.

Meanwhile, reports say the Taliban yesterday publicly hanged a man suspected of spying for the United States in Kandahar and tied a satellite phone to his corpse, according to witnesses quoted by the Afghan Islamic Press.


ThisDay News - Dateline: 03/12/2001 03:31:05 -

When Gore Came Calling
Though invited to deliver a lecture on women empowerment during the annual OsigweAnyiam-Osigwe Memorial lecture, the politician in Albert Gore, former American Vice-President, took over as he held the audience spellbound with his power of oratory. Waheed Odusile was there

When the invitation came about two months ago from the Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation that the 45th Vice-President of the United States of America, His Honour, Al Gore, would be delivering the Third Emmanuel Onyechene Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Memorial Lecture in Lagos, it seemed like one of those ploy by the growing number of such Foundations in Nigeria to attract media attention.

But when about two weeks ago, the Foundation stepped up publicity for the event, it because increasingly clear that this is for real. Media interest intensified and it became important, more than ever before, to cover the event as effectively as possible.

The image of the 2000 Presidential election in the United STate came flooding back into memory. Gore, Vice-President to Bill Clinton for eight years, the man cheated perhaps or even robbed of the US presidency coming to Nigeria? Whao! It will be nice to see him in flesh and blood and if possible have a chat with him. All sorts of questions came to mind. Nearly a year after that historic election which he lost to George Bush of the Republican Party, does he still feel cheated now?

Giving the fact that he would have been back in the White House and in charge were it not for those miscast ballot in Miami, Dade and some other counties in Florida and the grace of US supreme court, does he feel that he would have performed better than President Bush? Would he run again in 2003? Why did he distance himself from then sitting President, Bill Clinton in the days leading up to the election?

These are some of the quetions bothering the minds of most Nigerians who had been following or only last year, started following the course of political events in the US.

The expectations were high as reporters and organisers of the event gathered Thursday morning 28th November at Le Meridien Eko Hotel waiting for Gore who was billed to arrived Lagos that morning.

If not for the long convoy that heralded his arrival, perhaps Gore would have passed for one of those visiting businessmen who now throng Nigeria daily, following our new found democracy. The image of him seen on television during the election crisis was different when the man, we later found out was the former US vice president stepped out of the car.

Sporting a white beard, Gore in a brief chat with journalists spoke of his happiness at being in Nigeria. Frederick de Klerk, the former South African president who was also around, of course had been to Nigeria before. Expectedly, he was less focus of attention.

So, this is Al Gore,a colleague remarked. The man whom the mainstream and influential American media have made the whole world to believe had no time for any other thing apart from politics, a man who is so stiff that he never laughs; so straight faced that one think he's not human,. Well, let's get to the lecture before making a judgement, I said.

If we were surprised at this first contact with the man, more surprises were in stock when Al Gore arrived the auditorium of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) for his guest lecture. Perhaps it is his new vocation as a visiting professor which he calls by the acronym (V.P, remember he was a Vice President, V.P) that has changed him and prepared him for his appearance and the lecture.

As a one time journalist and now a journalism teacher, the inhibited freedom associated with journalism and the academics must have tempted Gore to grow his beard, which now gives him a refreshingly different appearance and probably new world outlook.

Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and maroon tie, Gore was as free as the air as he strolled into the auditoriom. Although there were initial fears about security situation in Nigeria, which apart from the orgainsers allaying was guaranteed, as security was tight at the venue, with only very few people allowed access.

When the man from Tennesse was introduced by the master of ceremony, the former Information Minister John Nwodo,Gore himself might have been tempted to think he was at a Democratic Party convention somewhere in the United States. He got a standing ovation that even surprised him. Even when he gestured to people to sit down the applause continued.

The applause set the tone for what to expect from this son of a former US senator Gore Snr. who began his career in public service in 1976 when he was elected into the US House of Represaentatives where he served for eight years representing the then fourth district of Tennessee. He was elected into the Senate in 1984, got re-elected in 1990 and on January 20, 1993 became the 45th Vice President of the United States.

Encouraged by the applause, the politician in Gore took over once he stepped onto the podium to give his lecture. With no prepared text, he began his speech which first dwelt on his experience since he left office last January.

In a show of humour not before seen in him in this part of the world, Gore told the audience that he was the first person to be retrenched when he lost his VP job in January this year. Glad to be driven again with siren clearing the way, he spoke of his difficulty driving himself nowadays. "I've not driven myself in the last eight years" he said. So finding his way around town is a problem.

And giving a vivid example of how transient power is, Gore spoke of his experience some few weeks ago when he went to a popular restaurant in Tennessee with wife, Tipper. One of the waiters was asking one of the dinners sitting behind the Gores whether the man in front was truly the former Vice-President, to which the dinner said yes. Whao, he came a long way down from that height, the waiter remarked. Gore, who was eavesdropping could only smile. Of course Tipper, he said, was more known in the locality, making her the object of attention now.

The audience had hardly recovered from this laughter when he told them of the story of a Vice-President who knew his wife's former boyfriend. One day, he said the couple were in their car when they spotted the ex-boyfriend in his overall, with grease stains all over. The Vice-President looked at his wife and told her: "If you had married him, you would have been the wife of a mechanic now?", And the wife replied; "No, he would have been the Vice-President."

Gore, the family man also talked about his experience with his grandchildren. He let it be known to the audience that he and Tipper had been married for over 30 years now and wanted to know from the audience if anyone was there with that record. The few old men around raised up their hands, then one woman raised her hands to say she had been married for 50 years. "To the same man?" Gore asked.

He then told the audience he recently had a second grandchild and the two kids are doing well, but the older one is so jealous of the younger one. One day he threw dust at the girl because he felt the mom was giving more attention to her. So lovely were these kids that Gore echoed the popular saying that: "If I know how pleasant grandchildren could be, I would have had them first."

A village boy, Gore spoke affectionately about his mother who had to lose part of her inheritance to her brother because she was a female. As a result of this, she decided to study law and defend women interest. Born in a village of about 100 peoples, he said his mother struggled to go to elementary school, high school and then college where she became a lawyer. The father also had a similar experience as he was also a self made man.

Reputed to be a consummate campaigner, Gore must have learnt or inherited this trait from his parents. According to him when his father Gore Snr. was running for the Senate, his opponent was a powerful and popular Senator who was chairman of the Appropriation Committee. "It was the pre-television age and the man had his posters and message all over Tennessee" on which was written that right thinking people should vote for him. Goresaid his mother designed counter message which he and his sister pasted on the Senator's poster. The message read:Think deeper, voteGore. And his father won.

As the audience was going along with his story and humour, Gore like a politician on electioneering campaign, moved away from the microphone and began gesticulating as he spoke. "Can you hear me" he asked. To yes from the audience, he continued and latched onto the topic of his lecture which centred on genuine women empowerment.

Striking an accord with the audience, he pronounced the Nigerian near near perfectly and joked that he would have delivered his lecture in Igbo, but for the fact that most people in the audience understand only English. To the admiration of the crowd, which included the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku among others,Gore recalled the exploits and contributions of Nigerian women during the Aba Women riots of 1929 led by Mrs. Margaret Ekpo.

