Letter: No simplistic approach in Nigeria

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report ('Abiola charged with treason', 7 July) of the charges brought in Nigeria against Chief Abiola is helpful in highlighting the problems that are being experienced in that country, but it fails to indicate the complexity of the situation. Indeed, the overly simplistic approach, which has recently been supported from some quarters by calls for political and economic sanctions against Nigeria, could stall the progress towards democratic reform in that country and damage the interests of those British companies that currently export some pounds 700m annually to Nigeria.

In endorsing Chief Abiola's nave call for the resignation of General Abacha, the Chief's supporters ignore the fact that both he and his vice-presidential colleague, Mr Kingibe, although losing office upon the annulment of the election results on 12 June 1993, subsequently canvassed for and welcomed the very military intervention that he now derides. This was because they accepted that it was the only effective means of resisting the very real threat to the continued existence of a united Nigeria and its security, and indeed to the stability of the entire region.

Given the long-standing cultural and economic links between the United Kingdom and Nigeria, British parliamentarians have a special role in nurturing democracy in that country.

The Nigerian authorities have begun to implement a federal government political programme which will conclude on 30 December, after the Provisional Ruling Council has considered the report of the National Constitutional Conference and the new draft Constitution which is being produced. These are real and encouraging signs of progress.

Instead of pressing for further divisive sanctions, we should urge all parties to these discussions to continue to seek common ground and a way of resolving the considerable difficulties that undoubtedly remain.

Yours faithfully,

NICHOLAS R. WINTERTON

MP for Macclesfield (Con)

House of Commons

London, SW1

7 July

(Photograph omitted)

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