Nigeria: InterPress on US Policy, 03/13/'96

Nigeria: InterPress on US Policy, 03/13/'96

Nigeria: InterPress on US Policy

Date Distributed (ymd): 960313

Title: NIGERIA-U.S.: Nigeria Crisis Industry Thrives In Black


by Rose Umoren

WASHINGTON, Mar 6 (IPS) - Nigeria's political crisis has produced a thriving industry in black America.

Hardly a month passes without a group of U.S. blacks reporting its ''fact-finding mission'' to Nigeria. The aim, say participants, is to promote dialogue among Nigerians some 6,000 miles away, and between the Bill Clinton administration and the Sani Abacha regime.

A 10-person group returned last month-end from an eight-day trip that was arranged by Steve Hayes, who runs the American Centre for International Leadership (ACIL) from the University of Denver.

Louis Farrakhan, head of the 20,000-member, Chicago-based Nation of Islam, visited Nigeria twice in February, also on a ''fact- finding mission.''

A variety of groups visited last year. One was a group of ''black journalists'', even though some like Roy Innis, head of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), had practiced little journalism. Following their return, Innis declared that ''all Nigerians were happy with their government''.

Nigeria has also seen an array of lobbyists, some of whom have placed advertisements praising the Abacha regime in the New York Times front section under various umbrellas, some hitherto unheard of. A full-page ad in the Times costs as much as 125,000 dollars.

Former U.S. deputy assistant agriculture secretary Joan Wallace signed one of the ads last Feb. 16, criticising Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, one of nine Ogoni activists executed by the regime last November. Wallace claims to have walked ''through the streets of Ogoniland, talking with citizens.''

The ad listed a telephone number as belonging to the National Coalition for Fairness in African Policy which purportedly paid for it. But several telephone calls by IPS over a three-week period have failed to be returned.

The Abuja government had directly paid for most of the trips. This may have changed with the latest mission. The regime appears to be getting its friends abroad to search for more credible black Americans to launder its image and plead for a stay of U.S. sanctions which have been anticipated since Saro-Wiwa's execution.

The financier of the last trip appears to be Kamel Ghriby, a wealthy Tunisian national. According to a report by delegation member, Dave Peterson of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Ghriby sells Nigerian oil on the spot oil market, a particularly lucrative business, says the World Bank, for Nigerian military leaders.

Accounts vary as to when the nine other delegates -- which included the past president of the African American Institute, Vivian Derryck, former congressional aide Frank Kiehne, and former Pentagon lawyer James Woods -- knew of their sponsor's link to the regime.

In his report to the NDI, the international wing of the Democratic Party here, Peterson says it was ''immediately before our departure.'' Before that, ''I had been told (Ghriby) had no direct investments in Nigeria and no relationship to Shell.''

Melvin Foote, another delegation member who describes the mission of his Constituency for Africa (CFA) as sensitising ''African Americans, in particular, about the need to support the socio-economic development of Africa,'' has a different story. He told IPS he only got to know of the 34-year-old Tunisian's business dealings with the Abacha regime a day before the visit ended.

In a telephone interview Monday, trip organiser Hayes at first insisted that the trip was financed by 'Olympic Management' and referred IPS to its Italian headquarters. Pressed about Ghriby, however, Hayes asserted that he had ''personally briefed (every delegate) before the trip'' about Ghriby's connections. When? ''Several days before the trip,'' he insisted.

He declined to discuss the matter further, beyond confirming that Ghriby runs 'Olympic Management' and that Hayes had approached him for the funding.

Foote, however, said Ghriby ''is very wealthy'' and wants to be compared to George Soros, the investor-philanthropist known as ''a promoter of peace in the world.'' The group travelled aboard Ghribi's airplane, said Foote.

Peterson, on the other hand, described Ghriby as ''a generous sponsor,'' but pointed out that ''he was ... probably under some pressure to please the Nigerian authorities.''

Once in Nigeria, the government altered the group's pre-arranged itinerary. Their chief host, they discovered, would be Nigeria's oil minister Dan Etete. They were wined and dined by government appointees, oil companies and other associates of the regime.

On the other hand, they were kept away from human rights groups, members of the opposition and the survivors of Saro-Wiwa and the eight other Ogoni rights activists executed with him.

Some, like Peterson, nonetheless returned with an informative account of the deteriorating situation. He reports: ''The current level of repression, in fact, is undoubtedly the highest Nigeria has ever known. The transition programme is even more orchestrated and lacking in credibility than that of (former President Gen. Ibrahim) Babangida''.

''The level of repression in Rivers state is probably the worst in Nigeria, the fear is palpable, and the oil companies are likely playing an active role in this,'' he said.

Foote, on the other hand, chose to celebrate a meeting with the long-detained winner of the 1993 presidential elections, Moshood Abiola, as ''as an opportunity of sorts to promote dialogue'', as he wrote in a memo to Susan Rice, the Africa director on the National Security Council (NSC).

