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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

USA: Nigeria Policy, Statement

USA: Nigeria Policy, Statement
Date distributed (ymd): 000821
APIC Document

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains a joint statement on U.S. policy toward Nigeria from the Africa Fund and the Africa Policy Information Center. A related posting today contains excerpts from the new book on Nigeria: This House Has Fallen. Another related posting tomorrow will contain letters to President Clinton on Nigeria policy from a range of groups.

Official information on President Clinton's trip is expected to be available at:


Several statements on U.S. military relations with Nigeria can be found at:

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Statement of The Africa Fund and the Africa Policy Information Center

The Africa Fund, 50 Broad St., Suite 1701, New York, NY 10004. Phone: 212-785-1024; Fax: 212-785-1078; E-mail:; Web:

Africa Policy Information Center, 110 Maryland Ave. NE, #509, Washington, DC 20002. Phone: 202-546-7961; Fax: 202-546-1545; Email:; Web:

Washington, DC - August 21, 2000

US Policy Towards Nigeria: An Agenda for Justice

For too long Clinton Administration policy towards oil-rich Nigeria cynically condemned military rule while pursuing a tacit accommodation of the generals on behalf of US economic and political interests. Now the Administration has announced that support for Nigeria's year-old democracy is a top foreign policy priority, and the President will deliver that message personally during his upcoming visit. But the increasing militarization of US-Nigerian relations, Washington's official silence on the brutal repression of environmental protesters in the Niger Delta oil fields, and its refusal to provide the debt relief needed to restart the economy belies a genuine US commitment to human rights and social justice.

If the President is serious about protecting human rights instead of corporate wrongs in Nigeria, and advancing democracy instead of a potential future military dictatorship for that country's 120 million people, he should do the following:

Cancel the Debt

Despite important progress by the Obasanjo government in rooting out corruption and mismanagement, Nigeria's fragile democracy is still burdened by over $30 billion in debt. Virtually all of the debt was incurred by illegal military dictatorships whose leaders siphoned billions of dollars into private US and European banks against the will of the Nigerian people. Washington holds nearly a billion dollars of this illegitimate debt, yet the US and other wealthy Western creditor nations demand that Nigeria forego the schools, hospitals, roads and factories its people so desperately need to pay these odious debts. President Obasanjo has repeatedly called for debt relief, but he has been rebuffed.

If President Clinton is serious about supporting democracy he should immediately and unilaterally cancel Nigeria's US debt and publicly pressure Europe to follow suit.

Despite evidence of stolen Nigerian funds in US banks, investigators seeking the return of the money say US law enforcement and Treasury officials have refused to cooperate. The White House should provide the same level of assistance to Nigeria that it provided the "Nazi Gold" investigation, promptly return any stolen funds and prosecute banking officials involved in laundering the dictators' accounts.

The US should also greatly increase its $100 million economic aid package. Amounting to less than one dollar per person, current aid levels are grossly inadequate to the urgent human needs of the Nigerian people. This sum pales in comparison to the $1.3 billion recently authorized for the corrupt and brutal Colombian oligarchy. US military aid should be reprogrammed to finance health and education for Nigeria's children.

Support Human Rights and Corporate Accountability in the Oil Fields

For decades multinational oil companies, including Shell, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and Texaco have operated behind the bayonets of successive Nigerian military regimes, financing the dictatorships and pocketing billions of dollars while returning nothing to the oil-producing communities except pollution, repression and grinding poverty. Industry service companies like Haliburton and Wilbros have also been accused of human rights and environmental abuses.

President Clinton must go to the Niger Delta oil fields and meet with the authentic representatives of the oil-producing communities, including the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), the Ijaw National Congress and the Ijaw Youth Council, and with community-based human rights and environmental organizations like Environmental Rights Action and the Niger Delta Human and Environmental Rescue Organization. He must speak out against corporate collaboration with Nigerian security forces that meet even peaceful protests with brutality and violence. He must condemn the industrial double standard that has left the Niger Delta the most polluted oil-producing region on earth and threatens the global environment. US relations with the Obasanjo government should promote respect for human rights, political inclusion and economic and environmental justice in the oil fields.

Suspend US Military Ties

Just weeks after the Nigerian army systematically destroyed the Niger Delta town of Odi, Defense Secretary William Cohen announced the resumption of full US-Nigeria military relations. Pentagon officials say that the initial $10 million program will emphasize civil control of the military and human rights training, but past US involvement with brutal militaries in Latin America and Asia make such claims highly suspect.

Significantly, the former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha himself received similar training in the US prior to his illegal seizure of power in 1993 and Washington still took no effective action. The announcement earlier this month that Washington will arm and train five Nigerian battalions for counterinsurgency operations means that the US will spend as much on the military as it will on economic development. More recently the Nigerian press has reported on US plans to provide eight fast attack patrol vessels to the Nigerian Armed Forces for policing the Niger Delta.

The Administration's failure to link military aid to improvements in human rights and its previous betrayal of the winner of Nigeria's 1993 Presidential election, in favor of constructive engagement with Abacha, suggest that the US is more concerned with protecting its own interests by promoting "stability", possibly under a future military dictator. The US priority should be the promotion of human rights and democracy for Nigerians to build and define their own stability.

Acknowledge US Peacekeeping Responsibilities in Africa

For most of the past decade the Clinton Administration has refused to support international peacekeeping efforts in Africa, despite its clear responsibility to do so under the United Nations charter. Washington's abandonment of Africa allowed conflicts in central and west Africa to become protracted regional crises and shifted much of the burden of peacekeeping to Nigeria, which has sacrificed hundreds of lives and billions of dollars on what are clearly international peacekeeping obligations. Maintaining the peace is as much an international responsibility in Africa as it is in Eastern Europe, the Middle East or Asia, and no amount of training of African armies for peacekeeping removes the continent from the international security umbrella.

President Clinton must end this racial double standard in US foreign policy towards Africa and mobilize far greater resources to attack the underlying economic and social causes of conflict in Africa as well as meeting its obligations to international peacekeeping in Africa.

Announce a New US Policy on HIV/AIDS in Africa

The most important continent-wide challenge facing Africa is the devastating AIDS pandemic. An estimated 14 million Africans have lost their lives to AIDS, including over 2 million in 1998. AIDS has surpassed malaria as the leading cause of death and kills many more people than war. Because Africa is the epicenter of this 21st century plague the wealthy western world has been slow to act, perpetuating a global apartheid that keeps the continent impoverished.

The recent US proposal to loan Africa $1 billion a year at commercial rates for the purchase of anti-viral AIDS drugs is a cruel hoax at best and a vivid example of government-subsidized corporate greed at worst. The plan aims to protect American pharmaceutical companies threatened by African rights under the World Trade Organization rules to pursue parallel imports and compulsory licensing of anti-AIDS drugs. The US government is prepared to push Africa further into debt to prevent Africans from getting cheaper drugs. African governments already spend more on debt repayment to wealthy nations than on their own countries' health and education combined.

In this election year, the candidates for President and for Congress should consider dedicating a modest 5 percent of the annual budget surplus -- approximately $9.5 billion this year -- to a global health emergency fund. This would still fall short of the effort needed, but it would be a leap above the paltry $325 million in President Clinton's current request to Congress for HIV/AIDS programs worldwide. And it would send a signal that U.S. politicians may share a sense of global responsibility rather than regarding globalization only as an opportunity for corporate profit.

This material is produced and distributed by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC provides accessible information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights

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