Nigeria: Recent Documents, 06/08/'95

Nigeria: Recent Documents, Part 1

June 12, 1995 marks two years since annulment of presidential elections in Nigeria by the country's military regime, after the completed count but before official announcement of the results. As the military crackdown on opponents has intensified in recent weeks, a variety of human rights and pro- democracy groups have issued statements and organized demonstrations calling for an end to human rights abuses and installation of democracy. In Washington, groups joining in organizing a series of demonstrations at the Nigerian Embassy, as part of a informal coalition known as the International Roundtable on Nigeria, included TransAfrica, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Nigerian Democratic Movement, Amnesty International and others.

Two statements on the current situation, by HRW/Africa and by Dr. Mobolaji Aluko of the Nigerian Democratic Movement, follow in this posting and the next.

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June 8, 1995

Nigeria: Human Rights Watch/Africa Denounces Arrests of Human Rights and Pro-Democracy Activists and Continuing Disintegration of Rule of Law


Melissa Crow (202)371-6592,x136[w]/(202) 234-9031[h], Janet Fleischman (202)371-6592,x114 [w]/(301)565-5257[h], Susan Osnos (212)972-8400x216[w]/(203)622-0472[h]

As the second anniversary of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election approaches, the Abacha government has stepped up arrests of human rights and pro-democracy activists at an alarming rate. According to Human Rights Watch/Africa, the government has arrested an increasing number of its opponents in recent weeks in an effort to stifle criticism of its repressive regime. Human Rights Watch/Africa believes that the most recent wave of arrests may be an attempt on the part of the government to divert attention from the closed trial of twenty-three alleged coup plotters by a military tribunal, in blatant violation of Nigeria's obligations under international human rights law. Other government opponents currently in detention include Chief Moshood Abiola, who is widely viewed to have won the June 1993 elections, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, General Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy, Ken Saro-Wiwa, president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, and numerous other Ogoni activists; trade union leaders Frank Kokori, Wariebi Kojo Agamene, Francis Addo, and Fidelis Aidelomon; and journalists Kunle Ajibade, Chris Anyanwu, Ben Charles, and George Mba.

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls upon the Nigerian government to facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees held solely for the non-violent expression of their political beliefs and to drop all politically motivated charges against them. Insofar as credible evidence exists for any detainees accused of complicity in legally recognizable crimes, Human Rights Watch/Africa calls for them to be tried within a reasonable time by a competent, independent and impartial court in compliance with Nigeria's obligations under international human rights law.

Those human rights activists arrested in the past week included Olisa Agbakoba, president of the Nigerian Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Tunde Akanni, CLO campaign officer, Femi Falana, chairman of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, and Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, chairman of the Campaign for Democracy, a pro-democracy group. Although Agbakoba and Falana were subsequently released, they were ordered to report to the State Security Services for questioning. Other prominent human rights activists are reportedly "wanted" by the Nigerian government.

Following a May 31, 1995 bomb explosion during the launching of the family support program of Maryam Abacha, wife of the current Head of State, in Ilorin, capital of Kwara State in northwestern Nigeria, the Kwara State police arrested and interrogated Chief Cornelius Adebayo and at least two other members of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). All chairmen of local government areas in Kwara State have been ordered to report to the nearest police stations. NADECO, which includes politicians, retired military officials, and pro-democracy figures who support Abiola's installation as president, has been accused by the government since mid-May of plans to foment a new political crisis. NADECO has repeatedly denied these allegations. However, NADECO members throughout the country have been summoned for questioning. Wale Osun, acting secretary-general of the National Democratic Coalition, has been detained since his arrest on May 19, 1995.

