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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 2, 1995

Statement by the Press Secretary

The United States has completed an initial review of General Abacha's October 1 statement and notes that it contains some positive elements. We regret, nevertheless, that the statement is incomplete and ambiguous on a number of important issues, on which we hope to obtain further clarification.

The United States welcomes the decision by the Provisional Ruling Council of Nigeria to commute the sentences of those accused of coup-plotting. We note, however, that the ultimate disposition of their cases remains unclear, and we look to the Nigerian Government to provide prompt clarification of their status. The United States reiterates its call upon the Government of Nigeria to release detainees promptly and unconditionally and allow an open appeal process for those convicted in secret trials.

Positive elements of the October 1 statement include acceptance of the principle of power-sharing, the lifting of the ban on the press and political activity, affirmation of the principle of multiparty democracy, the devolution of power to local levels of government, and the pledge to strengthen the subordination of the military to civilian authority.

However, the United States is disappointed by the Nigerian Government's failure to announce credible steps to return Nigeria promptly to civilian democratic rule. The transition timetable is too lengthy and does not appear to provide for significant civilian participation in any transitional government or in national decision-making. The Nigerian Government's announced intent, as well as its ability, to carry out the transition are seriously undermined by the proposed length of the transition. In addition, the Government's failure to release political detainees unconditionally and its continued refusal to release Chief M.K.O. Abiola casts doubt on its stated commitment to create a climate conducive to the return to civilian rule.

The White House is informing the Nigerian Ambassador of U.S. dissatisfaction with certain elements of the transition program. To underline its dissatisfaction, the U.S. will maintain all existing sanctions and keep other measures under review as we look for progress in the transition to democracy and the release of political detainees.

The United States continues to hope for the early transition to a stable, democratic and prosperous Nigeria that respects human rights. We remain prepared to work with Nigeria to support credible efforts to achieve that goal.