Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

People, Places and Events


Plotters deserve fate - Awolowo

The 10 coup plotters executed in Lagos deserved the punishment they got, Chief Obafemi Awolowo has said at Ikenne. Chief Awolowo, who clocked 77 on March 6, remarked that the coup plotters were legally tried. He added: "If you shed blood in the execution of legal process, that is permissible, otherwise crime will flourish."

Chief Awolowo praised President Ibrahim Babangida for the soul-inspiring letter he sent to him on his birthday.

He said: "I was surprised at the contents of the letter. If it had been written by a former official of the defunct UPN or the Action Group, it would not have surprised me. "But this is a letter from somebody with whom we have never been friends. He said my dear Papa."

Chief Awolowo caused laughter when he said: "I will clock 80. It remains only three years." He said there was a time in one's life when "one is afraid of death and one is not afraid of death".

Chief Awolowo advised young men who wish to live long to beware of three things. These are in the matters of women, food and drink and money-making.

He also enjoined them not to be too greedy.

Asked whether he was still in politics, Chief Awolowo replied: "I have not quit politics. I am in politics for the whole of my life, however long it may be. The kind of profession in which I am, that is law, you don't retire, and in the kind of vocation in which I am, which is politics, you don't retire."

The last hours of the executed officers

A report in the Nigerian Guardian quoting a prison worker gives an account of the activities of the last twenty four hours of Maj-Gen. Vatsa and the other nine officers executed for plotting a coup.

The prison worker recalled that all the men sang during the 25 minutes walk from the bus stop to the stakes, with hands and feet chained.

Major General Maman Vatsa, the most senior officer, dictated a poem to a major and Squadron Leader Martin Luther asked that messages scribbled on his bible and a wrist watch, be passed on to his wife.

The story pieced together from fragmented, but corroborated accounts of warders and other prison workers was that:

The 10 condemned officers had been kept in different solitary cells; At about 3.30pm., prison officials told them they were to be moved to a new location. They raised no objections but asked for lunch and were served rice dishes; At about 5pm Squadron Leader Luther complained he was ill and wanted to see a doctor. That was about an hour before the execution. No-one knew what the matter was. He was sweating and the warders took him to the prison clinic;

Later in the evening, all 10 were marched out in a file towards the stakes, about three minutes walk away, hands in cuffs, legs in chains.

The accounts do not give a clear picture of who was where in the queue. But the eye- witnesses said Lt-Col. Musa Bitiyong led a chorus: "Nigeria, we shall rise again. our spirits will rise again".

Major-General Vatsa's last words were: "I love Nigeria, my country. I wish everyone to live in peace". He wore a white jumper and wound a towel around his neck. Before the guns roared, he removed his ring and wrist-watch and requested that they be sent to his wife. "Tell her not to be ashamed. Tell her to take care of the children," he also requested.

As on the day he and 12 others were condemned to death, he said again: "I leave you with a smile". But it was now certain it would be his last. For, this time, he did not say, "but it is not my last".

As the firing squad stood by, some of the 10 as before, proclaimed their innocence. The twice bitter Major Daniel Bamidele, who admitted concealing information of an impending coup from the authorities because when he last did, it was to a superior officer knee deep in it and he was detained thereafter.

Squadron Leader A.A. Ahura said his wrist watch should be given to his first son who is studying in the United States.

It was understood that, at one stage, through Squadron Leader Luther sought to send a message home through a warrant officer. But the latter shunned him, apparently indicating he could not take what he imagined to be his orders.

General Bali's statement on executions

The execution last week of ten coup plotters was announced to journalists by the Minister of Defence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maj-Gen. Domkat Bali who told them that confirmation of the verdict was made by the AFRC after exhaustive discussions.

The Minister also spoke on the political, military, moral, economic and other implications of the coup plot and the fate of other coup plotters to the journalists. We reproduce below the text of Gen. Bali's press statement.

"The abortive coup d'etat of December 1985 was hatched when this administration. was barely two months old. Indeed, a number of people are beginning to wonder whether Nigeria is not in for a cycle of instability which reaches a peak every 10 years, when a coup is bound to take place. In coming to this hypothesis, they have drawn attention to the fact that there was a coup in January 1966, and an unsuccessful attempt in February 1976, and the latest abortive plot, which was scheduled for the end of 1985 or early 1986.

While I hold the view that this is an attempt to read more order and sequence into the available data on the timing and frequency of coup d'etats in Nigeria, the point must be admitted that seven coups in 20 years in this country are just too many for the stability and orderly progress of the society. Arising directly from the political instability, is the fact that investors, both domestic and foreign, and other economic decision makers are unlikely to want to make their investments in our country on the basis of policy assumption for the policy assurances given by governments which may or may not last for more than a few months.

