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Cablegate: Nigeria: Congressman Payne Meets with President,

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TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON KDEM KPKO KCOR NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: CONGRESSMAN PAYNE MEETS WITH PRESIDENT,
MFA


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1. SUMMARY. Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and HIRC
Africa Subcommittee Chair Donald Payne discussed regional
security issues, the Gulf of Guinea partnership, electoral
reform, economic development and anti-corruption efforts in a
meeting on August 20. Yar'Adua reiterated Nigeria's
commitment to support stability in Darfur and Somalia, though
fell short of committing to send peacekeeping forces to
Somalia. Yar'Adua said his administration is working on a
plan for Niger Delta security and he expects to approach the
USG soon with a request for capacity building assistance. He
maintained he is committed to electoral reform resulting in a
"credible election process," though it appears his
administration will wait until tribunals have concluded work
on last April's elections before offering concrete reforms.
Yar'Adua said he plans to create a secure domestic
environment to attract investment, in particular noting his
commitment to fighting corruption. END SUMMARY.

2. HIRC Africa Subcommittee Chair Donald Payne met with
Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and Minister of
Foreign Affairs Ojo Maduekwe on August 20 to discuss regional
security issues (including Darfur and Somalia), the Gulf of
Guinea partnership, electoral reform, and Nigeria's economic
development and anti-corruption campaign. Yar'Adua
underscored his desire that "under his presidency a major
priority will be to strengthen U.S.-Nigerian relations."
Yar'Adua was flanked during the meeting at the Presidential
Villa by approximately ten of his staff, including: ForMin
Maduekwe, MFA Permanent Secretary Ambassador Hakeen
Baba-Ahmed, State Chief of Protocol Ambassador Muhammad Ghali
Umar, Presidential Special Advisor for Communications
Olusegun Adeniyi, and MFA Director of the North and Central
America Division Charles Onianwa. Payne was accompanied by
the Charge d'Affaires, Congressional Research Service
Professional Staffer Ted Dagne, PolCouns, and PolOff.

REGIONAL SECURITY - DARFUR, SOMALIA
-----------------------------------

3. Congressman Payne noted the strong role Nigeria plays in
ensuring regional peace and security, and urged President
Yar'Adua and ForMin Maduekwe to stand by Nigeria's
commitments to peacekeeping troops in Darfur and Somalia. He
noted a particularly important role for Nigeria in Somalia,
promoting dialogue between the government and the Islamic
courts. Payne also encouraged Yar'Adua to persuade Somali
President Yusuf to reach out to moderate elements of the
Islamic Courts in order for them to engage with the
Transition Federal Government and participate in governance
and for Nigeria to take the lead on mediation efforts.
Yar'Adua replied that "this is a good idea and I will take
this initiative."

4. President Yar'Adua assured Congressman Payne of
"Nigeria's commitment in Darfur, both through peacekeeping
troops and the assignment of General Agwai." MFA Permanent
Secre tary Baba-Ahmed noted in the MFA meeting that the
government of Sudan is seeking assurances with regard to
command and control mechanisms for the hybrid force. "All
signs are positive" though and he said Nigeria "will follow
through on its commitment." ForMin Maduekwe thanked
Congressman Payne for his work in drawing U.S. attention to
the suffering in the Darfur region.

5. With regard to Somalia, Yar'Adua was noncommittal to
quick deployment and would only state a commitment "to work
within the African Union to find a solution." Earlier in the
day, Maduekwe had told Congressman Payne that Nigeria is
willing to keep commitments and improve the capacity to
address matters of regional security before crises spread.
He too, however, fell short of committing to troops in
Somalia, stating only that the GON is giving "the maximum
attention possible to Somalia." MFA Permanent Secretary
Baba-Ahmed noted a need for sound security on the ground
before troops could be deployed to Somalia -- this, he
maintained, would require additional funding to strengthen
troop security.

GULF OF GUINEA PARTNERSHIP
--------------------------

6. Congressman Payne noted the importance of Gulf of Guinea

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initiatives to bringing security to the region. Yar'Adua
responded that Nigeria has a "responsibility for leading
other Gulf of Guinea nations in the security agenda." He
noted that the GON is involved in initial planning on Delta
security and that he expects to approach the U.S. soon for
capacity building assistance. Yar'Adua highlighted the
commitment of the GON to establishing security throughout the
country and said that progress is being made.

ELECTORAL REFORM
----------------

7. President Yar'Adua told Congressman Payne his
administration is committed to reforming the electoral system
and stated clearly that "before the next elections, the
Government will establish a credible electoral process and
will help to strengthen the culture of democracy." Yar'Adua
said he is setting up a committee to begin the reform
process, though he noted that the committee would focus on
theoretical approaches to reform until the tribunals finish
hearing cases concerning this year's elections -- he
estimated two years. He noted the need for a truly
independent electoral commission, both financially and
administratively. Congressman Payne told Yar'Adua his early,
strong statements on electoral reform have been well-received
in the U.S.; however, he noted actions are needed to address
the deficiencies in the 2007 election.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ANTI-CORRUPTION
----------------------------------------

8. President Yar'Adua described Nigeria's lack of investment
in infrastructure as promoting poverty and inhibiting
economic growth. He explained to Congressman Payne that one
of his domestic priorities is to provide a secure environment
into which to attract investment in critical sectors,
especially in the energy sector. Maduekwe had also commented
on the linkages between poverty and security, particularly in
the Delta. Congressman Payne asked about domestic plans for
improving the agricultural sector, to which Yar'Adua replied
that his government is currently studying the failure of
large-scale farming in Nigeria in the mid 1990s to find out
what had gone wrong. Yar'Adua stated that commercial farming
is the way forward and that Nigeria "can grow everything."
He noted that agriculture is already the highest growth
sector in the economy, though the potential remains great as
well.

9. Congressman Payne applauded Yar'Adua's attempts to weed
out corruption. Yar'Adua at that point turned to Maduekwe
and commented that, as he (Yar'Adua) had stressed at the
Cabinet retreat last week, the administration must deal with
the problem of "temptation for corruption in government;" it
is the "responsibility of leaders to keep corruption low by
removing temptation." Yar'Adua told Congressman Payne there
is "zero tolerance for corruption and there is a national
consensus on the issue." In the earlier MFA meeting,
Maduekwe told Congressman Payne that the rule of law must
"become an institution of the state." He noted that the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) remains a
focal point for reforming the system.

10. COMMENT. Congressman Payne's visit and the gist of his
exchange with the President were the lead news stories on
August 21. President Yar'Adua is getting our message that
vision needs to be backed by action, even as we note his
laudable efforts to move forward. END COMMENT.

THIS MESSAGE WAS CLEARED BY CONGRESSMAN PAYNE.
GRIBBIN

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