On Saturday, June 3, 1995, the State Security Services broke up a meeting of the Democratic Alternative (DA), another pro-democracy group, in Jos. They proceeded to arrest and detain without charge DA President Alao Aka-Bashorun and Dr. Onje Gye-Wado, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the DA. Caroline Embu, a member of the DA executive in Jos, and CLO coordinators Edward Daudu and Steve Aluko were also recently arrested and detained without charge. On June 1, 1995, Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin, an octogenarian leader of NADECO and the mainstream Yoruba political group Afenifere, and some fifty other Afenifere leaders from nine states, were arrested for holding an illegal political meeting, although they have reportedly been released.

These recent arrests have coincided with the start of the trial of alleged coup plotters by a seven- man military tribunal headed by Brigadier Patrick Aziza. On March 10, the armed forces chief-of-staff announced that the government had arrested twenty-nine military officers and civilians in conjunction with a failed coup attempt. These individuals included Former Deputy Head of State Major- General Shehu Yar'Adua. Former Head of State General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was arrested on March 13 for alleged involvement in the coup, is currently under house arrest. Abacha's critics claim that the government fabricated the coup plot as an excuse to quell opposition. The trial of twenty-three of those arrested, not including Obasanjo and Yar'Adua, began on June 5, 1995 at the Lagos Garrison Command and is closed to the public and the press, although journalists were permitted to take photographs of the suspects at the first session. The tribunal is composed of individuals closely identified with the military regime and is therefore neither independent nor impartial.

The accused, who have been variously charged with treason, conspiracy, concealment of treason, and accessory to these offenses, have also been deprived of other due process guarantees required under international law. They have been denied access to independent and freely-chosen legal counsel, although they have the option to be represented by armed forces personnel with legal training. The findings of the military tribunal are scheduled to be submitted to the Chief of Defense Staff, Major- General Abdusalam Abubakar, by June 30, 1995. This short time period appears insufficient for complete presentations of the cases of both the prosecution and the defense and meaningful consideration of the issues by the tribunal. The tribunal's decision is not subject by review by a higher court, but only to confirmation by the Provisional Ruling Council, the highest law-making body in Nigeria. If convicted, the accused could be subject that, as happened following an alleged coup plot in 1986 and a coup attempt in 1990, the accused may be sentenced to death and hastily executed based on inadequate evidence following a secret and unfair trial.

The tribunal claims jurisdiction to try both military personnel and civilians. Human Rights Watch/Africa opposes military tribunals for civilians and for military personnel when the offenses are not specifically military in nature, as in this case, because military tribunals are intrinsically not independent and usually not impartial. The military personnel to be tried by the tribunal include Colonels Bello Fadile, Lawan Gwadabe, O. Oloruntoba, Rowland Emokpae, Lieutenant-Colonels S.E. Oyewole, Happy Bulus, M.A. Igwe, R.D. Obiki, V.O. Bamgbose, O.E. Nyong, C.P. Izuorgu; Ex-Major Akinloye M.A. Ajayi; Second Lieutenant Richard Emonvhe; and Staff Sergeant Patrick Usikpeko. The civilians include Felix Ndamaigida, Sanusi Mato, Peter Ijaola, Julius Badejo, and Matthew Popoola. The suspects have been detained incommunicado at the Directorate of Military Intelligence in Apapa, Lagos since their arrests. The government is reportedly continuing its investigation of others who were arrested and detained in conjunction with the alleged coup attempt, but who have not been charged.


Human Rights Watch/Africa (formerly Africa Watch): Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. Kenneth Roth is the executive director. Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board, and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair. Human Rights Watch/Africa was established in 1988 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Janet Fleischman is the Acting Executive Director; Alex Vines is the research associate; Kimberly Mazyck and Urmi Shah are associates; Lisa Alfred, Alison DesForges, Kirsti Lattu, Bronwen Manby and Lynn Welchman are consultants; Melissa Crow is the Sophie Silberberg Fellow. William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory committee and Alice Brown is the vice chair.

From: "APIC"
Date: Sun, 11 Jun 1995 19:34:09 +0000
Subject: Nigeria: Recent Documents, Part 1