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Nigeria: Maryland Sanctions
Nigeria: Maryland Sanctions
Date distributed (ymd): 980407
Document reposted by APIC
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +US policy focus+
This posting contains several documents related to the proposed Maryland
State legislation to impose sanctions on Nigeria by limiting state business
with companies doing business in Nigeria. On March 31 the Maryland Senate
Economic and Environmental Affairs committee voted 6-5 against the proposed
bill. The US State Department's lobbying against the bill was among the
factors damaging the bill's prospects.
This added to other indications of less than coherent US policy towards
Nigeria, excerpted below.
While Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice articulated a strong position
in a speech
at the Brookings Institution on March 12
a remark by President Clinton at his Cape Town press conference on March
implied that General Abacha's candidacy for President of Nigeria would
be acceptable if he became a civilian. Although that implication was later
repudiated in the State Department's press briefing, where spokesperson
James Foley called the idea of a credible Abacha candidacy "wildly
hypothetical," dominant voices in the administration are still opposed
to any significant increase of pressures on the Nigerian military regime.
Excerpts from Rice remarks (March 12, 1998):
"And we will continue to maintain our sanctions against the military
dictatorship in Nigeria, one of the worst abusers of human rights on the
continent. We intend to hold General Abacha to his three-year old promise
to undertake a genuine transition to civilian rule this year and to establish
a level playing field by allowing free political activity, providing for
an open press and ending political detention. Le me state clearly and unequivocally
to you today that an electoral victory by any military candidate in the
forthcoming presidential elections would be unacceptable. Nigeria needs
and deserves a real transition to democracy and civilian rule, not another
military regime dressed up in civilian clothes."
Excerpts from Clinton press conference (March 27, 1998):
Q Mr. President, you expressed regret the other day that the United
States supported authoritarian regimes in Africa during the Cold War. Today,
we buy about 50 percent of the oil from Nigeria, propping up a regime the
United States says is one of the most oppressive in Africa. -- what will
the United States do?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, first of all, let me restate what I said because
I think it's worth saying again. I said that I did not believe the United
States had ever been as good a partner to the African nations and the African
people as we could have been, and that during the Cold War, when we and
the Soviets were worried about the standoff that we had between us, we
tended to evaluate governments in Africa and to pick and chose among them
and to give aid to them based far more on how they stood in the fight of
the Cold War than how they stood toward the welfare of their people. I
stand by that. And I think now we're free to take a different course.
President Mandela and I actually talked at some length about this today,
and I, frankly, asked for his advice. And Nigeria is the largest country
in Africa in terms of population. It does have vast oil resources. It has
a large army. It is capable of making a significant contribution to Regional
security, as we have seen in the last several months. My policy is to do
all that we can to persuade General Abacha to move toward general democracy
and respect for human rights--release of the political prisoners; the holding
of elections. If he stands for election, we hope he will stand as a civilian.
There are many military leaders who have taken over chaotic situations
in African countries, but have moved toward democracy. And that can happen
in Nigeria; that is, purely and simply, what we want to happen. Sooner,
rather than later, I hope.
Sierra Club Press Release
March 9, 1998
On Thursday Feb. 26, the Sierra Club organized what was surely one of
the most extraordinary hearings ever held on the persecution of environmentalists
in Nigeria. It was in fact, the first hearing on the issue held at the
At the behest of the Sierra Student Coalition and the Maryland Chapter
of the Sierra Club, State Senators Dolores Kelley, Barbara Hoffman, and
Martin Madden have introduced a Nigeria sanctions bill (S.354) into the
Maryland State Senate modeled after South African anti-apartheid legislation
passed by the Assembly in the 1980's. The bill would prohibit state contracts
with Nigeria or with any state institution that does business with Nigeria.
"As in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, American companies
should not do business with an oppressive, murderous regime in Nigeria,"
said Nancy Davis, Maryland Chapter Legislative Chair for the Sierra Club.
