Wednesday, 24 May 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
227. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the international community is satisfied in regard to the restoration of peace and observation of human rights in Nigeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20022/06]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The EU welcomed the peaceful conduct of the last elections in Nigeria, held in 2003, and expressed confidence in the Nigerian Government’s commitment to continue improving the quality of democracy and accountability in Nigeria. The next elections are due in 2007.
During the first week of May 2006, the Nigerian National Assembly debated the recommendations of the Conference on Political Reform. An amendment seeking to extend the period of time a person could hold presidential office was defeated. President Obasanjo has accepted the National Assembly’s decision and stated that his party will prepare for next year’s election on the basis of the constitution.
As part of the reform process being pursued by the current government, a census of population was conducted in April. The data collected in the previous census, in 1991, was widely held to be inaccurate and skewed to favour some regions over others. Preliminary results are expected in June.
Following the return to civilian rule in 1999, a Human Rights Violations Investigation Panel, known as the Oputa Panel, was set up to investigate all gross human rights violations from 1966 until 1999. The Panel concluded its hearings in 2001 and published its 30,000 page report in May 2002. The Government has also established the National Action Plan for Human Rights Steering Committee and Coordinating Committee to assess, report on and make recommendations in relation to human rights in Nigeria.
Since 1999, Nigeria has played a leadership role in advancing the cause of peace both regionally in West Africa and in Africa as a whole. Most recently, President Obasanjo had a close personal involvement in the successful conclusion of the Darfur Peace talks which were hosted by his government in Abuja.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has claimed responsibility for serious incidents in the Niger Delta, including car bomb attacks against security forces and the kidnapping of expatriate oil workers. Federal and State authorities are seeking to address the problems of the Niger Delta through putting in place a long-term development plan for the region. On 18 April, President Obasanjo inaugurated the Presidential Committee on Socio-Economic Development of the Niger Delta which brings together a panel of high level officials to recommend to him specific projects for rapid development of the region in the near future. The President promised that thousands of new jobs will be created in the oil industry, the military and the police, and that a US$1.8 billion motorway will be built. The campaign waged by MEND has contributed to a reduction of at least 20 per cent in Nigerian oil production since the start of the year.
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