• Short Summary

    Nigeria is paying off her last overseas debt this month -- just two years after the civil war with the former secessionist state of Biafra.

  • Description

    Nigeria is paying off her last overseas debt this month -- just two years after the civil war with the former secessionist state of Biafra.

    Finance Commissioner Alhaji Shehu Shagari said the total settlement of GBP250 million sterling was the backlog of import debts. Its repayment -- two months ahead of schedule -- was made possible by the buoyant Nigerian economy and increased earnings from the country's oil boom, he said.

    But there has been no boom for the ten million Ibos who launched out into rebellion five years ago -- only to be defeated by the Nigerian army on January 15, 1970.

    Hundreds of thousands of Nigerian lives were lost during and after the war -- and when it ended, fear swept across the world that the collapse of Biafra might trigger off a massacre. For the secessionist state's propagandists had always alleged genocide. No such thing happened.

    Instead, a nation symbolised by the rising (or setting) sun on its Glag was born, and died. The dead were buried. And the world, it seem, forget.

    Today, Biafra has merged into "One Nigeria" as the East Central State. The physical scars can still be seen in the shattered schools and homes -- and in the disabled men and hungry children romancing the towns. The events of the war are still fresh, the bitterness easily recalled. But the federalists and former secessionists have travelled a long way on the difficult path of reconciliation.

    SYNOPSIS: Biafra -- now a part of "One Nigeria". These children may be orphans, but they DID survive.

    It's two years now since the war ended -- since we saw those pictures of starving babies. Many died. Others are against with their families. And some still need care.

    Millions owed their lives to Biafra's only lifeline -- Uli airstrip. Forty flights a night supplied vital food and arms. Now, it's just a monument.

    Cyprian Ekwensi, Biafra's chief propagandist, talked about reconciliation:
    There are still more than a hundred army battalions in war areas. Many soldiers can't be demobilised because unemployment remains high.

    And if reconciliation is working well, reconstruction has scarcely started. The Ibos just don't have enough money.

    The vast market in Enugu, the state capital, is full of people. And everybody seems to be selling, very few buying.

    But progress HAS been made -- and today, at least, there's enough food for everyone.

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    Media URN:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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