Oil embargo "virtually impossible." (international embargo on Nigerian oil)

Author:Samboma, Julian

Although the campaign to enforce an international embargo on Nigerian oil is gathering momentum, it seems that Western nations have decided to turn a deaf ear to pro-sanctions arguments. The West, as Julian Samboma found out, just has far too much to lose if Nigeria's name is added to that of Iraq on the embargo list.

Despite intense lobbying by South Africa's President Nelson Mandela and international human rights and environmental activists, it is increasingly becoming evident that the United Nations and individual Western nations will not impose an embargo on Nigerian oil.

Calls for oil sanctions on the West African state, which were first made after the military authorities annulled the 1993 Presidential elections, have reached a crescendo since the executions last November of the Ogoni campaigner and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others.

The main stumbling block to such a move is that it would lead to a rise in the price of petroleum on the international market, which would impact negatively an the economies of leading Western nations. The latter could veto any move by the UN Security Council to ban Nigeria's oil exports.

"Sanctions will not happen in the near future," says Mr Simon Trimble, an oil analyst at the London based stockbrokers Merrill Lynch. "It is somewhat naive to believe that sanctions will be imposed on Nigerian oil by powerful Western nations, whose economies will be severely affected by such a move."

International campaigners say that only an embargo on the country's oil exports - which account for almost 90% of Government revenues - can force the ruling junta of General Sani Abacha to improve its human rights record and institute speedy democratic reforms.

However, while they have imposed limited sanctions on Nigeria, including a ban on arms sales and visa restrictions on top officials of the military regime, Western nations have stopped short of an oil embargo, claiming "it would harm ordinary Nigerians more than the Abacha dictatorship.

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office, Mr James Dunlop, said that comprehensive international sanctions would alienate the Abuja regime, "with which we are trying to have a constructive dialogue about democratic reforms", and that Britain would oppose any move by the UN or the European Union to ban Nigerian oil.

He said: "Sanctions would not help the situation and would affect poor Nigerians more." This view - shared by the US and many EU Governments - cuts no ice with...

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