NIGERIA: IRIN News Briefs [19991027]

NIGERIA: IRIN News Briefs [19991027]

NIGERIA: IRIN News Briefs, 27 October

Eight out of 10 prisoners await trial

More than 80 percent of inmates await trial in squalid conditions in overcrowded prisons, according to a report on Monday on state-run Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) based on a visit to prisons in the southeast.

According to the report, virtually all the prisons visited were old and overcrowded: one cell in Onitsha prison was the size of a classroom but held 60 to 80 inmates, all under the age of 16.

The prisons have more than twice the number of inmates they were built for and over 80 percent of the detainees are awaiting trial, some for more than 10 years, NTA reported.

Primary teachers agree to end strike

Nigeria's primary school teachers agreed on Tuesday to end a five-week strike over salary arrears after a meeting in Abuja between the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) and President Olusegun Obasanjo, news organisations reported.

At the meeting, the government agreed to pay outstanding wages for January to March and for August by the end of November, while the teachers agreed to return to classes next week, according to news reports.

Central Bank allows oil companies to sell foreign exchange

Oil companies are now free to sell their foreign exchange on the open market, Radio Nigeria reported on Monday. In a circular to oil companies and banks in Lagos, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said that it had reviewed the regulation that required the firms to sell foreign exchange only to the CBN. However, the CBN will continue to supervise the sales.

Shell to invest US $1 billion

Royal Dutch/Shell is to spend US$1 billion to develop an off-shore oilfield which would come onstream in 2002 and produce up to 120,000 bd, the BBC reported on Monday.

The oilfield, some 90 km from the coast, was discovered in 1965 but only became economically viable recently with the development of new drilling technology. The latest move is evidence of a shift by oil companies to off-shore operations following a spate of unrest and demonstrations by activists demanding a share in the oil wealth of south-eastern Nigeria, the BBC reported analysts as saying.

Tighter rules for private telecoms firms

Nigeria's government on Tuesday announced tighter rules for private telecommunications companies, banning them from offering international services and increasing fees for mobile operators, news organisations reported on Tuesday.

A minimum fee of US $500 million was set by the government as a requirement from any investor seeking a licence to run Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM), 'The Guardian' reported.

It said the government had voided all existing licences for GSM and named the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and the Nigerian Mobile Telecommunications Limited (M.Tel), both state firms, as the first two beneficiaries of GSM licences under the new policy.

According to Reuters, a key aim of the new policy is to block private companies that have invested in providing international services, and get them to integrate their facilities with NITEL.

Communications Minister Mohammed Arzika said at the launch of the national telecommunications policy that the changes would help Nigeria meet its aim of adding two million fixed lines and 1.2 million mobile lines over the next two years. Nigeria has some 500,000 connected lines for a population of more than 108 million people, Reuters said.

Arzika announced the new policy even though the House of Representatives had asked Obasanjo to hold it for at least one month to allow for a public hearing, 'The Guardian' reported.

Government supports Transparency International report

Transparency International (TI) has named Nigeria as the second most corrupt of the 99 countries it studied in a report issued on Tuesday, with Cameroon in first place.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said in a statement that he had no objections to the poll's results, which show how big a challenge his administration is facing and addressing. He said he hoped the report "will spur" the National Assembly to expedite action on his anti-corruption bill, AFP reported.

Unemployed pilots give foreign pilots 28-day ultimatum

A group of unemployed pilots, under the name of the Association of Unemployed Pilots in Nigeria, has told foreign pilots to leave the country within 28 days or else their lives could be endangered, 'Today' newspaper reported.

The Association issued the ultimatum in a letter dated 18 October, titled "Warning to all foreign pilots in Nigeria", and sent to aviation companies including Bristow Helicopters, Pan Africa, Harka, Chanchangi and Bellview, according to 'Today'.

It said there were over 300 qualified but jobless Nigerian pilots.


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Item: irin-english-1861

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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