He commended the efforts and thoughts of late Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe on woman development and empowerment and called for the education of the girl child and women; a stop to abuses against women and similar things as part of efforts at genuine empowerment of women.



This Day (Lagos) - Posted to the web December 1, 2001

Chukwudi Nwabuko -- Abuja

President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the chances of a woman emerging as President of the country is a possibility capable of happening in his life time.

Receiving a delegation of the National Council of Women's Societies (NCWS) led by its President, Dr. B.E. Ketebu-Nwokeafor, who paid him a courtesy call at the Presidential Villa yesterday, President Obasanjo said he looked forward to seeing a woman seriously aspiring to be president of Nigeria in his lifetime.

"You can aspire to be President. I hope that in my life time we will see a woman seriously aspiring to be President", Obasanjo told the women.

He told the leadership of the NCWS that the recent renaming of the Calabar International Airport after Chief (Mrs.) Margaret Ekpo was to encourage Nigerian women to believe that they could aspire to the highest honours the country could offer.

Affirming his belief that Nigerian women who constitute about 50 per cent of the population can play a greater role in all spheres of national life, the President said that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would encourage more women to seek elective office at all levels of government in the country.

Obasanjo, who pointed out that 20 per cent of permanent secretaries in the federal civil service were women as a result of affirmative action by his administration, assured the delegation that as far as appointments were concerned, his administration would continue to take measures in their favour.

The NCWS delegation thanked the president for championing the cause of women in the country and expressed appreciation for the naming of Calabar Airport after Mrs. Ekpo.

=====================+++++++++++++++====================== - Tue, 4 Dec 2001 01:01:01 -0800

Subject-Matter: Nigeria: UK-US envoys' meeting with governors

From: "Africaservice" <>

Africaservice's Comment - Our comment will follow after your digestion.

Dele Olawole - - Nigeria: UK-US envoys' meeting with governors

ThisDay (Nigeria), 3. December 2001

By Bola A. Akinterinwa

On Friday, November 23, 2001 the Federal Government expressed its surprise

and displeasure on the decision of the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Howard

Jeter and the Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Charles Burd,

to convene a meeting with the governors of oil producing states in Nigeria.

The meeting was slated to take place last week Tuesday, November 27 but the

meeting reportedly did not take place, following an official protest by the

Federal Government.

In separate meetings with the US and UK ambassadors, the Minister of State

for Foreign Affairs, Chief Duben Onyia, told them to "respect Nigeria's

sovereignty," and to cancel the planned meeting. In the eyes of the Federal

Government, "the meeting with Governors of oil producing States of the

country was sensitive." Consequently, Nigeria should have been notified. It

is embarrassing for Government to know about the meeting from a different

source... The British and American Governments should not get involved in

the nation's domestic politics without the consent of the appropriate

government authorities."

We cannot agree more with the Federal Government in this case. It is equally

encouraging that both Mr. Burd and Mr. Jeter also recognised their mistakes

and Nigeria's legitimate concerns. According to the Deputy High

Commissioner, no offence was intended in summoning the meeting and that "a

delegation from Britain was due in Nigeria and would have used the meeting

to share information with the governors, on some environmental issues that

would be beneficial to the oil producing communities." He said Britain has

"deep respect for the sovereignty of Nigeria, we are also trying to enhance

the diplomatic relations between both countries."

In the same vein, Mr. Jeter also explained that the meeting with the

governors was never intended "to undermine the Nigerian Government." As much

as we agree with these explanations, the truth is that the meeting that

never was, indeed undermined Nigeria's sovereignty. The meeting was actually

convened but the meeting had not taken place. The invitees had already

accepted to participate in the meeting.. So, the action of the two

diplomatic missions is an undue interference and disrespect on the part of

countries we consider as very friendly.

There is nothing wrong with holding a meeting of some governors and some

diplomatic missions if the environmental conditionings of the meeting are

well known, even if the Federal Government is not informed. After all, the

US Embassy invites many Nigerians to participate in various discussion

programmes, especially under the World Net Programme. Nigerian scholars and

politicians also participate in workshops, symposia, conferences etc,

organised by the US Embassy. In fact, many Nigerians regard invitation to

cocktails organised by the US embassy as a measure of their societal status

and importance, and therefore attend such receptions with much happiness and

braggadocio. Consequently, the Americans and the British may not readily see

that convening a meeting of US-UK officials on the one hand, and governors

from the oil producing states, on the other, was very unfriendly and very

incompatible with official protocol and diplomatic practice. Neither the UK

nor the US would have accepted that in their countries. It is important to

ask how diplomatic relations can be enhanced when the governors are not

direct foreign policy actors and do not have any official representation,

consular or diplomatic, in the US and the UK. In fact, why would the

governors hold a meeting with sovereign ambassadors and not with the

Nigerian government on the problems of the oil communities?

The problem of the UK and the US envoys is that attempt was really made by

them to either undermine Nigeria's sovereignty or to assess Nigeria's

preparedness to play along with the British and the Americans in the new

international politics, They may want to exploit the fact that Nigeria has

openly expressed support for the US-led international alliance against

terrorism and Afghanistan and that a Nigerian, Miss Agbani Darego, has just

been crowned "Miss World."

At the level of international law and politics, diplomatic missions are

accredited to governments, which either accept or reject such missions and

not to component governors of a country. Consequently, all diplomatic

missions are compelled to relate officially with their host countries

through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country. Whether or not the

meeting with the governors has any sinister motives, the protocol

requirement is, for diplomatic agents, to always go through the Ministry of

Foreign affairs, through which, under normal circumstances, sending and

receiving states communicate.

If it is true that a British delegation would have wanted to share

information on environmental issues with the governors of the oil producing

states, why not involve the Federal Government, especially if it would be

beneficial to the oil producing communities? Without any whiff of doubt, the

UK and the US have vested interests in the oil areas. Besides, the oil

communities have also been at daggers-drawn with the oil transnationals.

Thus, seeking a meeting with the governors of such oil communities can be

understandable. However, on what platform and basis will an embassy, which

has an ex-territorial status and which is sovereign on its own right,

convene a meeting of elected governors in another and of course within

another sovereign country where it is located?

If the governors, in the light of their problems, have convened the meeting,

the situation would have been better understood. It can be rationalised

under exigencies of federalism, even if constituent states in federal system

do not have the right and mandate to enter into international relations.

Therefore, the attitude of the UK-US envoys should be explained and

understood at the level of the new world order, which now gives unlimited

and ill-defined roles for non-state actors and quasi-state officials in

international relations.

Britain and the US are apparently jointly seeking common protection of their

interests in Nigeria. In the spirit of the new trend, hardly is due regard

given to the legitimate Government of the day. In fact, when people talk

about general globalisation and particularly, global democratisation, the

full imports of their implications have not always been weighed. Whose type

of democratisation process and whose democratic culture etc, are desired?

