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Cablegate: Nigeria: Pol/Econ Updates for January 1-15, 2008

VZCZCXRO4015
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #0106/01 0161641
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161641Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1853
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 8567
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 ABUJA 000106

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/W, INR/AA
DOE FOR CGAY AND GPERSON
DEPARTMENT PASS TO USTR-AGAMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREF EFIN ETRD EPET KCOR MASS ELAB
NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: POL/ECON UPDATES FOR JANUARY 1-15, 2008

REF: A. ABUJA 23
B. 07 LAGOS 688

THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET
DISTRIBUTION.

1. (U) Following is a joint Embassy Abuja-ConGen Lagos
compilation of January 1-13, 2008 political/economic
highlights, which did not feature in our other reporting,
covering:
-- Election Tribunals
-- Corruption
-- Niger Delta
-- ECOWAS
-- National Assembly
-- Human Rights, Labor, Refugees
-- Economic News
-- Petroleum

ELECTION TRIBUNALS
------------------
2. (U) Appeals to decisions rendered by the Gubernatorial
Election Tribunals will commence hearing at the
specially-constituted Appeals Tribunal next week in Abuja.
(Note: Three gubernatorial elections have been overturned in
Adamawa, Kebbi, and Kogi by the election tribunals; the
gubernatorial polls in Anambra and Rivers were reversed by
the Supreme Court. End Note.)

3. (U) The Action Congress (AC) alleged the People's
Democratic Party (PDP) has been attempting to bribe (with
amounts totaling USD 3 million) Osun State Election Tribunal
justices in an effort to sway outcomes. (Note: AC
gubernatorial candidate Rauf Aregbesola petitioned the Osun
State Election Tribunal to nullify the April 14 election of
Olagunsoye Oyinolola (PDP), which the AC claims was fraught
with electoral malpractices, including ballot box theft and
rigging. Several witnesses for the AC have testified the PDP
and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
perpetrated ballot box theft and election rigging throughout
the state. End Note.)

4. (SBU) Resident Electoral Commissioner for Kebbi state,
Martins Okunfolami, announced January 6 INEC has deleted
363,303 duplicate names from Kebbi's electronic voters
database. Okunfolami touted this as a success for INEC's
electronic voter registration exercise, which commenced in
late 2006. 936,697 voters remain in the Kebbi database and
are supposed to receive permanent voter identification cards
soon. (Note: This means that approximately 25% of the 1.3
million names on the Kebbi voters roll during the April 2007
elections were fraudulent. As noted above, the Kebbi
gubernatorial election was annulled at the tribunal, but an
appeal is pending in the case. End Note.)

CORRUPTION
----------
5. (U) On January 13, the Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission (EFCC) announced the appointment of EFCC Director
of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde, as Acting Executive EFCC
Chair while current Chair Nuhu Ribadu attends a mandatory
10-month sabbatical beginning in February to the National
Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Jos, Plateau
state.

6. (SBU) During a meeting with a senior EFCC official, Lagos
Consul General and LEGATT expressed strong support for the
EFCC. All present expressed their desire to see the
organization succeed in its efforts to weed out corruption in
Nigeria. The EFCC official insisted that business would
continue as usual at the EFCC, regardless of changes in
personnel. He insinuated that former Delta State Governor
James Ibori, currently facing charges of corruption brought
by the EFCC (see below) and former Vice President Atiku
Abubakar were behind recent moves to weaken the EFCC.

7. (U) On January 11, former Edo governor Lucky Igbinedion

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(PDP, 1999-2007) announced his intention to return January 21
to Nigeria following an Abuja Federal Court arrest warrant
issued against him January 8. Igbinedion is accused of 142
counts of corruption, including allegations that he
misappropriated US$200 million from state coffers while in
office. (Note: Igbinedion was one of 31 governors under
indictment by the EFCC in September 2006 and voluntarily
appeared before the EFCC in June 2007 to answer corruption
charges. End Note.)

8. (U) Former governor James Ibori (PDP, 1999-2007),
currently under investigation from the EFCC for allegedly
stealing more than US$80 million in public funds, was denied
bail by a Kaduna High Court on January 11. Ibori was flown
to Abuja National Hospital on January 10, as his lawyers
claimed Ibori was suffering in "difficult" conditions in a
Kaduna prison. (Note: Ibori was earlier denied bail by a
Federal Court on December 17. Ibori is widely viewed as one
of the principal financiers of President Yar'Adua's election
campaign. This case is being viewed as a litmus test for the
President's stated commitment to tackling corruption. End
Note.)

