Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
Print this page
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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived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.
INTERNATIONAL ROUNDTABLE ON NIGERIA (IRTON)
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON FOURTH ANNIVERSARY OF ABORTED ELECTIONS ROUNDTABLE ON NIGERIA
DEMANDS STRONGER US POLICY ON NIGERIA
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
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
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.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES June 4, 1997
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
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
(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
(10) An interim government established by General Babangida on August
27, 1993, and headed by Ernest Shonekan, failed to win the support of the
(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
(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.
SEC. 3. DECLARATIONS OF POLICY.
(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
SEC. 4. SANCTIONS AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT OF 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
(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 http://thomas.loc.gov]
(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