In any case, the controversial meeting that never took place is a pointer to

many other questions and a true reflection of the many political problems in

Nigeria but which everyone is trying to deal with kid gloves. What is the

national attitude to the problems in the oil community areas? If the meeting

had taken place, would any of the governors have deemed it fit to inform the

Federal Government about the proceedings of the meeting?

Government will need to be more inward looking in finding solutions to these

problems. Many Nigerians are embittered by Government's own policy attitude

to many national questions.

All these questions need to be discussed nationally but government is yet to

show concerns for a national dialogue on them. This is part of the reasons

why agitation abounds here and there. In sum, while the aborted UK-US

meeting with the governors of the oil producing states could have enhanced

peace- making and addressed environmental questions, the meeting could have

also been a leeway for undermining the sovereignty and personality of

Nigeria, whether or not such objective was intended. Let the government

therefore make life easy for Nigerians in such a way that they will be least

interested in any offer of foreign help in resolving day-to-day problems.


Agbani Darego - MISS WORLD 2001.

'I Have Made History'

Eighteen year-old Nigerian girl becomes first black African to win the Miss World Beauty Crown

By Bideh Williams

Ever since Oluchi Onwuagba made head-lines with M-Net's Face-of-Africa, beauty pageants have never been the same again, at least in Nigeria . A new sense of confidence emerged to replace timidity and the dark skin found prominence in beauty circles. Oluchi''s innocent face and inexperience in the world of glamour was profound even on cynics who see beauty pageant as morally bankrupt. She has since proved herself not only as a good ambassador but also as a role model.

Yet if the success story of Oluchi was phenomenal that of 18 years old Agbani Darego, a computer science undergraduate of the University of Port Harcourt , was superlative. When Julia Morley, President of the beauty pageant announced Darego as the newly-crowned ""Miss World 2001"" at the capacity filled South Africa luxury casino resort of Sun City , Johannesburg , the applause was deafening. She beat 92 other contestants. ""I am so happy. It''s a wonderful feeling and it''s indescribable ..…… I have made history .. Black is beautiful,"" she said.

Darego is the current holder of the title of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria . At the last Miss Universe contest in Puerto Rico early this year, Darego came close to winning the crown. She lost but she had won the hearts of the Puerto Ricans and other watchers of the annual beauty contest.

American billionaire, Donald Trump not only supported Darego but invited her to New York to negotiate a modelling deal with his Trump Management Incorporated to link her with top range modelling agencies in America .

Super model, Naomi Campbell's invitation of Darego to be part of her charity fashion show organised in Barcelona , Spain served as a booster.

Quite ambitious for her age, Darego had always wanted to be a model. And when sometime in her career she met with Joan Ibuzor, pageant manager of the MBGN contest, little did she know that that chance meeting would make her dream come true. Today, in addition to the $100,000 prize money and gifts worth about $150,000, Darego also has the chance to travel round the world. It also offers her wonderful opportunities to prospect for multi-million dollar worth of modelling contracts.

Raised from a humble background, Darego is the sixth in a family of eight, with strong Christian upbringing. She said that fame and fortune have made her ""a much stronger person inside than my femininity depicts. I have decided to carry out a pet project on child abuse and trafficking. That is what I have decided to do, though, I had initially thought of doing something on women trafficking. But I later cha0nged my mind, because I believe that child abuse is the root of all these problems that later manifest in life,"" she said.

She had promised to continue her education wherever her modelling career takes her to. Darego, undeniably had made history as the first black African to win the coveted crown since the annual event was established 51 years ago. ""I know back home they were all watching out for me and I am happy I made them proud,"" she said.

Additional Report by Betty Onuh

Newswatch Volume 34 No 22, December 3, 2001


GUARDIAN - Friday, December 7, 2001

Darego, reigning Miss World, gets heroic welcome

For Nigerian-born Miss World 2001, Agbani Darego, yesterday was a day of glory and honour as she visited Abuja where encomiums were showered on her for clinching the prestigious beauty award in Sun City, South Africa. From an elated President Olusegun Obasanjo, to the impressed Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and the obviously fulfilled Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Aisha Ismail, one bold statement emerged: Agbani Darego has brought honour to Nigeria! In an ebullient mood and with a fatherly affection, Obasanjo told Agbani: "My dear own daughter, we are all delighted and very happy that you brought honour, dignity and respectability to our country". He said Agbani's victory had further improved the image of the country in the outside world. Obasanjo said he watched the television with delight as Agbani emerged one of the 10 finalists out of the 93 girls that contested for the world crown at Sun City, South Africa on Nov. 6. The president added that he was particularly encouraged by the answer Agbani gave when asked what three items she would carry if she were left alone in a desert. "Your reply that you will carry along a Bible, water and blanket, convinced me that you do not only have physical beauty, but also beauty of ideas and attitude." Beauty is radiating all over you. You are parading beauty with a purpose," Obasanjo said as he gave Agbani a rare fatherly hug. The president, who was due to start a two-day state visit to Taraba State, told Agbani that he would make out time to welcome her properly, adding: "I am aware that many Nigerians are waiting to see how I will welcome you." Obasanjo also said Darego represented the totality of beauty in human beings, noting that the reigning Miss World has "driven beauty" and that she should be a role model to youths whose past time had been violence and extortion of oil money. He said as the reigning queen, "You will now be a book that others will read and read well, and I pray that God will make you a perfect book that will help to influence our youths. "Wherever you may go and whatever you may do, always remember the daughter of whom you are," he admonished, noting that while many see the country as a hotbed of religious zealots and ethnic jingoists responsible for the frequent violence in the country, Agbani had emerged to prove critics wrong. Also, Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim lauded the beauty queen for her outstanding feat. Receiving Darego, Anyim, said her selection as the most beautiful girl in the world is a significant phenomenon to happen to the country and the black nations. "When the news was broken to us, we were excited and very ready to receive you when you visit us," he said, adding: "It is one of the happiest moments in the country." The Senate President said, "We have contested, fought and won. The courage with which you went into the contest was great and we urge you to further promote the country wherever you visit." He also told her to work hard and dedicate herself to God. "What happened to me when I became the Senate President will certainly happen to you. "Nigerians now expect more from you as the world's most beautiful girl. You can no longer hide and you must work hard to promote your country." Earlier, the Senate Chief Whip, Chief Stella Omu, congratulated Darego and the organisers of the contest, and urged her to be dedicated in whatever she does and to always remember God. "It was not a mistake that you were chosen as the most beautiful girl in the world, you are courageous, brilliant and dedicated," she said. Khairat Gwadabe, in her speech, said that Nigerians were happy that one of them had won the Miss World crown, and advised her to work hard as the sky is now her limit. She appealed to her to assist in attracting foreign investment to Nigeria "while showing the world that you are beautiful, ask them to come to your country and invest." Women Affairs Minister, Aisha Ismail, also poured her heart out for the Miss World 2001 winner. Speaking on behalf of the minister at a reception held in honour of Agbani, the Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development, Dr. Stella Dorgu, described Darego as a symbol of beauty with a purpose . "You are also a role model to young girls to know that there is more to beauty than what is in the exterior and it is never too early to develop a purpose for your life," she said. Ismail encouraged Darego to keep her educational target in sight, saying "therein lies the key to the freedom that a woman can attain." Dorgu received Darego and the Director-General of the NTA (also) head of the Silverbird Productions, the outfit which organised the Most Beautiful Girl pageant that produced Darego and entered her for the global contest), Ben Murray-Bruce, along with other dignitaries at the Nigerian Women Hall of Fame, a repository that pays tribute to efforts and contributions of Nigerian women through the ages. In her brief remarks, Agbani thanked the president and all Nigerians "for being with me all through. I am proud to be a Nigerian and also an African. I thank you for the wonderful honour given to me." Darego later unveiled a plaque which symbolises her as a woman achiever and signifies her placement among other women. She was shown the pictures of all first ladies in the country from 1960 to date as well as portraits of some women achievers such as ASP Chioma Ajunwa, Nigeria's first Olympic gold medalist and Dr. Aishatu Babayaro, first internationally-acclaimed traditional/medical herbalist. Darego chosen as the most beautiful girl in the world on Nov. 16, will spend seven days in the country ññ three days in Abuja and the remaining in Lagos and Rivers. The beauty queen, who arrived the federal capital amidst tight security, was accompanied by the promoter, Mr. Guy Murray-Bruce, a proprietor of Silverbird Promotions as well as the organisers of Miss World, led by Julia Molley.


