Pressure for arms ban on Nigeria

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The Independent Online
CHRISTOPHER BELLAMY

Defence Correspondent

As Nigeria's human-rights record tops the bill at the Commonwealth conference in Auckland, pressure is growing for a complete embargo on European arms exports to the country. Britain and the EU have condemned the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha, who took power in 1993, but have continued to license arms exports.

On 29 September the European Commissioner in charge of African affairs said the Commission was concerned that "existing measures may not be applied with sufficient rigour and therefore has recently proposed that the December 1993 measures be incorporated into a legally binding common position on Nigeria".

On 12 October the European Parliament called for "the ending of arms sales to Nigeria in order to increase pressure on the Nigerian regime to restore the democratic process". Peter Truscott, vice-president of the European Parliament's security and development committee, and the World Development Movement, a London-based pressure group, had demanded the embargo. In a report published today, the WDM presents evidence that Britain and other European governments have continued to export arms in contravention to European criteria, which state that "the respect of human rights in the final country of destination" must be considered in arms exports.

In1993 the European Council of Ministers decided to consider arms sales to Nigeria on a case-by-case basis, but many have got through.

The report points out that European states are still allowed to sell arms to the Nigerian police, which has suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations. In June the Government issued licences for CS gas and rubber bullets to be exported. Last year the Government issued 30 licences for non-lethal equipment, which could include components for tanks and missiles.About 20 licences were granted for goods on the "Military List", including machine- guns, bombs, missiles and mines.

In the last two years, France has sold Nigeria armoured reconnaissance vehicles and Austria has sold 300 armoured troop carriers. Nigeria has received military trucks from Germany, artillery from Italy and howitzers from Sweden. Non-EU countries have also sold arms. Mr Truscott said: "We must exert maximum pressure to secure a total ban on arms sales to the regime, which is flouting human rights on a massive scale."

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