9. (SBU) EFCC Chair Nuhu Ribadu issued a statement January 10
denying allegations he owns residences in Dubai or controls a
foreign bank account. Press reports began circulating
January 7 claiming Ribadu purchased lavish homes in Dubai and
Nigeria, including the former IG of Police's US$2 million
home in an Abuja suburb. The reports also alleged Ribadu
engaged in "illegal" business activities while EFCC Chair.
Ribadu is expected to appear before a House of
Representatives committee to answer graft charges against
him.

NIGER DELTA
-----------
10. (SBU) Kidnappings of family members of political figures
continued early 2008 following a trend established in 2007.
The sister of an Akwa Ibom lawmaker was reportedly abducted
on New Year's Day; according to press reports, her abductors
demanded US$850,000 for her release. On January 4 gunmen
abducted the son of the Rivers state PDP Secretary, demanding
US$500,000 according to a human rights contact.

11. (U) Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu announced
January 3 the Senate will declare the Niger Delta a disaster
area to draw attention to its need for development.
Ekweremadu said the GON will seek the help of international
development partners to supplement the Niger Delta
Development Master Plan, and questioned the lack of results
from previous appropriations.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
-----------------
12. (U) Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Henry
Dickson, announced January 13 the bill seeking the merger of
anti-graft agencies, the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt
Practices Commission (ICPC), would be presented the week
beginning January 14 for consideration by the House. The
Code of Conduct Bureau cannot be merged with the EFCC and
ICPC since it is created by Constitutional mandate (not
through National Assembly legislation). Dickson assured the
merger would not affect the commensurate, though distinct,
functions of the EFCC and ICPC.

13. (U) Delay in the passage of the 2008 Appropriations Bill
and subsequent investigations into rollover amounts from
previous years (See Ref A) have led to the recovery of over
300 billion naira (approx. US$2.5 billion) of unspent funds
from different GON ministries. Deputy Speaker of the House,
Usman Nafada, said the money will be appropriated for FY2008.


14. (U) After the 2008 budget is passed, the Senate will turn
its attention to reviewing and possibly amending Nigeria's
1999 Constitution, according to Ayogu Eze, Chair of the
Senate Information Committee. At a press conference January

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8, Eze also pledged the Senate would soon pass the
long-awaited "Freedom of Information" bill.

15. (SBU) Senate President David Mark also announced January
8 that reviewing the 1999 Constitution would be a top Senate
priority in 2008. He explained that priority areas for
amendment would include boundary adjustments (including
creation of local governments and states), the immunity
clause (which protects incumbent governors from criminal
prosecution), and the rules governing State Independent
Electoral Commissions (which conduct the sometimes violent
local government council elections). However, House Speaker
Bankole separately told Emboffs that he was not/not in favor
of amending the Constitution at this time.

16. (U) Media reports January 7 indicated the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs has decided where to post the 61 ambassadors
earlier confirmed by the Senate in 2007. The Ministry will
begin the process of seeking agrement for the new ambassadors
soon. The Senate is expected shortly to confirm 3 remaining
Ambassadorial nominees: Buba Marwa (former military governor
of Lagos state), Kema Chikwe (former Aviation Minister), and
former Senator Polycarp Nwite. All three have already been
cleared by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. (Note:
The posts of Nigerian Permanent Representative to the UN and
Nigerian Ambassador to Washington are vacant at present. End
Note.)

17. (U) On January 2, Chair of the Senate Environment and
Ecology Committee, Grace Bent, informed the committee has
discovered that some state governors diverted funds for
ecological programs into private accounts (allegedly for
public relations and entertainment purposes).

18. (U) On January 1, Senator Adamu Aliero said the
Constitution must be amended before the Senate can ratify the
2006 Green Tree Agreement which ceded the Bakassi Peninsula
to Cameroon. He explained that Bakassi is listed in the 1999
Constitution as one of Nigeria's 774 local government areas.
He emphasized the Senate should move quickly to amend the
Constitution and ratify the agreement, as it is important for
Nigeria to keep its word and uphold existing international
agreements.

ECOWAS
------
19. (U) Preparations are moving forward for the African
Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) -led
logistics and planning training for the ECOWAS Standby Force
(ESF) Headquarters' staff. The training will take place
February 4-22 in Accra, and will involve 30-40 staff from
ECOWAS member states. This exercise is part of ongoing
efforts to stand up the ESF by 2010, and was previously in
danger of cancellation or reduction in scope due to lack of
responsiveness on the part of member states.

HUMAN RIGHTS, LABOR, AND REFUGEES
--------------------------------
20. (U) On January 8, Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa
announced there are currently more than 300 children in
prisons throughout Nigeria and that many of them were born in
the prison system. Aondoakaa said the Ministry of Justice is
currently working to identify the children, and eventually,
release them with their mothers.