GUARDIAN - Saturday, December 8, 2001

Oyekan Confers Chieftaincy Title On Darego Today


NEW Miss World Agbani Darego will today be conferred with the chieftaincy title of Omoge Agbe Waga Agbaiye (A lady who has lifted us worldwide) by the Oba of Lagos, Adeyinka Oyekan. The conferment is part of activities lined up to give the beauty queen a rousing welcome to the state. Darego arrives the Murtala Muhammed International Airport at 10 a.m. from Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital where the government and people accorded her a warm reception yesterday. President Olusegun Obasanjo and members of the National Assembly on Thursday formally welcomed her to the country. Darego, who will be received on arrival in Lagos by the Special Duties Commissioner, Teju Phillips, will be led in a carnival procession round the city in a motorcade, accompanied by the state cultural troupe. Other highlights of her visit to the state will be a state banquet in her honour at the State House Marina in the evening, and a visit to a number of charitable institutions on Monday. Meanwhile, Port Harcourt was aglow yesterday as thousands of people thronged the streets to accord Darego a warm welcome. The Miss World arrived the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa at 11.45 a.m. on board Albarka Air. She was accompanied by the Culture and Tourism Minister Boma Bronloni Jack, Julia Molley, Ben Bruce and other officials of Silver Bird Communications Limited, organisers of Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. Wife of the State Governor Mary Odili and the Deputy Governor's Wife, Christie Toby officially received her to the State. As the glittering white limousine that conveyed her glided the streets of Port Harcourt, thousands of women and children waved frantically at her. The Queen arrived the Government House at 1.49 p.m. where Governor Peter Odili and members of the executive council formally welcomed her. Darego, who could not hold back tears of joy triggered off by the warm reception, said: I have moved from one reception to another. From Abuja now to my own state. I am very happy. Coming from the airport, I have had so much joy. I thank you for the warm reception. I am very happy, I am very proud. I am very honoured to be back home. I have seen people, weeping, crying and shouting at me and I think this is the most wonderful thing that has happened to me." Odili, who could not conceal his happiness, said: "We want to assure you that Rivers State people and government are going to stand very solidly, very firmly and totally with the Miss World." "Our response to this wonderful gift is that we are going to support her in such a way that she will be the best Miss World you have ever recorded. Our joy is limitless," Odili added. The governor and members of the executive council later took the Queen and her entourage to the Port Harcourt Civic Centre where she was given a reception.


GUARDIAN - Sunday, December 9, 2001


By Toyin Akinosho

When Agbani Rocked The Hilton

The Hilton Hotel in Abuja is the country's major social leveler. Governors and ministers disappear unnoticed into the distinguished multitude that walks through its automatic doors. Actors hang around its expansive lobby unheralded. The most hyped celebrities in the country are reduced to ordinary citizens as soon as they step into the elevators. But on the day Agbani Darego visited, the elements almost convulsed. Even before she alighted from the car, an expectant crowd had gathered in front of the hotel on Thursday, December 6, 2001. The new beauty queen of the planet elicited oohs and aahs, as she was ushered into the Conference hall. "I took a photograph with her", sang one high ranking executive of an oil marketing company. "We will send that photo to your wife abroad", somebody teased. The visit had been lavishly promoted on television, especially the NTA, which is currently presided over by Ben Murray Bruce, the founder of Silverbird, the company that produced the queen in the first place. The Miss World thing is big. The singer Yinka Davies spoke about performing in a concert that would be aired this Sunday, December 9, 2001. Dede Mabiaku moved around the lobby, with Seun Anikulapo-Kuti. The remarkable music promoter, Don Pedro was among the people looking forward to make some contribution. There is something everybody seem to agree on: To have produced the world's most charming human being is a good diversion from all our problems.

Umoja Speaks Loud

A 40 plus cast of dancers and musicians from South Africa is currently performing in a major theatre in London, to uproarious applause by large audiences. Umoja, a series of dance sequences, songs, ear piercing drumming and a full, evocative band, is a musical story of Black South Africa, told to appreciative throngs of theatre goers at the Shaftebury Theatre in London's West End every night (except Sundays). The performance is spirited, playful and energetic, with extremely well timed and fluid footwork, taking us from traditional music in rural settings, through the cross cultural components that are set up when "the country boy leaves his village to work in the mines", to the hip-hop influenced music and acrobatic showpieces that emerge from the fusion with other musical experiences from all over the globe. Keen observers of South African music and performance will be pleasantly surprised by the degree of cross over that this "new" country has achieved. In those colourful, carefully wrought costumes, you see ideas from Ghana's Kente as well as Nigeria's Adire. In the music, you hear strains of makossa. The most humorous part in the show is the gospel church scene; it is a scene that can be found in any Aladura/Pentecostal church anywhere from Lusaka to Lagos. Although the show has a narrator, he hardly stands in the way of the fun, which emanates from the exuberance of the performers, most of whom were disadvantaged youths from the townships. It took US$1.2million (or N156million) to take Umoja to London. And with an average of US$30.00 (N3,990) per seat in a 1000 seat hall, it's a tall order to realise the money in four months of nightly performances.

