Monday, May 01, 2006

US asks Nigeria to abandon plans for 3rd term

According to the BBC, the US Embassy in Abuja has responded to repeated media requests by the Nigerian press to clarify its position on the current effort by supporters of the President and many State Governors to constitutionally extend term limits. The press release is not yet available at the US Embassy's web site, but the account of the Vanguard newspaper in Nigeria contains partial quotes:
As the debate on the constitution amendment gets underway in the National Assembly on Wednesday, the United States has expressed concern over "current efforts to amend Nigeria’s Constitution in order to allow the President and governors to run for third term."
The US embassy in a statement in Abuja believed "executive term limits should be respected in the interest of institutional democracy and organising political space."

The Embassy which said the statement was prompted by "continuing media inquiry regarding our position on the on-going process of amending the Nigerian Constitution" said: "The US respects the right of any country to amend its constitution through democratic, transparent and legal means. However, the US is concerned about the current efforts to amend Nigerian constitution in order to allow presidents and governors to run for third-term.

"Our view is very clear that executive term limits should be respected in the interest of institutional democracy and opening political space. This allows for new leaders to be groomed; and it supports the rule of law.

"We have consistently delivered this message to a number of countries facing the same issue. We understand President Obasanjo has not made any formal announcement of his plans after his second term expires in 2007."

It's true. Obasanjo has not made his plans public. And Nigerians have pointed out that even if term limits are constitutionally extended, he would still have to run again. But Nigeria does not have the same history of squeaky clean clean-elections that we do in the US (sarcasm). According to Human Rights Watch, Obasanjo's reelection in 2003 was marred by "widespread fraud and ballot-rigging. European Union election observers concluded that minimum standards for democratic elections were not met in a number of states."

Supporters of a 3rd term have argued that opponents of the plan would come to power only to squander Nigeria's $38 billion foreign reserves. (Clever argument: our opponents are even more corrupt that we are!)

The Federal Assembly debates the constitutional changes in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

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