NIGERIA: IRIN News Briefs [19991020]

NIGERIA: IRIN News Briefs [19991020]

NIGERIA: IRIN News Briefs, 20 October

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright promised Nigerians on Wednesday she would work with Congress to triple or quadruple US aid to Africa's most populous country in the year 2000.

"That money will help fight corruption, support democratic governance at the state and national levels, and fund teacher training, HIV/AIDS prevention, and progress towards civilian oversight of the military," Albright said in a live broadcast on Nigerian television.

Albright, who arrived in Nigeria from Mali on the fourth stage of her six-nation whistle-stop tour of Africa, said she assured Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday that the United States was also committed to supporting Nigeria's economic reform.

The United States is Nigeria's largest trade and investment partner, Albright said, and relies on Nigeria for 8 percent of its imported oil. She described Nigeria, with an estimated population of 108 million, as a potential engine of economic growth and keystone of peace and stability.

Nigeria has taken the leadership and provided most of the money and men for the Economic Community of West African States Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) that has seen action in Liberia and is still in Sierra Leone.

"We are providing an additional eleven million dollars in logistical assistance to ECOMOG," Albright said, "and we will vote this week in the United Nations Security Council to deploy UN peacekeepers to Sierra Leone to help relieve the burden on Nigeria and its partners."

She said Nigerians and North Americans would both benefit "if we do more together to fight the international criminals and drug traffickers who tarnish Nigeria's reputation".

Government committed to total privatisation of energy

Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar told a visiting delegation of World Bank officials on Tuesday that Nigeria's government was committed to the total privatisation of the power utility sector within a short period, according to an official statement.

The leader of the delegation, John Besant-Jones, suggested the establishment of a privatisation monitoring agency. He said the Bank was ready to organise awareness campaigns for Nigerians on privatising the energy sector.

Trade union federation threatens general strike

Nigeria's main trade union umbrella warned the government on Tuesday that it would face a general strike in two weeks' time if it failed to pay teachers salary arrears and allowances, and improve their conditions of service.

Public workers will begin a nationwide strike on 2 November if the demands of the teachers, on strike since September, are not met, the head of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, said.

The union, he added, was also in talks with the government over upgrading the public sector minimum monthly wage from the present 3,000 naira (about US $32) to 20,000 naira (roughly US $211).

Former police chief to be questioned on military regime's crimes

Former police chief Ibrahim Coomassie is due to testify before a special inquiry next month on killings that took place under past military regimes, a media source told IRIN.

Coomassie is to appear before the Special Investigation Panel of the police's internal Force Criminal Investigation Department, whose next sitting is expected to be on 17 November, the source said.

In a BBC broadcast on Monday, Information Minister Dapo Sarumi denied reports that Coomassie and the former chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Ishaya Bamaiyi, were under arrest.

Y2K committee inaugurated

Nigeria's national committee on the millennium bug has been inaugurated in Abuja, State radio reported on Saturday. The 26-member committee, headed by Minister of State for Science and Technology Pauline Tallen, will try to ensure that Nigeria is Y2K compliant by next year.

Christian association to fight introduction of the Sharia

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has vowed to fight bids by the governments of some northern Nigerian states to adopt Islamic Sharia laws and administrative systems, the London-based Radio Kudirat Nigeria reported on Friday.

Zamfara and Yola states have announced their intention to introduce the Shar'ia, Islamic laws that sanction limb amputations for certain crimes, while Sokoto state is considering such a move.

CAN's northern zone president, the Rev. Peter Jatau, said on Friday in Kaduna that the Shar'ia was a clear violation of the 1999 constitution, which states that Nigeria is a secular nation.


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Item: irin-english-1814

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Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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