By discouraging investments and growth in the Nigerian economy, especially at a time of serious economic difficulties, the coup plotters must be seen as callous and unpatriotic traitors. Through their action, our young people continue to suffer from the frustrations of unemployment which can only be mitigated by economic growth in a steady and orderly environment.

Saudi Arabia deports Nigerians

About 420 Nigerians described by the Saudi Arabian airlines officials as "illegal immigrants", were flown into the country through the Malam Aminu Kano International airport, in three unscheduled flights between January 10 and February 26. Some of the Nigerians who arrived on February 26 in a Saudi Arabian airline Boeing 707 aircraft, admitted that they had been in that country for several months without valid documents.

They said that they had to stay back in Saudi Arabia after performing the Hajj because they had no money to travel to Nigeria

The assistant director of immigration, Kano, Alhaji Abulkadir Mohammed, who confirmed the story said that the department had handed over the Nigerians to the Kano state Ministry of Information, Social Development, Youth, Sports and Culture.

He admitted that the Nigerians had over- stayed their welcome and that they were issued with emergency certificates by the Nigerian embassy in Saudi Arabia to enable them to proceed to the country since their travelling documents had expired.

Alhaji Mohammed said that there was nothing unusual about the repatriation order on the Nigerians.

Saudi Arabian consul-general in Kano, Alhaji Abdulrahim Abuauf, said that the repatriated Nigerians were flown into the country free of charge because they had no money.

Alhaji Abdulrahim said that the basic travelling allowance given to intending pilgrims to perform the lesser hajj was inadequate and would not even pay for their transport fares within Saudi Arabia "not to talk of feeding and accommodation".


OAU ministerial council's resolution

The 43rd session of the OAU Council of Ministers ended last week by adopting a series of resolutions dealing, notably, with the implications of the repeal of the Clark amendment, South Africa, membership dues and the 1986/87 OAU budget, the Palestinian problem and Afro-Arab co- operation, Namibia and the Comoran island of Mayotte.

Referring to the implications of the repeal of the Clark amendment, the African ministers asked "the government of the USA, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and all other states which are still assisting the illegal apartheid regime and the puppet UNITA gangs, to stop doing so".

They also asked these countries to "cease assistance which helps to maintain the illegal occupation of a part of Angolan territory and facilitates massacres against the civilian population". In this regard they advocated the "immediate cessation of arms supplies to UNITA".

As regards the situation in South Africa, the Council of Ministers appealed to all governments to abide by existing Security Council resolutions on voluntary sanctions. It urged them to "adopt a common stand on the imposition of global, mandatory sanc- tions against the apartheid regime in South Africa". In this respect the Council appealed to the international community "to contribute actively to the success of the forthcoming international conference on sanctions against South Africa".

On the Palestinian problem, the Council issued a call to the international community, "to intensify its pressure on Israel in all sectors in order to force it to conform to the UN Charter".

On Afro-Arab cooperation, the Council reaffirmed "its indestructible devotion and full readiness to fostering the co-operation". In this respect, it urged the OAU and Arab League General Secretariats "to take all necessary steps at the next Afro-Arab ministerial meetings".

On the Namibian problem, the Council expressed concern over the persistence of the Pretoria racist regime and the Reagan administration to link Namibian independence with the withdrawal of Cuban forces in Angola. In this respect, it renewed its call to the international community "to continue extending material, financial, political, diplomatic and concrete moral support to the sole authentic representative of the Namibian people, SWAPO".

The sessions of the 44th meeting of OAU Council of Ministers will take place in Addis Ababa from July 21-25, while the countries. conference of heads of state will be held in the Ethiopian capital from July 28-30.

Bureau discusses African fiscal situation

The Bureau of the 21st summit of the OAU has begun its meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss preparations for the forthcoming special session of the UN General Assembly on the fiscal-economic situation in Africa. Meeting under the chairmanship of Senegalese President Abdou Diouf, current Chairman of the OAU, the Bureau discussed the report of the OAU's permanent steering committee as adopted by the Council of Ministers.

Participating in the meeting are the President of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, President Abd al-Aziz of SADR (Saharan Arab Democratic Republic), and Sudanese Prime Minister Dafallah, as well as delegations at ministerial level from Benin, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Malawi.

Among several documents before the Bureau is a report of the second meeting of the steering committee, which contains proposals for the immediate measures to be taken to combat food emergencies, rehabilitation of African agriculture, practical reforms and long-term measures, drought, control of desertification, as well as refugees, displaced persons and victims of natural disasters.


