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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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

Nigeria: Recent Documents
Date distributed (ymd): 980529
Document reposted by APIC

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

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains a press release by the Africa Fund and TransAfrica, announcing a letter from prominent African American leaders calling for oil sanctions against the Nigerian military regime. The demands of the letter are endorsed by the International Roundtable on Nigeria (IRTON) coalition. It also contains a notice from the Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) announcing a judge's decision to grant bail to Ogoni detainees.

For additional background and links, see the Africa Policy action page on Nigeria

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

African American Leaders Reject Clinton Policy Toward Nigeria, Call For Oil Sanctions, Political Pressure to Restore Democracy

May 19, 1998

Michael Fleshman, The Africa Fund (212) 785-1024 Mwiza Munthali, TransAfrica, (202) 797-2301 x106

A coalition of African American civil rights leaders, elected officials and foreign policy experts today released a letter to President Bill Clinton rejecting the administration's "constructive engagement" accommodation with the Nigerian military dictatorship and calling instead for economic sanctions on that repressive regime and greater political and diplomatic backing for that west African nation's democracy movement.

The letter is signed by a prestigious group of African-American leaders that includes Congressional Black Caucus Chair Maxine Waters, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and NAACP Board Chair Julian Bond, Africa Fund Chair Dr. Tilden LeMelle, TransAfrica head Randall Robinson, American Committee on Africa President Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Walter Carrington, Congresswomen Carolyn Kilpatrick and Cynthia McKinney, labor leader Bill Lucy, and human rights attorney Gay McDougall.

The letter is a major rebuke to the Administration over its Nigeria policy and comes in response to softening White House support for human rights and democracy and signs of continuing disarray among policymakers. Those signs include conflicting statements by President Clinton and senior Administration officials over Nigerian military dictator General Sani Abacha's scheme to retain power as the sole candidate in upcoming Presidential elections.

In March President Clinton gave tacit approval to Abacha's candidacy, saying, "If [Abacha] stands for election we hope he will stand as a civilian." Abacha's election scheme is bitterly opposed by the Nigerian democracy movement, which has mounted mass protests against Abacha's fraudulent election plan in recent weeks. The Administration failure to develop a policy response to the worsening repression and political turmoil caused by Abacha's candidacy was highlighted by the African American leaders, who called on the President "to immediately make a clear public statement confirming that the U.S. rejects the current transition process in Nigeria as being fatally flawed and illegitimate." "There is growing evidence that The White House is tilting towards an accommodation with the dictatorship, an accommodation that is a betrayal of the Nigerian people and an abandonment of principle in U.S. policy towards Africa," said American Committee On Africa President Wyatt Tee Walker. "The African American community cannot and will not stand idly by while our sisters and brothers in Nigeria are marching and dying for freedom. We support their struggle. The Clinton Administration should do the same."

The letter's call for oil sanctions challenges the Administration's refusal to use its considerable economic influence for human rights and democracy. Oil exports account for over 95 percent of Nigeria's annual hard currency earnings and fully 80 percent of government revenue, with U.S. purchases accounting for nearly half of annual oil output. This leaves the dictatorship extremely vulnerable to American sanctions.

The International Roundtable on Nigeria, an alliance of U.S. and Nigerian human rights, environmental, pro-democracy and trade union organizations, of which The Africa Fund is a member, joins the African American leadership in support of a policy that puts African people and their inalienable rights to social justice, human rights and democracy at the forefront of U.S. policy towards Nigeria and not at the back of the foreign policy bus.


[Note: The Africa Policy Information Center and the Washington Office on Africa are members of IRTON]

Text of African American Leadership Sign on Letter on U.S. Nigeria Policy

24 April 1998

President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20501

Dear President Clinton,

In light of the confusion surrounding recent official statements on Nigeria and the lack of a clear policy, we the undersigned strongly endorse the following course of action.

  1. The Nigerian elections scheduled for this August are part of an illegitimate process which is not accepted by the Nigerian people and should be rejected by the international community. We call on you, Mr. President, to immediately make a clear public statement confirming that the U.S. rejects the current transition process in Nigeria as being fatally flawed and illegitimate.
  2. The international community must choose sides in Nigeria. We call on the U.S. government to increase political and financial assistance to the democratic movement, just as this country did in Eastern Europe in the last decade.
  3. We further call on the U.S. to immediately impose unilateral oil sanctions on Nigeria as a means to end the financing of the repressive regime until the Nigerian dictatorship a) releases all political prisoners, b) repeals all repressive legislation and c) enters into an irreversible process of democratization in concert with the pro-democracy movement.
  4. Finally, we believe that any dialogue with the Nigerian government should focus on these specific points.


Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP
Ambassador Walter Carrington, WEB DuBois Institute Carolyn Kilpatrick, Member of Congress
Tilden LeMelle, Chairman, The Africa Fund Bill Lucy, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Gay McDougall, The International Human Rights Law Group Cynthia McKinney, Member of Congress
Kweisi Mfume, NAACP
Donald Payne, Member of Congress
Randall Robinson, TransAfrica
Wyatt Tee Walker, American Committee on Africa Maxine Waters, Member of Congress

PRESS RELEASE May 22nd 1998

Tim Concannon, Ledum Mitee
Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), International secretariat:
Suite 5, 3 - 4 Albion Place,
Galena Road, London W6 0LT, United Kingdom. Tel. (+44) (0)181 563 8614
Fax. (+44) (0)181 563 8615


In a landmark decision today, Mr. Justice Ebie Daniel-Kalio has granted bail to 20 Ogoni political detainees who have been held in the same cell since May 1994 ("Suit No PHC/ 150M/ 97: Commissioner of Police v Sampson Ntignee & others (Ogoni 20)", High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State). [Note: subsequent news items indicate that the bail applies only to 15 of the 20; a later decision was expected on the remaining detainees.]

The decision was made at approximately 12:00 this afternoon at the High Court, Rivers State, Nigeria. The 20 are currently detained in Port Harcourt Prison.

They face the same politically motivated "conspiracy to commit murder" charge, the same violations of their human rights in prison, and potentially the same unfair trial which sent MOSOP President Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders to the gallows in November 1995.

The 20 have been granted bail subject to three conditions:

  • A bail bond of N60 000 each (approximately $720)
  • Surety must be given by a party with landed property in Rivers State
  • The 20 must hand over their international pass-ports to the Court

Speaking immediately after the ruling, Nnaemeka Amaechina (Deputy Head of Chief Gani Fawehinmi's chambers) - one of the 20's defence lawyers - commented:

"Justice Ebie Daniel-Kalio's decision today is remarkable. His courage deserves commendation. By his ruling he has uplifted the hopes of the oppressed".

"At the present time in Nigeria, decisions made by Courts have created a state of disillusionment. In this prevailing atmosphere, Justice Daniel-Kalio's ruling will save lives".

The Nigerian regime's use of military tribunals to silence its critics has been universally condemned, including in a recent United Nation's Human Rights report:

  • The military appointed 1995 tribunal of the Ogoni 9 was condemned by human rights organisations including Amnesty & Human Rights Watch, international legal observers, and world governments as unfair. Nigeria was suspended from the United Kingdom Commonwealth organisation as a direct result of the murders.
  • Deputy head of state Lieutenant-General Oladipo Diya and 25 others, including 10 civilians, were accused of involvement in a coup plot against head of state General Sani Abacha, and tried by military tribunal. Seven - including Lieutenant-General Diya - were sentenced to death on April 28th 1998
  • 30 were tried by military tribunal in 1995, including former head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo. According to Amnesty International, they are currently serving long periods of imprisonment in harsh and life-threatening prison conditions
  • In December 1997 two of those serving long prison sentences, Major-General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, former deputy head of state from 1976 to 1979, and Staff Sergeant Patrick Usikekpo, died in detention, apparently from malnutrition and medical neglect. The government failed to release any official statement about their deaths.

In this context, Justice Daniel-Kalio's ruling is a significant gesture. He has asserted the due process of law, countering the Nigerian authorities' attempts to further delay the Ogoni 20's case.

The regime - anxious to avoid another show trial of Ogoni detainees likely to incur international condemnation - has delayed the 20's court proceedings for more than four years by deliberate obstruction of the due process of law. As recently as May 6th 1998, the authorities applied to have today's ruling delayed.

Responding to ruling, MOSOP's Acting President Ledum Mitee remarked:

"MOSOP applauds the action of Justice Daniel-Kalio in granting the Ogoni 20 bail and ensuring that - at least within the Nigerian judiciary - there are some judges ready to stand up for the due process of law".

"It is now up to the authorities to obey Justice Daniel-Kalio's ruling. The regime has an appalling record of harassment and obstruction in this and other cases, such as the detention and trial I endured with Ken Saro-Wiwa and our co-defendants".

"MOSOP calls on Nigerians and the international community to put pressure on the government to abide by Nigerian law and allow the 20 to be released on bail".


This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups individuals.

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