Andre Serrano Is Hauntingly Beautiful

Visitors to the major galleries and museums in London are used to the regular disturbing chatter of school children, who come in droves to draw, soak in the pictures or to take lectures. Which is why it is initially surprising, even unsettling, to walk into Andre Serrano's exhibition at the Barbican Gallery and find yourself alone. Still, it takes less than one full minute to understand why such a major exhibit of the American photographer is off limits to British children. Serrano's works are those that vividly portray the ugly side of human experience; those things we do to ourselves daily and we'd rather be mum about. He pulls back no punches. One of his large, cibachrome photos show the nozzle of a gun, in its dark, explicit glory in a segment he clearly titles: Objects of Desire. In one of the pictures of deaths is a large portrait of a burn victim whose innards show explicitly. In Sexuality, an old woman and an equally old man stand naked, the woman smoking, looking at the camera. The man's gait is distended by his paunch. The woman's face is pretty, but in nakedness, all the ugly features also show. Serrano is telling us that when we look closely at ourselves, things are not as pretty as they seem. We should begin to deal with the fact that we are imperfect creatures. Serrano hardly comes across as any of the shock artists of the YBA (Young British Artists) movement, who must put a large shark in a tank just to show they are outrageous. He seems to just see irony all around and ask us to share his experience.

Funsho Ogundipe Gets It Together

To hear him tell it, things have never been better for Funsho Ogundipe's musical career. The heir to a financial empire in Nigeria (he is the first son of the founder of Prudent Bank) moved to London two years ago - with his wife and three kids - to pursue the desire to run an Afrobeat band more purposefully. Last week Friday December 2, he played to a racially mixed audience in London's upscale Club 100, on Oxford Street, the high street of Central London. More than a handful of people dropped by to congratulate him after the performance. "I have an agent here and I just focus on the art. I get well paid as a pianist, composer and bandleader". His band includes self-assured musicians who have played with some of the best jazz and instrumental bands in the world. Funsho has gotten far more technical and jazzy since Naija Blues, his four-year old CD. "I came here to sharpen my expertise", he says, "I think I am getting there".

••Ccompiled by staff of the Festac News Agency


ThisDay News - Dec. 8, 2001

Miss World: Nigeria May Host Next Pageant -Morley

Chairman of Miss World Organisation, Mrs Julia Morley, said at the weekend in Port Harcourt that Nigeria may host the next miss world pageant.

Morley, who gave the indication at a luncheon organised in honour of Miss World, Agbani Darego, by the Rivers State government, stated "when you are ready, I am ready.''

She said that ``Nigerians gave enormous love" when she first visited the country early in the year to raise funds for the child care trust, an NGO established by the wife of the President, Mrs Stella Obasanjo.

Morley said that Nigeria had the spirit of welcome for its visitors in addition to its abundant human and natural resources.

"I therefore have great pride to come back to the country with the winner of miss world crown,'' Morley said.

The Rivers State born Miss World, Agbani, who was on a two-day official visit to the state, expressed happiness that her victory had boosted Nigeria's international image.

"I am happy that today, I have made my country proud and I thank God for that'', she said, adding that she would work as an exemplary queen, and would be involved in different charitable work for which Miss World Organisation had already raised funds.

In his vote of thanks at the occasion, the Director-General of Nigeria Television Authority, Mr. Ben-Murray Bruce described Agbani as "a focused and brilliant queen who would go places during her reign.''

Bruce added: ``when I saw Agbani for the first time, I knew from experience that she would be a beater because of charm, poise and magic.''

Bruce, who announced that a global campaign to promote Agbani would be launched, thanked Governor Peter Odili for the "wonderful, unexpected gift handed over to Agbani".

He hoped that "with the hopes, dreams and gifts Governor Odili has already given her, her reign would be very successful''.


'Allah will decide if I die for adultery'

A Nigerian woman facing death by stoning speaks for the first time after being sentenced under Islamic law: 'They have made so much politics out of sharia that it is denting Nigeria's image'

Islam and the West: Observer special

Dan Isaacs Sokoto, northern Nigeria
Sunday December 9, 2001
The Observer

Safiya Huseini sits in a mud-walled hut beside her blind father. Looking strained and far older than her 35 years, she holds a baby girl to her breast. She has been convicted of adultery by an Islamic court and sentenced to death by stoning.

Her daughter Adama, 11 months old, is both her greatest joy and a symbol of her predicament. The judge decreed that, because Huseini had conceived a child outside marriage, she was guilty of adultery. She is divorced, but under Islamic or sharia law the crime is the same as if she were still married. The lesser charge of fornication, punishable by 100 or so lashes, applies only to virgins.

The man Huseini names as the father of her child comes from the same village of Tungar Tudu in the north west of Nigeria. Yakubu Abubakar has two wives, and although he admitted to the relationship with Huseini he refused to marry her or contribute to the upkeep of the child.

Traditional family disputes such as this have been resolved in the sharia courts for decades, according to a judicial system operating within Nigeria's majority-Muslim northern states. It is only in the past two years that the harsh criminal punishments of stoning (for adultery), amputation (for theft), and lashing (for such crimes as drinking alcohol and fornication) have been introduced.

The recent extension of the laws to include harsh sharia punishments, guided more by political than religious interests, has served to exacerbate tensions between Muslims and the minority of Christians living in the north. Over two years, 4,000 people have lost their lives in clashes between the two communities.

When Huseini's case came to court, Abubakar retracted his confession, denying he had ever met Huseini, and the judge acquitted him of any charges. Under Islamic law, if a man does not make a confession in court the only way he can be convicted of adultery is for four men - not women - to have witnessed the adulterous act.

Abubakar was released and has disappeared from the village, leaving Huseini with the sentence of death hanging over her. 'I felt sick when the judge passed down the sentence because of the injustice of it all,' she says. 'It is because I am poor, my family is poor, and I am a woman. He used his money to get away with it.'

Huseini's appeal against the sentence is supported by local human rights groups as well as the federal Ministry of Justice. Although Nigeria's 36 states have independent legal codes, the constitutional issues are unclear. If the appeal fails in the Sokoto court of appeal, it could make its way to the Supreme Court in the capital, Abuja, when the inconsistencies in Nigeria's complex legal code will have to be confronted.

Justice Minister Bola Ige - a Christian - said he will not allow stoning to be carried out in Nigeria in the twenty-first century. 'Some of our brothers in the northern part of the country have made so much politics out of sharia that it is denting the image of Nigeria,' he said recently.

One of those to whom he is presumably referring is the attorney-general in Sokoto state, Aliyu Abubakar Sanyinna, a clean-cut man in his thirties.'It is the law of Allah,' he tells me. 'By executing anybody convicted under Islamic law, we are just complying with the laws of Allah.'

Asked how big the stones might be, the attorney-general holds up his fist: 'It could be something like this.' And how would the execution be carried out? 'They will dig a pit, then they will put the convict in a way that she will not be able to escape, and then she will be stoned.' The precise method, explains Sanyinna carefully, is up to the judge. 'Another way is that she could be tied up against a tree or pillar.'

Huseini's appeal is based on her claim that she was coerced into the relationship, that Abubakar used charms or fetishes on her to persuade her to sleep with him. Under Islamic law, unreasonable enticement is a valid defence, but in this case Huseini did not claim, at the original trial, that she entered the relationship unwillingly.