Foote argued that there was yet no need for new sanctions and that the regime should be given more time to follow through on its promises of a transition to democratic rule.

A sombre-sounding Foote, however, admitted Monday that his group made little headway at the NSC and that the administration ''seems focused on sanctions.''

For his part, Farrakhan has said he would soon return to Nigeria with a team of lawyers to review the records of the executed Ogoni's trial.

Asked who was funding the Muslim minister's trips, James Muhammed, editor of the Nation of Islam newspaper, the Final Call, dismissed the question. ''What is important is that we went and are helping to get black America involved in resolving the situation,'' Muhammed, who accompanied Farrakhan, told IPS Tuesday. (END/IPS/RU/YJC/96)

Title: U.S.-NIGERIA: U.S. Plans to Increase Pressure on Nigeria

by Rose Umoren

WASHINGTON, Mar 7 - The United States has indicated that it has completed its Nigeria policy review and has strengthened its efforts to ''secure change'' in that country along with other governments.

This is in part because ''the situation in recent months has deteriorated very seriously in Nigeria,'' Under-Secretary of State for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth said here Wednesday.

Washington has singled out Nigeria, of all African countries, as one of the world's worst human rights abusers. The assessment is contained in the State Department's annual human rights report Congress around the world.

Nigeria ''presents a more classic picture of human rights abuse (than Cuba), as the regime of General Sani Abacha continues ruthlessly to suppress dissent,'' says the overview of the country-by-country report.

The west African country's unfavourable comparison with Cuba, on which the Clinton administration has just unleashed a barrage of new sanctions, has sent many in Washington into a speculative spin.

Nigeria is grouped in the overview with Burma, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea -- all so-called ''pariah'' or ''rogue'' states in the U.S. political lexicon.

In briefings on the report Wednesday, all administration officials have harped on Nigeria.

Worse, unlike some of its fellow human rights pariahs, the Abacha regime is also a main item of U.S. narcotics war.

''It is no coincidence that two nations singled out in our reports, Nigeria and Burma, were also featured in our drug decertifications last week,'' Secretary of State Warren Christopher told reporters Wednesday. ''Their disdain for law protects the drug trade even as it harms ordinary citizens.''

According to Wirth, the Nigeria policy review convinced the administration it must focus a spotlight on the regime's human rights performance.

Some think the long-expected new sanctions against the regime are imminent.

The human rights report on Nigeria is a chilling account of a government that has declared war on its citizens. The horrors range from rampant extra-judicial killings to torture, arbitrary arrests and detention in ''life threatening'' prisons.

The icing on the regime's cake last year was its November hanging of renowned writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni minority rights activists. The report describes their trial by a special tribunal for the murder of four Ogoni chiefs as ''completely lacking in respect for due process.''

It also charges that ''mobile anti-crime police patrols routinely shot people suspected of armed robbery'' in Nigeria.

Apparently following in the central government's footsteps, some state governments' task forces, such as Lagos state's ''environmental task force,'' carried out their own extra-judicial killings.

In the course of the year, this task force shot dead ''several citizens who failed to stop at checkpoints or failed to comply with task force orders,'' says the report which cites dates, places and names of victims.

Political detainees include the winner of the June 1993 presidential election annulled by the military, Moshood Abiola. Abiola has been held largely incommunicado since June 1994 when he declared himself president on the anniversary of his election.

Other political detainees cited in the report include the internationally respected former head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo, as well as journalists, human rights activists and trade unionists.

Quoting the Nigerian Civil Liberties Organization, the report says the number of political detainees could be as high as 50,000. If true, that represents nearly 77 percent of the total prison population of 65,000.

It says: ''The government continued to enforce its arbitrary authority through the Federal security system (the military, the state security service and the national police), and through decrees blocking action by the opposition in the courts. All branches of the security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses.''

In a quick reaction to the report, Amnesty International has called on the administration to match ''the strong rhetorical position on Nigeria in this report'' with action.

''The U.S. should lead the effort to pass a resolution at the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Commission and should also support the appointment of a special rapporteur on Nigeria,'' said Amnesty, which, with other international NGOs, has been campaigning for a tougher international stance against the Abacha junta.(END/IPS/RU/JL/96)

Origin: Washington/U.S.-NIGERIA/[c] 1996, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS) All rights reserved

These articles reposted with permission by the Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List. IPS Africa coverage, including reports from Washington-based Rose Umoren, is regularly available in the conference on the APC networks, and by subscription from PeaceNet World News (for information, send a message to For information about cross-posting, send a message to For more information about access to and reproduction of IPS Africa coverage, contact Peter da Costa in Harare (


Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Wed, 13 Mar 1996 10:11:18 -0500 Subject: Nigeria: InterPress on US Policy