Data transmission network

The first of the 13 experimental sessions designed to promote the access to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) to European data banks has taken place in Dakar under the supervision of two experts from Euronet Diane, a European network which can give direct access to all kinds of information in the most diverse fields.

The demonstration ceremony, presided over by the Senegalese Minister of Com- munications, took place in the presence of the representative of the EEC Commission in Dakar and the general manager of the Senegalese company for international tele- communication (Sonatel) which will be in charge of the project in Senegal if the experiment proves conclusive.

It is proposed that from a terminal equipped with a screen or a computer printer, research workers, university professors, lawyers, industrialists, traders and journalists interested in the project will establish a real dialogue with Euronet Diane, the first European telecommunica- tion network comprising the post and tele- communication services of each of the EEC This system is much cheaper and is more practical than the traditional system based on the telephone because the tariff is the cheapest possible. Another principle concerns the increase availability and reliability of information.

Senegal the only African country apart from Zimbabwe to attempt such an experi- ment, because of its advance in the field of data processing has concerns which are in perfect harmony with this seminar, whose participants will acquire a better idea of the possibilities and advantages offered to their various organisations. Senegalese Communications Minister Djibo Ka re- called the campaigns of familiarisation and experimental consultation of databanks organised for many years now in Senegal within the framework of the last two Dakar international fairs.

The interest shown by the potential users led to the establishment many months ago at the Sonatel premises of a data bank consultation terminal associated with a printer for the exclusive use of the public. Mr Djibo Ka said that this constitutes the first stage toward the setting up of a national network for data transmission which will be linked to the world network. The project should, as soon as it is realised in 1988, make it possible to facilitate transmission of data both within Senegal and between Senegal and the rest of the world, the Communications Minister said.


French financial assistance

Two financial agreements totalling 2.3bn CFA francs have been signed at the administrative centre for economic and financial services in Lome between Komlan Alipui, member of the Central Committee of the Rally of the Togolese People and Minister of Economy and Finance, and the Director of the French Central Fund for Economic Co- operation (CCCE), Olivier Delos.

The first agreement is on the granting of a loan to Togo by CCCE worth 2bn CFA francs for financing the third cotton gin at Atakpame. The second agreement, which is worth 30m CFA francs, is for the expansion and modernisation of Lome airport with the creation of a cargo-handling section.


More trials of coup plotters

Two separate trials have begun in Accra of two sets of suspects charged with plotting to overthrow the PNDC. The suspects facing the National Public Tribunal in the first trial include a brother of Major Boakye Djan, chairman of the London-based Campaign for Democracy in Ghana and a son of Rv. F.K.D. Goka, former finance minister in the government of the late President Kwame Nkrumah.

The accused, also including a bank manager and non-commissioned officers, were said to have used Lome as their base for hatching the plot to oust Flt-Lt. Rawlings who seized power from a democratically elected government in December 1981.

The prosecution described the planned coup as "an act of a motley assortment of confederates in crime, constituting a veritable alliance comprising disappointed businessmen, ex-prisoners, disloyal soldiers, convicts and others bound together in the common cause of halting the current revolutionary process."

The prosecution also charged another group of three Ghanaians of plotting to overthrow the government.

Chief Justice calls for change

Mr Justice E.N.P. Sowah, Chief Justice, said that if the country's judiciary should be an effective instrument in fulfilling the ideals of change and development, it must amend some of its strategies, methods and procedures.

He observed that there were certain procedures which made the ordinary man wonder if the judiciary were afraid of change, adding "procedures which are to be the handmaid's in this search of truth and justice are now mistresses unto themselves".

The Chief Justice made these observations at the opening session of the annual Law Week celebration organised by law students at the University of Ghana, Legon.

Justice Sowah emphasised that if the law was to be of any relevance to the people, justice and law must not be seen as two different streams, "their waters must mix so that they would be relevant in the search of social justice and social development". Stressing on the need for changes, the Chief Justice explained that progress would always be impossible if there was no change.

He stated further that there were concepts and procedures in the existing law, which certainly must change if the law would be of relevance to social change. "The first that readily comes to the mind is that of locus standi which means simply that a plaintiff in an action must have an interest in the subject matter to be sufficiently effected personally, before he can mount an action." Theoretically, he pointed out, all Ghanaian citizens had access to the courts of the land for the "ventilation" of their grievances but, in reality, save trials carrying capital punishment, very vew rural dwellers could afford the luxury of litigation either to assert their rights or vindicate themselves.

