Thursday, 28 May 2009

Jean Supports Nigerian Pro-Democracy Activists

Jean will join campaigners in London tomorrow, including the Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka (the first African to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature), for the State of the Nigerian Nation, a major symposium on democracy and corruption in Nigeria.

Jean will deliver the opening speech at the afternoon session of the symposium, organised by the Nigeria Liberty Forum and taking place at the Holloway Road campus of London Metropolitan University. She will speak on ‘Poverty and corruption in Nigeria: what can the European Union do?’

The summit has been organised to counter ‘Democracy Day’, organised by the Nigerian government to mark 10 years since the return of democracy, but controversial among anti-corruption campaigners who are deeply concerned about the political situation in Nigeria.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the former Executive Chairman of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, who was dismissed from his post on 22 December 2008 by the Nigerian Police Service Commission, will speak after Jean. Many believe his dismissal was politically motivated.

Jean recently submitted a written question to the European Commission, raising her concerns for Nuhu Ribadu and asking what progress the Commission had made in fighting corruption in Nigeria. She hopes to be able to report the reply to the symposium on Friday.

Jean, an active supporter of Nigerian pro-democracy campaigns in London, said:

“I’m honoured to be a guest at this symposium, and to be sharing the platform with both Wole Soyinka, whose distinguished career as a writer is matched by decades of brave political campaigning, and Nuhu Ribadu, whose dedication to fighting corruption is an inspiration to all those seeking a fairer future.

"As Nuhu Ribadu’s experience has shown, it takes courage to stand up and act against corruption, and that is why it is vital that the international community unites to support campaigners for change, and recognises its responsibility to support democracy and challenge injustice.”

Separately, this week also sees the opening of a landmark court case in New York in which Royal Dutch Shell, the oil giant, stands accused of complicity in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian environmental activist, in 1995.

Jean said:

“We must welcome the fact that Shell’s role in the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others is to be reconsidered, and we can only hope that, after nearly 15 years, the truth will, at last, be heard. Since Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death in 1995 his predictions of ecological and humanitarian disaster in the Niger Delta have been proved right. The area, so rich in natural resources, is both a wasteland and a war zone.

“The international community must pay attention to this court case as it could shine a light on the human and environmental costs of western companies working with corrupt governments. We have a political and moral responsibility to the communities whose lives have been destroyed.”

The State of the Nigerian Nation symposium is a day-long event taking place this Friday 29 May at Stapleton House, on the Holloway Road campus of London Metropolitan University. The summit begins at 9am, with the morning session, ‘Citizen Power and Democratic Change’, commencing at 9.30am. Jean will introduce the afternoon session, from 1pm to 1.45pm.

For more information about the event, you can visit

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