#03-21 MONDAY JUNE 1, 1998


An Editor with the Ogun State Television (OGTV), Mrs Mosun Mosunro, was
suspended indefinitely May 25 for allegedly approving the broadcast of a
statement issued by the Ogun State chapter of Christian Association of
Nigeria (CAN). The statement which asked christians to boycott a
government-organised prayer programme in Abuja, the capital, was
considered offensive by the state goverment.

The allegedly offensive news item was relayed on the station on 19 May,
during its 8.30 pm news bulletin. The General Manager of the station, Mr.
Segun Olaleye, earlier summoned and reprimanded by the state
admininstrators, Group Captain Sam Ewang, ordered Mrs. Mosunro to proceed
on an indefinite suspension without pay.

The Chief Magistrate Court in Ibadan, Oyo state, was thrown into confusion
May 25 as it continued the trial of Sunday Tribune editor Femi Adeoti and
others. Stern-looking anti-riot policemen deployed to the court premises
started harassing and beating journalists. The National president of the
Nigeria Union of Journalists and the chairman of the Oyo state council of
the Union, Messrs Lanre Ogundipe and Soladoye Ademola, were assaulted
while a senior editor with the Nigerian Tribune, Yinka Olujisi, was
brutallised by the anti-riot policemen. The video cassettes of
Ibadan-based Galaxy Television were siezed by the policemen. They refused
to release the cassettes despite the court's order.

At an emergency conference of the NUJ at the Union's press centre,
Iyaganku, Ibadan after the court proceedings, journalists decided to shun
all police activities in the state until the police command returned the
video cassettes seized at the court with an apology to all journalists
harassed or assaulted.

Meanwhile, the magistrate court adjourned the case till 24 June, 1998 on
the request of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Mrs. Fola Oyekan,
who argued that the case file got to her only the previous day and that
the police were still going on with their investigations.

Before the adjournment, the counsel to Mr. Femi Adeoti, Mr. Akinjide
Sadiq, had told the court that medical facilities were not given to Adeoti
as ordered by the court at its previous sitting. This, according to him,
caused Femi's dizziness and weakness that was couspicously noticed  the
The Federal Government has revoked the licenses of 12 companies earlier
signed on to provide various telecommunications services in the country.

The companies with licences for Internet, paging, VSAT (Very Small
Aperture Terminal), sales and installation of terminal equipment and
pay-phone service are all based in Lagos.

The revocation was announced at the weekend during the formal
commissioning of the Internet gateway of MicroCom Systems Limited by the
Minister of Communications, Major General Patrick Aziza.

Executive Vice-chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC),
Engineer Cletus Iromantu, who represented the minister at the event,
disclosed that the licences were revoked because the affected firms did
not comply with the stipulated conditions for the issuance of the
telecommunications licences.

He alleged that non-payment of licensing fees, non-commencement of service
within the stipulated period of grace and other defaults by the firms made
NCC to revoke the licence.

Iromantu also disclosed that more revocations were underway because some
licencees have not approached NCC to claim their licenses and "we keep
carrying a large inventory of licenses". Some of the affected companies
include Vantage Technologies, Kalandas Nigeria Limited, Bod-Gee Ventures
Nigeria Limited and Villa Communications earlier licensed in the category
of sales and installation of terminal equipment.

Also affected are licences for paging services which include Bod-Gee
Ventures Nigeria Limited, Dotts Communications Limited and Kalandas
Nigeria Limited.

Two Internet service lincesees, Shalis Nigeria Limited and Kalandas
Nigeria Limited were also affected in the revocation exercise.

Tele-Africa Nigeria Limited and Associated Telecommunications Company
Limited, lincesees for PMC (Personal Mobile Communications) in cellular
service and pay-phone services respectively were also revoked.

The Federal Government has launched the Nigeria Internet and Information
Technology Initiative (NIITI) as a way of promoting the virtues of the
global network of computers.

The Minister of Communications, Major General Patrick Aziza, revealed this
at the weekend while commissioning an Internet gateway in Lagos.

The gateway currently running at 256 kilobits per second (kb/s) and
expandable to two megabits (2MB), is hosted by Microcom Systems Limited,
one of the 32 Internet service providers licensed by the Nigerian
Communications Commission (NCC). 

Aziza, who was represented by the executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Mr.
Cletus Iromantu, said government was well disposed to work in partnership
with the private sector in order to achieve affordability and
accessibility of telephone and related services to the people.

The launching of the Internet initiative, he said, was to demonstrate
government's commitment towards promoting the widespread use of the
Internet not only for commerce and education "but also for governance
through creating greater awareness in the civil and public service about
the Internet as well as identifying specific projects in support of this".

					by Wole Soyinka
Q: What can you tell us about the current situation for human rights, and
more particularly for freedom of expression, in Nigeria?

A: The situation is frankly abysmal. Freedom of expression and human
rights are in a state of siege. What we have at the moment is government
by terror.