Mr Justice Sowah observed that there could be no dispute that one of the challenges of social justice was the question of legal aid.

In his address, the President of the Law Students Union, Mr Ben Akuetteh Yoyowah, said the theme for this year's 'Law Week' celebrations, 'The role of the law in social development', was chosen in recognition of the socio-economic transformation going on in the country.

Export of cocoa to China

Ghana is to export about 5m dollars worth of cocoa to China in exchange for Chinese hardware. The head of a 10-man Chinese trade mission which took part in Idutech (Industrial and Technology Fair) 86 said an agreement to this effect had been reached during a visit to China last year by the Chairman of the PNDC Flt-Lt. Rawlings.

Apart from participating in the fair, the mission was in the country to finalise arrangements on the export of Chinese goods to Ghana. He said he had already held discussions with the Secretary of Trade on the type of hardware Ghana needed and companies that would import them.

He named the Ghana National Trading Corporation as one of the buyers. The company has signed a 20,000 dollar contract with the National Light Industrial Products of China for some of the sewing machines. He expressed China's willingness to team up with Ghanaian entrepreneurs to set up a light company in Ghana.

British aid pledge

Britain has pledged £14m in assistance to Ghana this year. The assistance will be in the sectors of industry, health and education.

Freight offices at border towns

The Ministry of Transport and Communi- cations is to establish freight offices at Bolga, Afiao and Takoradi to handle transport needs of haulers travelling across Ghana's borders to countries which have signed bilateral agreements with Ghana. These offices will serve as branch offices of the Ministry of Transport and will issue the necessary transport permits to drivers. This was disclosed in Accra by Mr Lawrence Amegbletor, a senior official of the Ministry.

He said as from April 1 this year, all drivers operating from Ghana to any neighbouring country which has signed bilateral agreement with Ghana should make sure they possess the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Transport Permit before operating across the borders.

The establishment of these freight offices will accordingly help haulers along the routes to obtain the necessary transport permits. Commenting on the advantages of the freight offices, Mr Amegbletor said basic data could be collected from drivers for the future planning programme of the ministry. It would also help with record keeping and statistics.


3-day news black out

Liberian independent media organisations have decided to hold a three-day news blackout to protest the "unfavourable general atmosphere surrounding press freedom in the country", the independent Daily Star reported in Monrovia.

The organisations expressed "deep regret and concern" that despite the lifting of a ban on the country's press union on Thursday, "other tactics are being used to frustrate the proper functioning" of the independent media.

The organisations referred to an arson attempt on Wednesday on the offices of the Daily Observer newspaper, and the refusal of a privately-owned printing press to print some independent papers as examples of such tactics.

The opposition Unity Party (UP) said that any persons or groups who "openly or covertly interfere with the media in a bid to stifle their freedom are forces against the constitutional rights of the people of Liberia."

Such acts to curtail press freedom under the country's recently-elected democratic civilian government should be considered "treasonable", the party said in a statement.

Press house burnt down

There has been a fire outbreak at the offices of the Daily Observer.

The fire started only hours after the daily's staff decided to start publishing again in defiance of a 14-month-old ban.

A Daily Observer spokesman said that he had no doubt that the fire was a case of arson aimed at preventing the Daily from reappearing

Meanwhile, Liberia's government has expressed "shock and dismay" at the fire which gutted the offices of the country's most influential paper, the Daily Observer.

An information ministry statement released said that President Doe had told the justice ministry to investigate the incident.

"The government of Liberia hopes that this (the fire)) was not an attempt to destroy the building, with the hope to embarrass or discredit the government," the statement said.

Doe lifts ban on journalists

President Samuel Doe has lifted a ban on journalists, teachers and students imposed following an abortive coup attempt in November. A statement released by President Doe's spokesman Mr Patric Kugmeh, said that Liberia's Press Union, the National Students' Union, the National Union of Liberian Teachers and the Provisional Students' Leadership Council of the University of Liberia in Monrovia could now resume activities.

The groups were banned following a bloody attempt to oust Mr Doe in November, a month after general elections which the opposition says were rigged.

Mr Doe said that the opposition Liberia Action Party (IAP) was implicated in the coup bid and imposed a ban on the organisations to which many IAP supporters belong.

The statement said that Mr Doe's decision to lift the ban was made in the hope "that these organisations will seek to promote peace, unity and love among Liberians. . rather than engage in acts that will tend to plunge the Liberian nation into chaos." It said that the ban on Liberia's business caucus would remain until investigations into its activities were completed.

The statement also said that Mr Doe, who seized power in a 1980 coup, would soon urge the country's legislature to lift a ban on students practising politics.