Her lawyer, Abdulkadar Imam Ibrahim, does not inspire confidence. He is optimistic the appeal will be successful, but does not appear clear about the facts of the case. He lives in Sokoto, but has not visited Huseini's village or asked for Abubakar to appear in the appeal court to answer the charges of rape. 'He has been acquitted, why should he be made to suffer again?' says Ibrahim.

He says he would be happy, if asked, to appear for the prosecution in this case. 'If my job is to prosecute, then I would prosecute.' He does not give the impression of acting out of any sense of human rights or moral duty.

Huseini will remain with her family until the appeal is heard. Although she feels an injustice has been done to her, she does not question a law that says someone who commits adultery should be stoned to death. 'That one,' she says, 'is too political for me to answer.' This, coming from a peasant woman in the poorest of villages, is precisely the point.

Politicians in the north have adopted sharia almost as a demonstration that they are the guardians of the Muslim faith. 'My fate in this matter is in the hands of Allah,' says Safiya Huseini.

DESPITE U.S. APPEAL, Christians remian in Saudi Jail for Preaching their Faith.

ABU DHABI [MENL] -- Saudi Arabia has refused a U.S. appeal to release more than a dozen Christians accused of practicing their faith.

The Christians were arrested in a series of raids that began in July in the Saudi city of Jedda. U.S. diplomats raised the issue with the kingdom and were told that the Christians would be released.

Western diplomatic sources said the Christians were from African and Asian countries. They included Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

The sources said the last round of arrests took place in November. Seven Ethiopian nationals were rounded up as they left a prayer meeting in a Jedda.

The practice of any other religion but Islam is banned by Saudi law. Over the last decade, Saudi authorities had allowed private prayer but have cracked down on non-Islamic practice during the current Muslim fast month of Ramadan.

The sources said some of the Christians have been told they would be deported. They said that Saudi authorities have not formally charged the Christians or told them of why they had been jailed.

NOTE: The above is not the full item.

This service contains only a small portion of the information produced daily by Middle East Newsline. For a subscription to the full service, please contact Middle East Newsline at: for further details.


Why U.S. is Now Attracting Foreign Students

Weekly Trust (Abuja) - Posted to the web December 7, 2001

December 7, 2001

WT: What is the purpose of your visit to Kaduna?

Ghebreab: The purpose of our coming here is to launch an independent study centre for students at Zamani College and other schools in Kaduna interested in studying in the USA. We have the education advisory centre at the embassy where students interested in pursuing their education in the US can go and use the resources that we have. And the resources include many different publications about the requirement of studying in the US and the booklets that have all the colleges and universities in the US.

WT: What informed this renewed enthusiasm in getting international students to go and study in the United States?

Ghebreab: This is not something that started this year. It is something that was initiated by President Clinton last year. It is important for people to communicate and interact in order to promote mutual understanding. And that is the continuation of what was done last year. It is very important now because of what happened on September 11. People need to exchange information. People need to communication in order to understand themselves better.

WT: Zamani College is an elite school. So how do you intend to spread this to the less-privileged students in other schools?

Ghebreab: The most important again. We are delighted that Zamani College has invited us to come and open this independent centre. They have provided an office space and they would be providing staff to manage the resources. So that is the reason why we came to Zamani College. But Zamani College has assured us that other students interested in using and utilising all the resources would be welcomed, and they would be using the resources. But we plan in future to come here to offer sessions on students' advisory, and we plan to publicise the information to other students from other schools for them to attend.


GUARDIAN - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Citibank donate N7 million for education

By Bukky Olajide

CITIBANK Nigeria has donated $60,000 (N6.7 million) to Junior Achievement of Nigeria (JAN), the Nigerian affiliate of Junior Achievement International (JAI), a non-governmental organisation, for education development. In a statement, Mr. Diran Olojo, the public affairs officer of the bank said that the grant will be used to sponsor the expansion of JAN's elementary school and Junior Secondary School programmes. According to him, some of the elementary school programmes have already been piloted successfully in some Nigerian primary schools "while the middle grades programme is about to be established in the junior secondary schools! He said, both categories will be referred to collectively as K.9 programmes and ultimately "the programmes will positively impact the lives of 10,000 Nigerian students and this will help organisation build sustainable operations and deliver economic education programmes to an increasing number of Nigeria youths." Olojo said: "JAN is a success story and we are proud of our association with the organisation. We hope our partnership has helped demonstrate to others in the private sector the value of corporate citizenship." Miss Simi Sanni, the executive director of JAN expressed appreciation for the generous donation and encouraged other corporate organisations to emulate Citibank's example by contributing to the educational development of Nigeria youths. She said "Citibank Nigeria has consistently played a key role in all of our activities through outreach initiatives, technical skills support and programme funding. We have found them to be invaluable allies in our operations in Nigeria since our inception in 1999." JAN, implements economic education programmes designed to help young people to understand the world of work through partnerships between the private sector and educational institutions. Citigroup, the parent company of Citibank Nigeria is a prominent global financial services company with some 190 million customers accounts in more than 100 countries provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad ranges of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, insurance, securities brokerage and assets management.


ThisDay NEWS - 7 Dec, 2001

Oputa Panel: Court Rejects Dikko's Evidence Against Buhari
From Julcit Sanda in Abuja

A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday ruled in favour of a former Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) restraining the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commision, headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, from proceeding any further with all the five petitions involving the Army general .

The court headed by Justice Okechukwu Okeke, responding to an application by Akukalia Chike Ofodile(SAN) and Ike Chude ordered that further hearing in the petitions wherein Buhari was mentioned be stopped, pending the determination of the hearing of the substantive suit filed by the plaintiffs before the court".

Okeke said he was being careful not to delve into the substantial matter to avoid pre-empting the outcome of the suit.

The plaintiffs had filed an application praying the court to restrain the Oputa panel from proceeding with petitions; HRVIC\ABJ-3\396\200- 1filed by Nnaemeka Owoh, HRVIC\ABJ-3\1373\2001 filed by Chief Akin Omoboriowo, HRVIC\ABJ-3\1782\2001 filed by Alhaji Lili Gambari, HRVIC\ABJ-3\738\2001 filed by Hon. Isaac Shaahu and HRVIC\ABJ-3\393\2001 filed by Dr. Umaru Dikko as far as they relate to Gen. Buhari.

This came just as the Attorney -General of the federation and Minister of Justice', Chief Bola Ige (SAN) submission that Buhari had no legal right to be protected since the summonses issued by HRVIC were in compliance with the principle of 'fair hearing'. To this Okeke said" trying to arrest or detain anyone is an infringement on his fundamental human rights".

Counsel to Gen. Buhari, Chike Ofodile(SAN) said "The application of the plaintiffs predicated on two propositions, one that the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa led HRVIC is unconstitutional, and the Commission an of inferior tribunal.

The application also sought to determine whether there is a serious matter to be tried, and if the balance of convenience is in favor of the applicant. He added that "an applicant in an application of this nature must satisfy the court that there is a serious question to be tried and that the balance of convenience is in favor of the applicant". He went further to say "the establishment of the commission(HRIVC) is unconstitutional and the proceedings therefore null and void. The instrument appointing the commission in paragraph B gives the commission the power to identify the person or persons accountable for gross violation of human rights, and in paragraph D gives powers to recommend judicial or administrative measures. Therefore the combined effect of B & D is that the commission has the power to sit over allegations of crime, reach conclusions and recommend punishment."

