Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (222)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

358 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which democracy has progressed in Nigeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25518/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

Nigeria is the most populous democracy in Africa. The high turnout and largely peaceful conduct of the elections held in 2003 marked a further important step towards the consolidation of that democracy. There is still some way to go, however. An EU election observation mission, which included two Irish observers, monitored the presidential, parliamentary and other elections and regrettably noted some grave irregularities in the voting processes of some states. On 14 May 2003, the EU issued a declaration on the elections which expressed concern at the findings of the observation mission and which urged President Obasanjo to use his mandate to improve the quality of democracy and accountability in Nigeria.

In 2002, the EU adopted a common position on Nigeria, which was updated by Council conclusions approved last November. A key element of the Union's position is to maintain a constructive and regular political dialogue with Nigeria. The Irish Presidency was the first to initiate EU-Nigeria political dialogue at a ministerial level. My colleague, former Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, led an EU troika which addressed a range of issues including peace and security, governance and development matters.

Ireland acknowledges and appreciates the strong leadership role President Obasanjo has played, not only in defusing recent tensions in his own country, but in facilitating the peace process in Liberia and also the peace talks on Darfur which are ongoing in Abuja under Nigeria's current chairmanship of the African Union.

Ireland and the European Union continue to support and encourage Nigeria's transition to democracy and look forward to maintaining our strong relationship with a most important partner in Africa.

Question No. 359 answered with QuestionNo. 183.