Magazine article New African

Nigeria: We Won't Be Intimidated: Nigeria Is Set on a Collision Course with the US over the Former Liberian President, Charles Taylor's Asylum in Nigeria. Meanwhile, Nigeria Says It Is Safe Enough to Host the Commonwealth Heads of Commonwealth Meeting in Abuja from 5-8 December

Magazine article New African

Nigeria: We Won't Be Intimidated: Nigeria Is Set on a Collision Course with the US over the Former Liberian President, Charles Taylor's Asylum in Nigeria. Meanwhile, Nigeria Says It Is Safe Enough to Host the Commonwealth Heads of Commonwealth Meeting in Abuja from 5-8 December

Article excerpt

Nigeria is set on a collision course with the US over the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor's asylum in Nigeria. Meanwhile, Nigeria says it is safe enough to host the Commonwealth Heads of Commonwealth Meeting in Abuja from 5-8 December.

Reports that the US president, George Bush, has set aside a $2m bounty for the capture of the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, to stand trial at the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, has angered the Nigeria government, forcing a presidential spokeswoman in Abuja to say Nigeria "will not succumb to intimidation from any quarter".

The Voice of America (VOA) reported on 7 November that President Bush had authorised the payment of $2m in reward money for the capture of Charles Taylor, and that the $2m was included in the $87.5 billion approved by Congress on 25 October to fund America's operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The reward money on Liberia will be used For the capture of what the legislations [signed by Bush on 25 October] termed as 'an indectee of the Special Court for Sierra Leone", the VOA reported, adding that "the indictee is not named in the legislation, but government and Congressional sources told VOA that the indictee is Charles Taylor."

Obviously angered by what it calls "intimidation" by the US, Nigeria has since stepped up security around Charles Taylor's residence in Calabar, eastern Nigerian. Remi Oyo, a presidential spokeswoman told journalists in Abuja that "Nigeria, as a sovereign nation, will not succumb to any act of intimidation from any quarter".

To make herself clear, she repeated to the assembled journalists: "Although we have not been formally approached over the matter, we will not accept any intimidation or blackmail."

Oyo explained that President Obasanjo granted asylum to Taylor only after wide consultations with African and international leaders. That was why Taylor was accompanied to Nigeria by Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, John Kufuor of Ghana, Joaquinn Chissano of Mozambique (who doubles as the current chairman of the African Union), and of course President Obasanjo. Taylor's departure was one of the key conditions put down by Liberian rebels for the return of peace to their troubled country.

He was indicted on 4 June by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for "bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and serious violations international humanitarian law within the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996".

But Nigeria insists that it would not allow itself be "harassed by anyone", especially when it was given the green light by African and world leaders to grant asylum to Taylor.

"Neither do we expect any country to violate our sovereignty by attempting to capture Taylor," said Remi Oyo. "That would not be the act of a friendly nation," she warned.

Asked if Taylor was keeping his side of the bargain, Oyo replied: "We would like to think so, yes."

* Meanwhile, Nigeria's inspector general of police, Tafa Balogun, has said contrary to British media reports of a possible Al Qaeda attack during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (5-8 December), everybody attending the meeting (including Queen Elizabeth II) will be safe in the country, Cameron Duodu reports from Abuja.

In October, the British weekly, The Sunday Telegraph, had claimed that British intelligence agencies feared that when the head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, arrived in Nigeria to open the meeting, she could be the "target of an Al Qaeda attack? …

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