Budget for second half of fiscal year

The Liberian government has approved a budget of over 300m dollars to facilitate its operation for the second half of the fiscal year from January 1 to June 30 this year. The 'Footprints Today' newspaper, quoting Planning and Economic Affairs Minister Paul Jeffy, said the total revenue estimate of the budget for the six months is 128.85m dollars, while expenditure is estimated at 174.55 million dollars.

Minister Jeffy, however, noted that the budget has a deficit of 45.70m dollars and noted that it has been proposed that the deficit be financed by disbursement project loans of 22m dollars plus proceeds from PL (public law 18481) accounts of 11m dollars and other fiscal measures of 12.7m dollars.


Dutch nationals deported

The Sierra Leonean government has ordered the immediate deportation of a Dutchman and Woman for allegedly importing goods illegally into the country and smuggling out gold and diamonds, official sources in Freetown said.

The sources said that the two, who they named as Max Van Herk and Mrs Nuhad Toplulos, had illegally imported vehicles and other goods into Sierra Leone and made false customs declarations.


Computer studies to be introduced

Computer studies will soon be introduced in Ivorian primary schools, President Felix Houphouet-Boigny has hinted at a cabinet meeting. According to the president the country's youth need to know about computers early in life, adding, 'such studies would commence at the primary school level.'

Boycott of cocoa agreement

The Ivory Coast has announced that it will not participate in the fourth international agreement on cocoa. This was announced by the Minister of Agriculture at the con- ference on cocoa in Geneva on February 26. President Houphouet-Boigny was reported by radio as saying in Paris after meeting President Mitterrand on February 27 that if the Ivory Coast farmers' interests were not safeguarded in an agreement, Ivory Coast would go over to producing more profitable commodities.

Togo, I. Coast, Benin record food surpluses

Despite bumper harvests in Africa last year, six African countries in 1986 will have problems feeding their populations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said on March 2 in its first special report this year on the situation in Africa, the FAO named the six as Angola, Botswana, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Sudan. It said they would need 2.4m tonnes for food aid, 900,000 tonnes of it as a matter of urgency.

The FAO put the total food aid needs of the 45 countries south of the Sahara at 3.3m tonnes, half that of last year. A further 5.3m tonnes would be imported on a commercial basis, it said. This was despite a generally excellent harvest in 1985, which was a record 54.3m tonnes, 14.2m more than in 1984 and 23% up on the average of the last five years, the FAO said.

Several countries recorded exceptional surpluses of secondary grains, particularly maize and millet, the report added. In Benin, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Togo and Zimbabwe 2.7m tonnes of these crops were available immediately, 600,000 tonnes more than the total grain deficit of the countries worst hit by drought.

The FAO called on donor countries to help by funding the purchase of food in areas of surplus in Africa and their transport to areas of need.

The report spotlighted the case of Sudan which recorded a harvest of 4.6m tonnes in 1985 and a surplus of 520,000 tonnes. Yet it did not have the financial and logistic resources to distribute the food to areas like Darfur and Kordofan, where 60% of the country's 5.1m refugees from neighbouring states are living. Similarly, Senegal has 100,000 tonnes of grain available, Mali and Burkina Faso 40,000 tonnes each, Niger 35,000 tonnes and Chad 30,000 tonnes, the FAO said.

In Ethiopia the government estimates that 6.5m people are still short of food and has put their needs in outside aid for this year at 1.08m tonnes. According to the FAO, last year's harvest totalled 5.5m tonnes, down 12% or 850,000 tonnes on a normal year's yield.

Prospects for the 1986 harvest are variable, the report says. In most of southern Africa the rains were late but good in January and February, and the harvest should be normal if they continue, but Angola and Mozambique will be hit by the affects of civil war and Botswana by a sixth successive year of drought.

In Central and East Africa, where the main crop has already been planted, weather conditions are normal and yields should be the same, the FAO says. In the rest of the continent, no predictions can be made for several months.

Trade minister ends visit

Mr Jermu Laine, the Foreign Trade Minister of Finland, made an official visit to Ivory Coast from February 26 to March 1 during which he had discussions with many members of the government, notably M Mathieu Ekra, the Minister of State for the President of the Republic, as well as a working session with this Ivorian counterpart, M Nicolas Kouandi-Angba.

Talking about the results of his visit, Mr Jermu Laine first of all observed that his country was very determined to expand trade with Ivory Coast both in terms of imports and exports. While deploring the fact that Finland took no active part in the commercialisation of Ivory Coast's main products (coffee and cocoa), he however indicated that studies were being under- taken which would result in increased trade as far as these products were concerned.

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