LETTER: Time for EU to exercise clout over Nigeria

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The Independent Online
From Ms Glenys Kinnock

Sir: It is clear that urgent action needs to be taken now by the European Union against the regime in Nigeria. We need to acknowledge that until now very little has been done at European level to ensure that effective pressure is put upon General Abacha.

On 14 July 1993 EU foreign ministers issued a statement on Nigeria in which the member states agreed to suspend military co-operation, suspend visits by members of the military and intelligence services, and impose visa restrictions on members of the military, the security forces and their families. In December 1993 the EU foreign ministers reaffirmed these measures and further recommended travel restrictions for all military staff of Nigerian diplomatic missions; case-by-case review, with the presumption of denial, for all new export licence applications for defence equipment; cancellation of training courses for all Nigerian military personnel; case-by-case review of new EU aid projects; and the suspension of all non-essential high-level visits to and from Nigeria.

These measures have never been comprehensively enforced and Baroness Chalker, for instance, continues to excuse the granting of export licences for rubber and gas C7 bullets for the Nigerian police on the grounds that they are for "normal peace-keeping operations at a time when peace is threatened by civil disturbance". The pusillanimous attitude of the British government defies description at a time when appalling abuses of political and human rights are taking place.

I recently visited Sudan, which has, quite rightly, been suspended from the Lome Convention and its aid and trade provisions. It seems that European member states are willing to take such action only in countries where they do not perceive a vested interest. Sudan does not have oil. Nigeria does.

In the European Parliament, we have been urging the Council and the Commission to put pressure on the Nigerian government to lift the death sentence imposed on Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists and to conduct a proper fair trial. We needed unequivocal action from the EU, and still need such action if further abuses of human and environmental rights are to be prevented. Visas should not be granted to members of the Nigerian government. EU member states should freeze all foreign assets of members of the Nigerian government and should intervene in financial institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank to block all non "basic human needs" loans and disbursements to Nigeria. We should move immediately to a case-by-case review, with the presumption of denial, for export licence applications for defence equipment, to a legally binding embargo on the sale of arms to the Nigerian government. This could comply with the common position under Article J2 of the Maastricht treaty.

It is quite incredible that we have reached such a stage when, for a considerable time, grave concerns have been expressed about the dangers of "turning a blind eye" to Nigeria. The EU does have the necessary clout to affect events.

It should shame us all that complicity with Abacha's regime has led to the suffering of so many Nigerians.

Yours sincerely,

Glenys Kinnock

MEP for South Wales East

(Lab)

Newport, Gwent

9 November

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