Like during the military dictatorship of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha (1993-98), the European Union (EU) and the United States are likely to impose strangulating sanctions on Nigeria if the elections go against the run of play.
Already, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing, has warned that power seekers and political elite who incite or execute violence during this Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly polls will have their visas banned and assets in the United Kingdom seized.
At the moment, Nigeria still remains EU’s most important market and supplier in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa. Conversely, Europe Fifteen is Nigeria’s first trading partner, both for imports and exports, according to experts.
Those who know better say an important fact in sub-Saharan Africa is that despite the decline of European investments in non-energy sectors, Nigeria is peculiar in that it is a country where the amount of investments exceeds the amount of European public assistance to development.
Only South Africa shares this status with Nigeria. If the country’s position as crude oil supplier to the union and the magnitude of its overall debt (37 billion dollars) to mainly European creditors are added to, these aspects, a strong interdependence becomes observable.
This immediately places the EU in a privileged position to establish political and economic dialogue with the Nigerian authorities. At the same time, the magnitude of European interests at stake in the country makes the EU necessarily circumspect in its relations with Nigeria, an approach which often elicits criticism.
One of the initial indications from the foreign trade statistics of the EU is Nigeria’s position within the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group as the EU’s first trading partner.
During the Abacha years, data from the European Communities’ Statistical Office, (Eurostat 1994), showed that Nigeria took the lead as the primary supplier to the EU with a total of 3.9 billion ECU and as the Union’s primary market with a total of 2.1 billion ECU, representing at the time 21 per cent of all European imports from the zone and 14 per cent of all exports from the EU towards the then ACP 69-country group.
In sub-Saharan Africa, only South Africa exceeds Nigeria in importation as well as exportation. In Africa in 1994, Nigeria was the fourth supplier after South Africa, Libya and Algeria, but ahead of Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt and the sixth market after South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco but ahead of Libya.
Compared to the Union’s global trade, however, trade with Nigeria only represented 0.71 per cent of imports and 0.38 per cent of exports in the same year.
Consequently, exports from Europe 15 to Nigeria declined from 4 to 2.7 billion dollars by 1994, while the country’s imports decreased from 5.7 to 5.2 billion dollars. In 1995, data from Eurostat showed no major change in this surplus situation: Nigeria once again recorded a trade surplus of 1.2 billion ECU for 3.3 billion exports, and 1.9 billion imports. These figures, however, decreased respectively from 15.4 per cent and 9.6 per cent compared to 1994.
Laing however, gave the warning at a press briefing in Abuja to unveil the Election Situation Room of the civil society set up by a coalition of civil society organisations to monitor the polls in the Federal Capital Territory.
She reminded politicians that apart from the possibility of having their assets seized in the UK, they could experience a worst case scenario of prosecution: ‘’We will apply this absolutely across board not directed to any particular party; we are monitoring and looking out for hate speech.
‘’Our two worries are on security, not just on the role the police will play to ensure peace but about the role individuals play by getting angry or militias being paid to disrupt elections. Then, another worry is fake news, that is why we rely on civil society organisations and we will work with them to get information.’’
The United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, thanked the civil society groups for the inauguration of the situation room, describing it as a good work towards the elections.
Chambas said it showed that the groups were prepared for the elections and ready to monitor the voting process, thus helping the UN with ideas on the process in the country.
The American Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, said, ‘’the time has come for this outside world that cares so much about Nigeria to listen to the people of Nigeria and to see what each of them do and then forward the results to lift Nigeria up.’’