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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Nigeria: US Policy

Nigeria: US Policy
Date distributed (ymd): 970612
Document reposted by WOA

This posting contains

(1) a statement from the International Roundtable on Nigeria and

(2) excerpts from HR1786, the newly reintroduced Nigeria Democracy Act in the US House of Representatives.


June 12, 1997

For More Information Contact:

Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International, 304 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington DC 20003, tel: 202-544-0200, Ext. 234; fax: 202-546-7142. Doug Tilton, Washington Office on Africa (202) 546-7961,


Washington, D.C.-- It has been four years since the Nigerian military hijacked the democratic aspirations of the Nigerian people and re-installed itself in power. During that time, Nigeria has endured unprecedented repression under the regime of General Sani Abacha. Human rights abuses have included arbitrary detention, extrajudicial executions, restrictions on free expression, association and the emasculation of the Nigerian judicial system through decrees and the use of military tribunals. These abuses have been documented by international and national organizations including the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the European Union, and the United States Department of State.

Despite the threat this situation presents to long term stability in Nigeria and to the rest of West Africa, policy makers around the world have been negligent. This has left Gen. Abacha free to peddle and push his dubious transition process on a weary populace. Indeed, the General has become so confident that he has launched a violent campaign to restore a democratically elected government in Sierra Leone. IRTON condemns the military coup in Sierra Leone and supports coordinated efforts to resolve the crisis. In addition, IRTON believes that Nigeria's military must respect the democratic wishes of the Nigerian people before it can have any legitimacy to act militarily in support of democracy in West Africa.

Current US policy encourages Nigeria's cynical adventurism because Washington is unwilling to provide any diplomatic or military leadership itself. US policy to promote stability in West Africa must begin with support for the pro-democracy movement in Nigeria itself. The United States must be prepared to back and participate in military efforts to foster peace and security in West Africa instead of relying on the bankrupt military regime in Nigeria.

IRTON believes the critical fault of the Clinton administration and US Congress is a lack of political will. The United States should not reward a dictatorship. Nor should the US hope to reform a military that has already aborted one eight-year transition program and is now repeating the charade.

IRTON calls for the release of all prisoners of conscience, repeal of all repressive laws, and the calling to account of those responsible for the repression in Ogoniland and the destabilization of other sectors of Nigerian society. Until these issues have been resolved there can be no free or fair transition process, no democractic government and no lasting stability in Nigeria.


H. R. 1786 To impose sanctions against Nigeria, and for other purposes.


Mr. Payne (for himself, Mr. Houghton, Mr. Chabot, Ms. McKinney, Mr. Smith of New Jersey, Mr. Faleomavaega, Mr. Lantos, Mr. Ackerman, Ms. Norton, Mr. Porter, Ms. Pelosi, Ms. Waters, Mr. Brown of Ohio, Mr. Olver, Mr. Manton, Mr. Shays, Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, Ms. DeLauro, Mr. Filner, and Mr. Clay) introduced the following bill;

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the "Nigeria Democracy Act".

SEC. 2. FINDINGS. The Congress makes the following findings:

(1) The November 10, 1995, execution by hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni environmental activists was carried out by the Government of Nigeria after a trial that ignored the fundamental standards of legal process, and despite the pleas for clemency by the African and international community, as well as the United States Administration, the Chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives, and the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and the co-chairs of the Human Rights Caucus of the House of Representatives.

(2) The United Nations recommended in both March and April of 1996 that the Government of Nigeria release the bodies of the Ogoni Nine for proper burial and paid compensation to the families of the deceased.

(3) This heinous action followed an October 1, 1995, ambiguous statement by Nigerian military leader General Sani Abacha, that the country would be returned to civilian democratic rule in three years, and a lifting of the ban on political parties while at the same time not repealing the Treasonable Offenses Decree which allows the arrest of anyone speaking against the government.

(4) General Abacha"s announcement was pressured by the outrage of the international community for his March 1995 arrest and conviction to long prison terms by secret trial of some 43 persons for involvement in a so- called coup. Among those convicted and still incarcerated are former President General Olusegun Obasanjo, the only military leader in Nigeria to return power to democratic civilian rule, General Shehu Musa Yar-Adua, deputy to the President in Abaasanjo"s Administration, and later, human rights activist Beko Ransome-Kuti.

(5) The people of Nigeria and the international community had been led to believe that the presidential election held in Nigeria on June 12, 1993, would result in a return to full democratic civilian rule in Nigeria.

(6) General Ibrahim Babangida, the head of Nigeria"s military government at the time of the June 12, 1993, election interrupted the release of the election results on June 23, 1993, and later annulled the election, thereby preventing a return to civilian rule.

(7) The election process indicated that voters in Nigeria--a country with a population of approximately 90,000,000 persons comprising 250 ethnic groups and spread across 357,000 square miles--were expressing a spirit of national unity that transcended ethnic, religious, and regional allegiances.

(8) The reported returns suggested that Chief M.K.O. Abiola of the Social Democratic Party was receiving a substantial majority of the votes cast, leading the poll in 20 of the 30 States in Nigeria.

(9) The annulment of the presidential elections resulted in various forms of civil unrest, which in turn led to the deaths of more than 100 persons.

(10) An interim government established by General Babangida on August 27, 1993, and headed by Ernest Shonekan, failed to win the support of the Nigerian people.

(11) General Sani Abacha took power on November 17, 1993, appointing an unelected Provisional Ruling Council to govern Nigeria.

(12) Chief M.K.O. Abiola was imprisoned in solitary confinement for over one year for pressing his claim as the elected democratic leader of Nigeria, and still remains incarcerated today.

