IRIN-West Africa Update 210, 98.5.19

IRIN-West Africa Update 210, 98.5.19

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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IRIN-WA Update 210 of Events in West Africa, 19 May 1998

NIGERIA: US senators introduce Nigerian sanctions bill

Two US Senators on Monday introduced a bill proposing additional sanctions against Nigeria unless it holds civilian elections this year, news organisations reported. Benjamin Gilman, a Republican, and Donald Payne, a Democrat, said the bill would codify into law presidential sanctions imposed since 1993, including visa restrictions and a ban on arms sales. It would also stop sport teams from participating in US events and freeze assets owned by Nigerian leaders in the US. The bill would support human rights advocates and democracy in Nigeria. Reuters quoted Gilman as saying the bill sent "a clear message to the military regime in Nigeria that the status quo is unacceptable" and Nigerians want and deserve a transition to civilian rule. Additional sanctions could be added while Congress is considering the bill.

The existing sanctions were imposed in 1993 after the execution of the Nigerian human rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and seven others.

Thirty-seven Nigerians charged with subversion

Thirty-seven Nigerians detained in connection with anti-government demonstrations on May Day in the south-western city of Ibadan were charged on Monday with subversion, in addition to conspiracy, rioting and arson, news organisations reported. The BBC reported that three other people, including a prominent newspaper editor, Femi Adeoti of the 'Sunday Tribune', were also brought before court unexpectedly and charged with subversion. After appearing in court, they were transferred from police custody to prison.

A BBC correspondent in Ibadan said the charges against the editor have raised fears of a further erosion of press freedom in Nigeria.. According to AFP, the military administrator of Oyo State, Colonel Ahmed Usman, said those arrested in connection with the May Day protests would be treated as "prisoners of war".

Fuel rationing

The military administrator of Lagos State, Colonel Mohammed Buba Marwa, imposed fuel rationing on Monday in the latest attempt to tackle petrol shortages and reduce chronic queuing at petrol stations, according to news organisations. AFP reported that Marwa told a meeting of government officials and representatives of transport unions that rationing was necessary "to bring sanity to the marketing and distribution of fuel". Diplomatic vehicles and those for essential services, such as ambulances, police, fire services and armed forces would be exempted from the rationing measure.

More than fifty percent of the country's cars are reportedly located in Lagos, the economic capital. Officials attribute the scarcity to hoarding, diversion and panic-buying of fuel. Nigeria is the sixth largest world oil producer.

SIERRA LEONE: UK firm in arms case not to be prosecuted

The British Customs and Excise, in a statement, announced it would not press charges against a British security firm, Sandline International, for allegedly breaking a UN embargo, according to news organisations on Monday. Attorney-General Jon Morris confirmed the decision. Morris, quoted by Reuters, added: "Even though offences may have been committed, the particular circumstances leading up to the supply (of arms) affect the fairness of the case." Sandline International's head, former British army lieutenant-colonel Tim Spicer, said he welcomed the decision not to prosecute, Reuters said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook named a retired civil servant, Sir Thomas Legg, to head an internal inquiry to look into whether any part of the government had approved of a breach of the UN arms embargo, or knew of any such breaches.

LIBERIA: Taylor again denies involvement in Sierra Leone

Liberian President Charles Taylor acknowledged on Tuesday that Liberian soldiers were fighting alongside rebel fighters in Sierra Leone, but denied his government's involvement, according to AFP. The report quoted Taylor as saying: "Those Liberian fighters in Sierra Leone crisis are involved on their own". Officers of the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, have repeatedly accused Taylor of providing fighters and arms to the ousted junta. In April, Taylor called for international observers to monitor the situation.

A local source told IRIN the possibility of individual Liberian mercenary activity in Sierra Leone could not be discounted, but he said organised and official support for fighters in Sierra Leone was unlikely. The source added that a joint deployment of ECOMOG troops alongside the Liberian security forces was under active consideration. The soldiers would be deployed along the border with Sierra Leone, particularly in the northern county of Lofa.

Government to organise security forces impartially

The Liberian government has pledged to organise professional security institutions that are ethnically balanced, independent Star Radio reported on Tuesday. Reacting to comments by ambassador designate Roosevelt Johnson that the government was forming an army and security apparatus predominantly with members of Taylor's defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), the government said it was aware of its responsibilities to protect Liberia's people and borders. Johnson suggested that ECOMOG be allowed to carry out the restructuring of the army, as provided for in the Abuja peace accords which ended the Liberian civil war. But the Liberian government said the Abuja accords were no longer valid, the radio added.

Opposition leader criticises checkpoints

Liberian opposition leader Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson on Monday said checkpoints across Liberia restricted the free movement of people and goods, Star Radio reported. Addressing a news conference, she also accused security men at the checkpoints of extortion, which discouraged people from engaging in productive activities. Johnson-Sirleaf called on the government to address the issue seriously.

Meanwhile, Johnson-Sirleaf criticised the government's decision to give the monopoly of the rice market to one importer, which had resulted in an increase in the price of rice.

Abidjan, 19 May 1998, 17:45 gmt


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN West Africa, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN-WA Tel: +225 21 73 66 Fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail: for more information or subscription. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this report, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the Web at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to . Mailing list: irin-wa-updates]

Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 17:42:52 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 210, 98.5.19 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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