The journalists and the intellectuals and artists are at the forefront of
repression. In particular, journalists are routinely arrested, detained
without trial, tortured. When a journalist is wanted, his or her family,
with an aged mother or children, are taken hostage and put behind bars
until they can find the wanted person. That incidentally applies also to
other people, but it is most notorious in the case of journalists.

As you know, Christine Anyanwu is serving 15 years, after secret trial by
military tribunal, for simply publishing the truth that there was no coup
attempt two years ago which resulted in  a former head of state being sent
to prison. That was her only crime, so you can imagine what happens to
other people.  There is no question at all that freedom of expression is
in a state of siege  under Abacha's dictatorship.

Q: Do you think that the international community had done enough in
condemning the Nigerian regime and putting pressure on it to cease
violating human rights?

A: The answer to that is a categorical "no". The attitude toward this
dictatorship's brutality has been at best lukewarm, compromising,
complacent; it's almost been a policy of appeasement. Yes, there are the
occasional gestures made towards the detained journalists and democracy
activists, like the recent award of a prestigious prize (the
UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize) to Christine Anyanwu, and
you have organisations like Reporters Sans Frontieres, Amnesty
International who do their best, but governments have been singularly

It's curious that what they tolerate in Nigeria is something which they
are quick to condemn when it happens in, let's say, Yugoslavia or wherever
in Europe.

Q: We have seen both great and small strides towards increased democracy
in the East of Europe, in Latin America and in parts of Asia in the last
decade. With one or two exceptions, such as South Africa, the African
continent has failed to benefit from these winds of change. Why does
Africa remain a priviledged state for dictators and authoritarian regimes?

A:  Yes, there has been a set-back to democracy in many zones of the
continent, particulary in West Africa, and this will continue, I think,
until the international community recognises that the very security of
their interests on that continent is tied to open government, to
participatory government, accoutable government - in other words, to

Some African goverments already realise this, but we have, unfortunately,
the pupils of certain schools of power from the West who have been brought
up in the notion that the European world in particular, the
European/American world, are very happy dealing with the so-called strong
men. In other words, businesses find it easier to obtain their interest in
the short term by dealing with one person  rather than with democratic,
representative regimes and some of these soldiers, some of these
opportunists and adventurists have grown up in that tradition.

It will take  a while for them to be schooled properly and,
unfortunately,sometimes violently, that the African people are tired of
being ridden roughshod by any petty little sergeant-major who thinks his
turn has come to taste the booty of power. In this exercise, it requires
the intervention and the collaboration of the international community with
democratic forces. I think some of the European nations and businesses are
beginning to realise that their interests actually lie with a democratic
dispensation, but, unfortunately, not too many yet.

Q: Do you think that the United Nations, with its new-found authority on
the global political stage, can play a more effective role in advancing
the cause of human rights and freedom of expression? If so, how?

A: Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, the United Nations is made up of
nations, the kind we have been talking about, who very often conflate, or
give priority to short-term interests and long-term interests.

The grotesque episode of a brutal dictatorship like Nigeria going to the
rescue of democracy in Sierra Leone is receiving the most peculiar kind of
response from the United Nations and the international community. The
language that is being used is a language of gratitude and thanks and
approval. I am quite happy in the sense that the people of Sierra Leone
are poised to regain their democratic liberties, but such an action should
have been taken by an authentic African force or an authentic United
Nations force rather than through the leadership of a regime that should
be a pariah among nations. So we have this double standard, this double
dealing which confuses groupings on the African continent.

The United Nations, I'm afraid, has got to get its priorities right, has
got to have democratic language of a greater clarity than at present.

Q: Could you tell us a little about your life as a writer in exile? What
are you able to do, either individually or with your colleagues in the
International Parliament of Writers, to fight against the repression of
free expression?

A:  Well, through the International Parliament of Writers, we have been
able to establish a series of what we call "villes refuges", cities of
asylum for the benefit of beleaguered writers who require some space and
time of recover in order to build their carrers and continue their
vocation in peace. This string of cities is lengthening all the time in
Europe and parts of America.

We have been able to intervene with some effect in the plight of some of
our members, but without hard commitments of organisations like the
Commonweath Union, the European Union, the council of Europe, O.A.U and so
on, there is very little that organisations like the Parliament can really
do. They can't be as effective as they would be if they had the concrete
backing, with punitive measures, against delinquent regimes. That would
send a very clear signal that, towards the end of the 20th century, the
world will just not accept any longer the various crimes against humanity
and the suppression of free expression, free movement and association.

As for what I do, how I continue to survive, to make my own vocation,
which is writing, I manage to capture a few hours breathing creative space
from time to time, nothing on the level of what I would prefer because my
immediate concern is to retrieve my own creative space in Nigeria, both
for myself and for fellow writers and artists. So the politics of my
present situation takes absolute priority.

Wole Soyinka, Writer, Nigeria.
Wole Soyinka, the 1986 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature and President of
the International Parliament of Writers, has been an outspoken advocate of
democracy and free expression.  He has been living in exile since fleeing
the military regime of Nigeria's dictator, General Sani Abacha, in
December 1994. He often speaks and writes about the need for African
writers to be the conscience of their countries. He gave this interview to
the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).

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