OCTOBER 8TH IN HISTORY

OCTOBER 8, 1985

On this day, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, in an interview with three Western journalists, explained that although Nigeria needed financial help, he would not accept a $2.4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund if the Nigerian people opposed it.

Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida said that Nigerians must expect ”a lot of bad times, a lot of sacrifices” during the 15-month economic emergency he announced last week. Even more, he said, the country must brace for a sharp drop in the price of oil – virtually Nigeria’s only export.

At the same time, however, General Babangida predicted that Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, would be self-sufficient in food within 12 months, a condition that has not prevailed here since the oil boom of the mid-1970’s.

Babangida said that he had told American officials that he wished to improve relations with the United States, which he acknowledged had been strained in the last 28 months. He also said that the United States could play an important role in pressing Nigeria’s creditors to be more flexible in coming negotiations.

He stressed that despite the fact that he headed a military regime, his Government remained accountable to the people of Nigeria, particularly on the issue of the much-debated I.M.F. loan agreement. ”Whatever decision we take, whether for or against, I maintain that it is going to be a decision based on what the Nigerian populace wants,” he said.

Shortly after seizing power on Aug. 27, the general said he would break the deadlock in the stalled, two-year-old negotiations with the I.M.F. over terms for a multibillion-dollar loan. At that time, he called for the public to voice its views on the loan, a summons that has brought forth a flood of opposition in the pages of Nigeria’s newspapers from all spectrums of society – including labor and business, students and traditional tribal rulers. And despite a spate of recent newspaper advertisements urging acceptance of the loan, the mood of the country seemed clearly opposed.

”If the country is determined to do without it, fine,” General Babangida said. He said that negotiations on rescheduling the nation’s short-term debts with commercial banks would begin soon.

Because Nigeria was behind in repaying its short-term debts, Western bankers said that the country could no longer buy goods abroad. So acute was the situation that many economists, including the Minister of Finance, Kalu I. Kalu, believed that the loan was the only thing that could give the country time to begin restructuring its economy and reopen access to foreign credit.

As a condition for granting the loan, the I.M.F. called for Nigeria to devalue its currency, the naira, and end the practice of subsidizing petroleum products for consumers. At the official rate of exchange, the naira was equivalent to $1.08, but on the black market, money changers were selling naira for as much as four to the dollar.

OCTOBER 8, 2004

On this day, Rebels attacked a major police patrol and took a number of captives near Lake Chad in the town of Kala-Balge,  a remote area of north-eastern Nigeria near the Cameroon border.

Borno State Commissioner of Police, Ade Ajakaiye said that he could not yet confirm the number of casualties among the 60-man squad which was attacked on Friday, but that some policemen were known to have been taken prisoner.

“We received information that members of the Taliban group attacked our men on patrol around Kala-Balge bushes,” he said by telephone.

“The nature of the attack and the fact that our men were taken hostage clearly show that this must be the handiwork of the Taliban,” Ajaikaye said.

Ajakaiye said military and police reinforcements backed by two military helicopters had been dispatched to the area to investigate.

The Nigerian Taliban first came to the fore in December 2003 when they launched a short-lived rebellion, seizing control of a small area of farmland and semi-desert on Nigeria’s northern border with Niger.

They attacked several police stations, raised the Afghan flag and declared independence, but the uprising was put down within weeks by Nigerian forces.

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