Life for Ordinary Nigerian Worse than Ever, Say Lawyers

Published December 20th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Life for ordinary Nigerians has worsened since the country returned to civilian rule, Nigeria's main lawyers' association told the president, officials said Wednesday. 

In a meeting with President Obasanjo Obasanjo Tuesday, Onueze Okocha, president of the Nigerian Bar Association, set out a dire picture of the country 18 months after the ending of military rule. 

"We regret to observe, Sir, that the economy is now in a worse shape than it was a year ago," Okocha told the president, according to a copy of the speech shown to AFP. 

The national currency, the naira, has "continued to slide" against the dollar and other world currencies, he added. 

The years of collapse in social services under military regimes has continued under Obasanjo's 18-month-old government, Okocha said. 

"Very few states have viable hospitals and health services. Very few states have good pipe-borne water supply facilities. Transportation difficulties still persist and the roads are worse than they were," he said. 

"The revival of the educational system that was in near total collapse is slow. Electricity supply is still dwindling and petroleum products are in such short supply that most of our countrymen and women spend virtually all their productive hours at petrol stations," the law chief went on. 

"Security of life and property is at the point where a man leaves his house for work in the morning and there is no guarantee that he will return in the evening safe and sound," he said. 

"All kinds of ethnic armies and militant groups have sprung up throughout the country and they are moving with increasing ferocity to usurp the roles and functions of the police and other law enforcement agencies," he added. 

Faced by this, Nigeria's politicians were failing woefully, the head of the law association said. 

"Our elected representatives in both the executive and legislative arms of government appear to be more concerned about fishing for positions of supremacy ... and securing their comfort and welfare than the well-being of the people of Nigeria," he said. 

The Nigerian police and court system both needed a "thorough overhaul. The government should make sure police have proper equipment and training and courts should be re-equipped," Okocha said. 

Criticism of Obasanjo's government has been growing in recent months as promised reforms of the country's crumbling electricity system and other sectors have failed to produce results. 

Officials, who confirmed accounts of the meeting given in Wednesday's Nigerian press, declined to detail Obasanjo's response to Okocha's criticisms -- LAGOS (AFP)  

 

 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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