"We don't want our dollars supporting their bloodshed."
In addition to Davis, those testifying on behalf of the bill included
Sierra Club Board of Directors member Michael Dorsey, Dr. Owens Wiwa (brother
of slain environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa), representatives from Amnesty
International, The Africa Fund and Sierra Student Coalition member extraordinaire
Eric Luedtke. Luedtke presented the Committee with petitions containing
the signatures of more than 900 students gathered the previous weekend
who are demanding that the Maryland Assembly pass the sanctions bill. The
Student Coalition has been holding petition signing events and Shell demonstrations
across the state.
One of most entertaining moments in the hearing came when a member of
the Senate Committee rebuked the representative from the Corporate Council
on Africa for his defense of "democratic" South Africa during
apartheid. Clearly out of touch with harsh realities for environmentalists
and democracy advocates in the African country, the representative of the
oil industry could not defend his organization's desire to profit from
a country where an illegal military junta executes environmental activists.
The Nigeria Sanctions issue is expected to come up again on March 25th
when the Maryland House of Delegates will hold a hearing on the companion
bill, H.B. 1273. Environmentalists and human rights advocates are encouraged
The Sierra Student Coalition is asking that Maryland residents write
letters to their state legislators and governor urging support for Nigeria
sanctions. The name and addresses of state legislators, as well as information
on the bills can be found on the web at http://mlis.state.md.us.
For more information, contact Eric Luedtke at (301) 340-6081 (email@example.com)
or Nancy Davis (MD Sierra Legislative Chair) at (410) 263-2230. More information
on the Sierra Club's Nigeria campaign can be found on the web at http://www.sierraclub.org/human-rights/nigeria.html,
or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nation Editorials, April 6, 1998 (Excerpt)
... the brutal military dictatorship governing Nigeria recently found
itself with a new Washington lobbyist: the State Department. The same day
as the vote on the Africa trade bill, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
William Ramsay showed up in Maryland's state capitol to strong-arm the
legislature into voting down a state boycott of Nigerian business. Maryland
legislators, backed by the Sierra Club and Randall Robinson's TransAfrica,
have proposed legislation modeled on the successful South Africa divestiture
campaigns of the early eighties. Their bill would bar Maryland from signing
any contracts with the Nigerian regime or with companies doing business
If any country is an argument for U.S. economic sanctions, it's Nigeria,
whose military dictatorship, headed by Gen. Sani Abacha, executed Ogoni
environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa two years ago despite international
protest. The State Department's own human rights report calls Nigeria's
record "dismal." Political repression is so severe that dissident
journalists sleep in parks and cars to avoid detention and assassination.
Between 1980 and 1995, average annual income declined from about $1,000
per person to $260, despite vast oil revenues. The United States buys between
40 and 50 percent of Nigeria's oil; U.S. firms Chevron and Mobil are responsible
for nearly half of all production. Virtually all oil revenue winds up in
the Swiss bank accounts of the Abacha regime. The White House may manage
the occasional admonitory word--U.S. officials recently warned Abacha against
engineering the outcome of August elections--but the regime's $5 million
per year in Washington lobbying has bought freedom from any serious repercussions.
So what was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State doing in Maryland,
opposing a Nigeria divestiture campaign? Simple: Ramsay warned Maryland
legislative leaders that their bill would run counter to the free-trade
provisions of GATT. Thus, the claims of trade trump human rights abroad
and free speech and political protest at home. "Had we been bound
by trade rules during our struggle to free South Africa," notes Randall
Robinson, "Nelson Mandela might still be imprisoned."
The Clinton Administration proposes not "African solutions"
but Wall Street solutions to African problems. While the TV cameras follow
the President to Africa, the Maryland legislature will be taking up its
divestiture bill, and the African trade bill will head for the U.S. Senate.
Passage of the Maryland bill and similar Nigeria divestiture measures around
the country, and defeat of the Africa trade bill, would send a clear message:
The price tag for trade must include human rights.
