LETTER:Numerous injustices at the trial of Nigerian playwright

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The Independent Online
From Mr Tony Cunningham

Sir: I was appalled to hear yesterday that the military government of Nigeria has sentenced five members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop) to death.

Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues from Mosop have been involved in a peaceful protest against the destructive way in which oil is being extracted from the Rivers State Province of Nigeria. Since oil was discovered on their land in the mid-Fifties, the Ogoni people in the province have witnessed an ecological nightmare of oil spills, pipelines driven through farms and villages and brutal suppression of any protest.

Given the worsening situation in Nigeria, I have written to the European Commissioner responsible, Joao de Deus Pinheiro, asking for an urgent meeting. The overwhelming feeling within the European Parliament is that Nigeria should be suspended from the Lome Convention and the second financial protocol should not apply. This would hit the Nigerian government extremely hard.

On top of this, we should find some way of providing financial support for community-based development through non-governmental organisations, by-passing the military dictatorship. We should also be providing support for pro-democratic groups within Nigeria.

In the past, perhaps, we in the European Parliament have been a little negative towards Nigeria. We must now work on positive steps to try to achieve the democratic Nigeria that we all want.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Cunningham

MEP for Cumbria and

Lancashire North (Lab)

Cockermouth, Cumbria

31 October

The writer is Labour spokesperson on development issues in the European Parliament.