LETTER:How to prevent tragedy and return Nigeria to democracy

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The Independent Online
From Mr Neville Linton

Sir: David Orr's interesting article ("Nigeria waits for dictator to speak", 29 September) states that "the Commonwealth human rights commission recently called for Nigeria's expulsion from the Commonwealth when heads of government meet in New Zealand in November". Presumably he is referring to the just-released report of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative's (CHRI) Mission to Nigeria and, if so, I would like to stress that the Mission has not so recommended.

However, it did suggest the suspension of Nigeria from future Commonwealth official meetings if the Abacha regime did not rapidly commence a credible process of return to democratic order. It should also be noted that the recommendations for sanctions are to be read in tandem with the call on Commonwealth Heads to offer to the Nigerian regime their good offices in helping to broker a transition program acceptable to the pro-democracy forces and to the people of Nigeria.

Given the nature of the Commonwealth relationship, the CHRI does not recommend sanctions lightly. As Chairman Kamal Hossain noted in the foreword to the Mission's report:

we would not wish to punish Nigerian citizens for the crimes committed by their unelected government. We greatly hope that Commonwealth pressure, following this report, will prove effective in returning Nigeria to democracy.


Neville Linton


CHRI Mission to Nigeria

London, SW16