Referring to the ruling delivered in Garba vs. University of Maiduguri(1986)6 NWLR(pt18) page 550 at 555, Justice Oputa held " The jurisdiction of the ordinary courts to try any allegation of crime is a radical and fundamental tenet of the rule of law and the cornerstone of democracy. If the Executive branch is allowed to operate through tribunals that surely will be a very dangerous innovation, It is only when one is on the receiving end that he can fully appreciate the wisdom in the aspect of Yesufu Garba's decision that the learned AG now wants the court to overrule. Rather than over rule Garbas case, the court ought to strengthen and fortify it".

The learned counsel argued that "the Tribunal of Inquiry Act Cap 447 is an existing law and section 315 of the 1999 constitution requires that for such laws to take effect, it must be brought into conformity with the provisions of the constitution. This has not been done, section 315(3) of the 1999 constitution empowers the Court to declare invalid any provision of such existing law on he ground of inconsistency with the provisions of the 1999 constitution. Sections 5(c),(d),10,11(1),(3),(12) and 17 are inconsistent with sections 35(1),(a);36(6),(c),(d),(11) and 4(8) of the 1999 constitution."

The application rested on all the documents filed in the action by virtue of section 74 of the Evidence act and the predication of the case on the 2 propositions: the supremacy of the constitution as the grund norm and the fact that the Oputa panel is an inferior tribunal."

The representative of the AG's office, Bola Braimoh contended that the application is frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of court process only calculated at wasting the time of the court and buying time which this court should not allow. She said " the applicant has not established that any legal right of his has been infringed upon that ought to be protected and that even if they have they have come to the court by a very wrong process".

Justice Oputa delivered a ruling on the issue of the non appearance of 3 former Heads of State saying that their non appearance aside from being an offence punishable by law with six months imprisonment, is an act of arrogance, pride and disrespect to the commission and the purpose for which it was set up.

The Judge has adjourned hearing on the substantive suit to February 18, 2002.


ThisDay NEWS - 7 Dec, 2001

Paris Club Reschedules Nigeria's $22b Debt
From Nneoma Ukeje-Eloagu and Kunle Aderinokun in Abuja

The nation's external debt burden to the Paris Club, which stood at approximately $22 billion as at August 2001, has been rescheduled for repayment over a period of eighteen years under the non concessionary rescheduling arrangement terms of the creditors.

The Director General of the Debt Management Office, Mr. A. S. Arikawe, disclosed this in an exclusive interview with THISDAY. He explained that the country had not yet qualified for a debt reduction and therefore was granted a non concessionary rescheduling which entails a lengthening of the maturity of the debts.

"Non-concessionary means there is no reduction, what you get is just a lengthening of maturity. They just spread it. They calculate all the principal, all the penalties and all the interest rates that will accrue during that period will be built into the debt and rescheduled for a longer time. Nothing is lost, all the money will still have to be re-paid," Arikawe stated.

He said, all debts owed the Paris Club "were put together and re-programmed for payment over 18 years", so that the debt service commitment is considerably reduced to a more manageable amount.

"This has made it possible that our annual debt service will come down to a level where we can manage to pay," he said.

The DMO boss also noted that Nigeria can qualify for debt reduction in the future, under the medium term arrangement. "But if you have a medium term, by the time you finish with the standby arrangement, which is the beginning, then you can have a reduction. We have not gotten to that stage".

Arikawe however noted that having an International Monetary Fund adjustment programme is basic to external debt management negotiations with the Paris Club.

"So if next time, which we hope we will get from some time next year, we will have a medium term programme with IMF. That automatically enables us to have a debt reduction, either based on Toronto Terms or enhanced Toronto, or what is called London Term or Naples Term".

The London Term rescheduling, entails the reduction of debt maturities during the tenure of the debtor country's IMF adjustment programme. Under the Toronto Terms principal and interest payment maturities could be reduced by as much as 33 per cent to 40 per cent.

Arikawe further said that "Under what is called Enhanced Toronto-London Terms, it could be reduced by about 50 per cent to 60 per cent. But only the amount due during the programme period. The Naples term rescheduling means that your total debt, the stock, whether due or not, can be brought together and reduced by a particular percentage, between 50 and 67 per cent. These options will be open, depending on the kind of programme you have with the IMF".

On the previous conflicting data on the nation's external debt stock, Arikawe stressed that all data had been reconciled with 14 of our 15 creditor countries of the Paris Club from which discrepancy arose.

"We are confident that the figure we have now approximate the exact debt. We are now carrying basically the same number of figures with the creditors," he said.


Published Friday, December 7, 2001

JOHN POMFRET, (Miami Herald) - Rehman was among six wounded fighters -- three from Saudi Arabia, one from Nigeria and two of undetermined nationality -- who arrived at a hospital in Quetta Wednesday night after falling in combat against U.S.-backed forces near Kandahar, the Taliban's last stronghold.

Taliban allies sneaking into Pakistan

They came from many nations to help defend Afghan regime

Washington Post Service

QUETTA, Pakistan -- ``Anyone who is not a Muslim, get out of my face!''

Speaking almost flawless New York slang, Abdul Rehman, 36, a Saudi Arabian, looked ready to leap from his hospital bed, despite a cast that extended from his right hip to his foot and concealed a bullet wound he suffered fighting for the Taliban.

``If I had a gun now, I would shoot you!'' he yelled at two American reporters. ``Get out of my face!''

Rehman was among six wounded fighters -- three from Saudi Arabia, one from Nigeria and two of undetermined nationality -- who arrived at a hospital in Quetta Wednesday night after falling in combat against U.S.-backed forces near Kandahar, the Taliban's last stronghold.

The group tried to sneak into Pakistan from a mountain border crossing, Pakistani police said.

But because they were wounded, they contacted an ambulance and headed to Quetta General Hospital, where they were treated and put under police guard.

A bedside visit to the men was a lesson in the rage felt by foreign fighters who have supported the Taliban since it seized power in Afghanistan five years ago, and who have supported Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization in its war against the United States.

Most of the foreign fighters came to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban and members of the terror network launched by bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian, and his two top lieutenants, both Egyptians.

Others were answering bin Laden's call for jihad, or holy war, against the United States.

They were predominantly Arabs and Pakistanis, but included Chechens, Uighurs from China, Uzbeks and even Filipinos -- all bonded by Islamic zeal.

Such foreign fighters are beginning to show up in Pakistan and other countries as the U.S. manhunt for bin Laden and other terrorist suspects intensifies.

Pakistan says it is sealing its borders to fleeing Taliban fighters, but they are slipping across the long frontier along with foreigners suspected of belonging to al Qaeda.

``Don't cut my leg, doctor,'' Rehman shouted at Muhammed Imram, an attending physician. ``I will need it to kill Americans.''

