Nigerians head for ACU in Ottawa

August 14, 1998

NIGERIA's vice-chancellors have been invited to next week's Association of Commonwealth Universities conference in Ottawa although their country is suspended from Commonwealth membership.

The ACU is an autonomous organisation that does not feel bound by the limited sanctions which have been in place against Nigeria since the execution of Ogoni human rights campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists in October 1996.

Dorothy Garland, head of external affairs at the ACU, said: "We have not had a hint of concern about Nigeria."

More than a dozen chancellors and vice-chancellors from the 31 Nigerian universities affiliated to the ACU have indicated they will attend the conference.

The ACU is not aware of any complications either with exit visas from Nigeria or entry visas to Canada, which has taken a hard line on the military regime in Nigeria. Canada closed its consular office in Lagos after one of its security officers was refused a visa amid a Nigerian claim that Canada was engaged in terrorism.

Visas to visit Canada have been refused for people close to the military regime or who have benefited from the regime's policies.

When ACU leaders met in Malta in March 1996, the 28 universities then affiliated were also invited but were ordered not to attend on the instructions of then head of state, General Sani Abacha.

An official at Canada's department of foreign affairs said the visa policy, which still stands, was aimed at members of the military who hold positions in high office. It did not extend to public servants who may have benefited from close ties to the regime.

Conference organisers sent a list of invited delegates to the department of citizenship and immigration. They are not aware that any individuals are being denied entry. They presume the 13 Nigerians who have so far confirmed their attendance have been given visas.

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