(13) The political and economic conditions in Nigeria have continued to deteriorate in the months since Abacha took control of the country.

(14) The faith of the Nigerian people in the viability of the nation as a unified whole must be preserved, and the balkanization of Nigeria guarded against.

(15) The people of Nigeria have not accepted the continuation of military rule and have courageously spoken out in favor of the rapid return of democratic and civilian rule.

(16) On May 15, 1994, a broad coalition of Nigerian democrats formed the National Democratic Coalition calling upon the military government to step down in favor of the winner of the June 12, 1993 election.

(17) The confidence of the Nigerian people and the international community in the Provisional Ruling Council"s commitment to the restoration of democracy can only be established by a sustained demonstration of a commitment to human rights, due process, and the return of civilian rule.

(18) The United States would prefer to have a relationship with Nigeria based upon cooperation and mutual support but cannot, and will not, condone or overlook the denial of democratic civilian rule, against the clear wishes of the Nigerian people, by the Provisional Ruling Council or any other body in Nigeria.

(19) The lack of support from the Nigerian authorities on drug trafficking issues forced the United States for the last 2 years to place Nigeria on the list of countries penalized for failure to seriously address the narcotics proliferation issue, thus endangering vulnerable youth in our communities.

(20) Continuing credible reports of widespread corruption and questionable business practices in the Nigerian Government and "scams" in the United States, and the lack of cooperation in addressing these problems by the Nigerian Government, further undermines Nigeria"s credibility in the international community, and is a constant embarrassment to approximately 1,000,000 law-abiding Nigerian Americans.

(21) Nigeria"s leadership role on the African continent, especially in the area of peacekeeping, will be severely compromised by its failure to rejoin the world community of democratic nations.

(22) Nigeria was recently suspended from the Commonwealth, a forum linking Britain and former colonies, and African countries like South Africa have already called for diplomatic, economic, and sports sanctions, since the limited sanctions imposed by the United States Administration have had little effect in safeguarding the lives of the people of Nigeria and moving Nigeria toward democracy.


(a) Commitment to Unity and Democracy by the Nigerian People.--The Congress continues to support the Nigerian people in their commitment to unity and democracy as evidenced by their participation in the June 12, 1993, presidential election in Nigeria, and in their subsequent insistence on the return to full civilian and democratic rule.

(b) Actions Taken by the United States.--While the Congress endorses the limited steps taken by the Administration to demonstrate United States opposition to the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election in Nigeria, more needs to be accomplished to encourage the restoration of fully democratic and civilian rule in Nigeria.

(c) Sanctions to be Implemented in Coordination With International Community.--The Congress declares that the sanctions against Nigeria contained in this Act should be taken in concert with the international community and the United Nations to the maximum extent possible.

(d) Increase in Democracy Building and Rule of Law Assistance.--The Congress declares that the finite foreign assistance resources of the United States Government provided to Nigeria should be re-prioritized within present budget levels in order that more funds can be expended for democracy building and the promotion of the rule of law through nongovernmental organizations in Nigeria.


(a) United States Measures To Promote Democracy and Human Rights.--

(1) No assistance.-- (A) In general.--Except as provided in subparagraph (B), no assistance may be made available under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 or the Arms Export Control Act to the Government of Nigeria. (B) Exceptions.--The prohibition in subparagraph (A) shall not apply to assistance for democracy building and the promotion of the rule of law through nongovernmental organizations.

(2) International financial institutions.--The President shall instruct the United States Executive Director of each international financial institution to vote against any loan or other utilization of the funds of the respective institution to or from Nigeria.

(3) Air transportation.--Air transportation with Nigeria shall be prohibited in accordance with subsection (b).

(4) Defense articles and services.--No defense article or defense service may be sold or financed with respect to Nigeria, and no license to export to Nigeria a defense article or service may be issued.

(5) Exclusion of Nigerians from admission to the united states.-- Except as required by United States treaty obligations, any Nigerian national who formulates, implements, or benefits from policies which hinder Nigeria"s transition to democracy and members of their immediate families shall be ineligible to receive a visa and shall be excluded from admission into the United States.

(6) Eximbank, OPIC, and TDA.--No funds available to the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or the Trade and Development Agency may be used with respect to Nigeria.

(7) Prohibition of new investment.-- (A) In general.--No national of the United States may, directly or through another person, make any new investment in Nigeria, including new investments in the energy sector. (B) Effective date.--The prohibition contained in subparagraph (A) shall take effect 45 days after the date of enactment of this Act.

(8) Assets freeze.--The President, acting through the Secretary of the Treasury, shall exercise the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to block the assets of any Nigerian national who formulates, implements, or benefits from policies which hinder Nigeria"s transition to democracy and members of their immediate families.

(b) Prohibition of Air Transportation With Nigeria.

[detailed wording available on-line at]

(c) Multilateral Measures To Promote Democracy and Human Rights.--The President shall instruct the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations to actively pursue the passage of any resolution by the United Nations Security Council that enhances the cooperation of other nations in the application of the spirit and intent of the sanctions contained in this section.

(d) Waiver of Sanctions.--The President may waive any of the sanctions contained in this section if the President determines and certifies to the Congress that such a waiver is important to the national interest of the United States.


SEC. 6. REPORT. Not later than 3 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 6 months thereafter, the President shall prepare and transmit to the Congress a report on the extent to which Nigeria has made progress toward democracy, civilian rule, and respect for internationally recognized human rights.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Washington Office on Africa (WOA), a not-for-profit church, trade union and civil rights group supported organization that works with Congress on Africa-related legislation. WOA's educational affiliate is the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC).

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