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Restoring Normalcy to Nigeria

The fact that the writer of the opinion-page article ''Nigeria's Dictator Could Sink a Continent,'' March 29, uses a pseudonym is not surprising. His presentation is characterized by incredible inaccuracies and gratuitous use of superlatives in the effort to discredit Gen. Sani Abacha and Nigeria.

General Abacha's assumption of office in November 1993 was at the urging of well-meaning politicians, including the principal actors of the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential election, who felt that a military intervention was required to prevent the nation's disintegration.

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On taking over, Abacha and his colleagues immediately restored normalcy and a measure of national reconciliation.

I challenge the writer to name a single Nigerian general or official connected with drug smuggling into the US and to account for the 80 percent of heroin smuggling which, he alleges, is brought by Nigerians.

In fact, at no time did the US government receive greater cooperation from Nigeria in combating drug trafficking than under the present government. The International Narcotic Drug Board has also recently applauded Nigeria's efforts in this sphere.

Trade sanctions would only destabilize Africa's largest market, which receives 20 percent of US imports to sub-Saharan Africa, accounts for 10 percent of US oil imports, hosts more than $3 billion worth of US investment, and supports US foreign-policy objectives.

Zubair Mahmud Kazaure, Washington

Ambassador of Nigeria to the US

The article raised some thought-provoking issues. However, I think it is important to remain pragmatic, and for very good reasons.

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Many large American companies have had a large business presence in Nigeria for years or decades; they are there for the ''long haul.'' Most try to remain apolitical. More than one-half of the employees of my employer's Nigerian subsidiary are Nigerian nationals, a large number of whom are in the United States at any one time for professional development.

If the US enacts trade or travel sanctions, isn't it obvious that these same people who are supposedly ''helped'' by US policies would actually be hurt?

Also, you can bet that other countries would be waiting in line to capitalize on any impediments to Americans doing business there. For example, the portion of Nigeria's oil presently sold to US markets could be sold to other countries, and the US would just import from somewhere else. Would anything really be gained? I think not.

Events in other developing countries clearly show that our ability to influence events with unilateral actions is extremely limited.

Perhaps we should rely on things like the free flow of information and the use of free markets to follow their natural course -- witness what happened to communism.

David J. Churchill, Pleasanton, Calif.

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ''Readers Write'' and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet E-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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