The Nation Digital Edition http://www.thenation.com
Copyright (c) 1997, The Nation Company, L.P. All rights reserved. Electronic
redistribution for nonprofit purposes is permitted, provided this notice
is attached in its entirety. Unauthorized, for-profit redistribution is
prohibited. For further information regarding reprinting and syndication,
please call The Nation at (212) 242-8400, ext. 226 or send e-mail to Max
Block at email@example.com.
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE OF THE MARYLAND HOUSE OF DELEGATES
HEARING ON HB 1273
STATE FINANCE AND PROCUREMENT - SANCTIONS AGAINST NIGERIA
MARCH 25, 1998
Walter C. Carrington, Former Ambassador to Nigeria
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee,
I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this afternoon
to testify on HB 1273. As one who was a resident and taxpayer of this state
for the ten years immediately preceding my appointment as ambassador to
the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1993, I wish to register my support
for this Bill which codifies Maryland's sovereign right to set the standards
to which all who would do business with her must adhere.
I have recently returned from four years in Nigeria representing the
United States Government's policy of promoting democracy and human rights.
I am convinced that this bill will further those objectives. I arrived
in Nigeria two weeks before General Sani Abacha seized power in the wake
of the military having annulled what international and Nigerian observers
called the freest and fairest election the country had ever held. In the
four years I witnessed the Abacha regime in power I also witnessed the
steady deterioration of the economy and political structure of Africa's
most richly endowed country. I have seen newspapers banned and journalists
persecuted; the winner of the annulled election jailed and his crusading
wife assassinated; labor unions destroyed and their leaders imprisoned;
human rights activists intimidated and incarcerated. The one former military
ruler who kept his promise and ceded power to an elected civilian government
was falsely convicted of coup plotting and his erstwhile deputy allowed
to die in prison under suspicious circumstances. The best and the brightest
of Nigeria's sons and daughters have been driven into exile including her
only Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka. Nigeria's foremost environmentalist
and leader of the Ogoni people, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was hanged along with eight
of his colleagues after a kangaroo trial before a military chaired tribunal.
I could, unfortunately go on and on reciting the abuses of this repressive
regime. Abuses which have led it to be censured and sanctioned by the United
Nations, the Commonwealth, the European Union, and the International Labor
Organization among others.
Our government has been continually rebuffed in its attempts to have
meaningful dialogue with this government which in addition to being sanctioned
by us for its anti-democratic actions has also for five years running been
decertified by the president for its refusal to cooperate with us in stemming
the flow of drugs smuggled into this country by Nigerians who are responsible
for fifty percent of the heroin entering the United States. In 1996 we
sent a a high level delegation representing 11 different drug agencies
in the United States to discuss the narcotics problem with the Abacha regime
in Nigeria. They made several promises and kept not one of them. Special
envoys aplenty came to Nigeria during my tenure there and all came away
The business lobbyists who have come here to block this bill would be
better advised, in my opinion, to lobby their colleagues in Nigeria who
at best have remained silent in face of the growing repression in Nigeria
and at worse have given sustenance to the regime. I regret to say that
the business community by trying to deflect stronger condemnation of the
Abacha military government have become part of the problem rather than
part of the solution. Their actions confuse the Nigerians and lead the
military junta to believe that if they just stonewall us long enough we
will weaken in our resolve and will jettison our human rights concerns
in order to defend, at all costs, our economic interests. We are hearing
the same arguments from the business community and those who champion their
interests that we heard a decade ago concerning South Africa. Had states
and municipalities heeded their advice then, South Africa would still be
ruled by the racist doctrine of apartheid and Nelson Mandela would still
be in prison. Whatever the track record may be for economic sanctions in
other parts of the world they have worked in South Africa and I am convinced,
knowing the venal nature of the Abacha regime, that they will work in Nigeria
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa
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