Rehman denied he was a member of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Although he spoke colloquial American English, he refused to say whether he had lived in the United States. He also would not answer questions about what had taken him to Afghanistan and how long he had been there.

``I am a freedom fighter,'' he said, ``a fighter for Islam. Holy war is in my life like a cancer. It cannot be cured.''

Rehman and his comrades apparently were wounded during a firefight at Kandahar's airport on Monday night. Rehman, listed on the hospital registration form as 36 but looking much younger, was the only one who showed his face. His English was tinged with a New York accent.

``I don't believe you. I don't trust you. I hate you,'' Rehman said.

``Now get out of my face! Americans, they killed us and now they take videos.''

Asked why he hated Americans, Rehman went on despite visible pain: ``Because of this right leg, because of the thousands of children you are killing by your intelligent rockets. They are actually very stupid rockets. You think you control everything in the world, but Allah is above you.

``I hate you,'' he repeated, ``and I know you hate me because you have different manners, different ways. Your war is against Islam, not against terrorism.''

The presence of thousands of foreign fighters in Afghanistan complicates plans of the U.S.-backed coalition and the United Nations to install an interim government of Afghans starting on Dec. 22.

Pashtun opposition groups and the Taliban were negotiating for the hand-over of Kandahar and two other southern provinces Thursday. Pashtun tribal leaders acknowledged that they had offered Afghan Taliban fighters amnesty.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 foreign fighters are believed to be in Kandahar. More foreigners are believed to be holed up in a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan in Nangahar province, near the city of Jalalabad.

Another 500 to 600 are believed to be in Helmand province in the west. And in Paktia and Logar provinces, foreign fighters and their families continue to operate and live.

Officials here said the foreign fighters, until recently, generally steered clear of the Pakistani border because they fear arrest. Police said the men at the hospital would be arrested after they recover from their wounds.


As the Northern alliance engage in last minute moves to over-run the embattled Taliban government in Afghanistan, Nigeria has recorded her first human casualty, as one of its citizens fighting on the side of the Talibans has been shot and wounded in the battle field in Kandahar. Identified simply as Aghra, 32, the Nigerian is among six other foreign fighters who managed to escape with gun wounds into Pakistan on Wednesday night, where they are receiving treatment at the Quetta general hospital, after sustaining bullet wounds in combat near Kandahar, the Taliban last stronghold.

According to reports by International Herald Tribune, Aghra is among the between 1,000 and 2,000 foreign fighters believed to be in Kandahar and lurked in solidarity battle with the Talibans since the US and the coalition forces declared war against the Taliban government as reprisal for the September 11, terrorist bombing in Washington and New York.

The prime suspect in the US attack, Osama bin Laden had in a special broadcast transmitted across the world in October from his hideout in Afghanistan, thanked Nigeria for the nation's support for the cause of the Afghans and Islam in general. Some parts of Northern Nigeria, including Kano and Jigawa were among the first cities of the world to demostrate public support for the Talibans and engage in protest over the action of the US and the coalition forces.

The fleeing foreign fighters according to Pakistani police were apprehended because they were forced by their wounds to contact ambulance for assistance. Police said initially, the fighters had refused to give their names, so the police however gave them a choice of either disclosing their names or not being treated. "We told them we needed their ID to give, medical treatment. No ID, no medical treatment", the police said.

According to the Pakistani police, Aghra and his colleagues will be arrested once they have recovered from their wounds. It said that three foreign fighters who arrived at the same Quetta General hospital several weeks ago with injuries disappeared from the hospital a day later, but are believed to be in custody.

Aghra and his colleagues were believed to have been wounded Monday night during a firefight at Kandahar's airport.

The report noted that more foreigners are believed to be holed up in a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan in Nangarhar province. And in Paktia and Logar provinces, foreign fighters and their families continue to operate and live.

Apprehended alongside Aghra include three Saudis, Abdul Rehman 36, Asadullah, 30, and Muheen, 32.

Abdul who described himself as a "freedom fighter" was reported to be full of abuses and rage against the Americans. "I am a freedom fighter", he said, "a fighter for Islam. Holy war is in my live as a cancer. It cannot be cured", he yelled at reporters.

Asked why he hated Americans with so much venom, Abdul who reeled in pains yelled, "Because of this right leg, because of the thousands of children you are killing with your intelligent rockets. They are actually very stupid rockets". "You think you control everything in this world, Allah is above you". "I hate you", he repeated, "and I know you hate me because you have different manners, different ways. Your war is against Islam, not against terrorism" he accused the US.

Meanwhile, Conflicting reports on the whereabouts of Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar are circulating as opposition forces secure the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

Pashtun tribal leaders in the city told CNN that Omar was in Kandahar Friday, but by Saturday morning he was no longer in the city.

Forces allied to the United States on Saturday were mopping up in the southern city where the repressive regime of the Taliban began under Omar seven years ago.

Pentagon sources is yet to confirm any report on Omar's present position, saying that the Taliban leader remains in the "general vicinity" of Kandahar.

But Hamid Karzai, new head of the Afghan interim government, was quoted as saying that he did not know where the Taliban leader was.

Earlier, Karzai said that Omar had expressed no remorse for the suffering he had brought to Afghanistan and so should be brought to trial to face "international justice".

In a Pentagon briefing, Gen. Tommy Franks says the military doesn't know where Mullah Mohammed Omar is.

Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, also said that the U.S. didn't know where Omar is.

"I don't think that I would say Omar has vanished. I think we've said all along that and I think the president said that we'll either bring him to justice or bring justice to him," Franks said.

"I'm concerned until we are able to assure ourselves that there will be no loss and no escape of this Taliban leadership," he said.

The U.S. has demanded Omar be punished for sheltering Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born Islamic militant it blames for masterminding the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 4,000 people in the United States.

With his forces in retreat, an attempt to broker a deal that would allow Omar to live with "dignity" in Kandahar has been dismissed, although anti-Taliban Afghan leaders are continuing to discuss an amnesty for rank and file followers innocent of terrorist activities.

Until this week, the reclusive Omar who lost an eye doing battle with the Soviet invaders in the 1980s had exhorted his troops to fight anti-Taliban forces to the death.

"I order you to completely obey your commanders and not to go hither and thither," Omar was quoted as telling his fighters over their wireless last month. "Any person who goes hither and thither is like a slaughtered chicken which falls and dies."

His followers failed to respond in the affirmative in sufficient numbers to save his regime.

But Reuters news agency reports that among the faithful, Omar's word was law and acolytes are still making a last ditch attempt to salvage the rule of the man who led them first to power, then to ruin.

Omar's rise began with frustration at the internecine wars among the factions of the mujahedeen, or holy warriors, who had defeated the Russians then turned on one another in 1992.

The capital of Kabul fell to the Taliban on September 26, 1996. Five years later, battered by U.S. bombs, they left it again, prompting joy among repressed Afghans who had been forced to grow their beards or hide beneath all-concealing burqas.

Only a few fuzzy photographs exist of Omar the Taliban banned them along with television, music and "entertainments".