21. (U) On January 8, President Yar'Adua inaugurated a
16-member Police Reformation and Transformation committee to
be headed by former IG of Police, M.D. Yusuf. The committee
will examine the current state of the police force and make
recommendations to improve its effectiveness.

22. (U) Following accusations by Amnesty International that
the GON was secretly executing prisoners (Ref A), local press
reported the Kano High Court sentenced three suspected
murderers to death by hanging on January 8.

23. (U) On January 3, Kano state officials reported an

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upsurge in incidents of child rape, recording 54 cases and 60
related arrests. Kano Deputy Police Chief, Suleiman Abba,
said the number of cases reported increased by 70% during the
last half of 2007. It remains unclear whether the increase
is related to a rise in the actual reporting of incidents.

24. (U) As a result of the September 2007 riots at Agodi
Prison in Ibadan (Oyo state) (Ref B), Minister of Interior
Godwin Abbe announced a committee is still investigating the
incident and said another committee would be formed to
monitor the activities of prisoners and prison officials.
Comptroller General of Prisons, Ogundipe Olusola, said closed
circuit television had been installed at 27 prisons to
enhance surveillance and security.

25. (U) President of the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC)
Abdulwahed Omar outlined the NLC's 2008 vision, stating it
will continue to engage "troubled leaders and institutions."
Omar praised the Nigerian judiciary and called for a change
in INEC leadership. He also called on President Yar'Adua to
institute a judicial commission of inquiry into the transfer
of public assets under former President Obasanjo's
administration. The NLC would oppose any attempt to
compromise the EFCC's effectiveness through a merger with the
ICPC and similar agencies, Omar said. He also drew attention
to excessive government perks, allowances and salaries and
entreated the National Assembly to responsibly allocate
resources.

26. (U) Moreover, NLC President Omar called for the GON to
increase the country's productive capacity, protect local
industries from "indiscriminate trade liberalization," and
develop a macro-economic policy roadmap which would include
infrastructure regeneration in order to help meet 2020 goals.
Omar wants the GON to work with the labor sector to maintain
the gasoline price stability agreed upon in June 2007. Omar
also said the NLC would oppose Nigeria's hosting of AFRICOM.

27. (SBU) On January 8, PolOff visited the Oru Refugee Camp
(Ogun state), for which the UNHCR ended its support in June
2006. The camp remains home to over 3,000 Liberian and
Sierra Leonian refugees. Female refugees are alleged to work
as hair stylists while men build bricks in the neighboring
village. (Note: Refugees choosing not to return to their
native lands were expected to integrate into local
communities. End Note.) The refugees remaining at the camp
are reportedly waiting to be moved to one of 25 other
Nigerian states, a move reportedly supported by the GON.

ECONOMIC NEWS
-------------
28. (U) President Yar'Adua has ordered Minister of Finance
Usman to close all illegal accounts held by GON ministries,
departments, and agencies in the Central Bank of Nigeria
(CBN). These accounts include signature bonus funds and
special levies from the Customs, Port Authority, and other
agencies.

29. (U) A total of 600 community banks successfully converted
to microfinance banks (MFBs) by the December 31, 2007
deadline. The CBN had mandated community banks to
recapitalize to a minimum of US$170,000 in equity by the end
of 2007 to be able to operate as MFBs. All 600 banks were
issued final licenses or provisional approvals to operate
alongside 200 previously-licensed MFBs. Nigeria's
microfinance policy was launched in December 2005 to make
financial services accessible to people who would otherwise
have little or no access to them. The CBN plans to continue
processing license applications for new MFBs.

30. (U) Lagos State accounts for half of all funds disbursed
under the Small and Medium Enterprises Equity Investment
Scheme (SEEMIS). The SEEMIS, a voluntary initiative of a
commercial bank trade group, asks banks to set aside 10% of
their Profit After Tax (PAT) for investment in small and
medium enterprises. Since its inception in 1999, over US$311
million has been set aside.

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PETROLEUM
---------
31. (U) The Kaduna and Warri refineries remain off-line
despite President Yar'Adua's pledge to have them operational
by the end of 2007. The Nigerian National Petroleum
Corporation (NNPC) blames vandalism of feed stock pipelines
for the delay. (Comment: Pipeline integrity is a key, and
vexing, problem for returning the refineries to operation.
The GON's plan to hire community-based contractors to perform
repair work will be expensive and will encourage additional
vandalism as local communities realize that breaking a
pipeline is a source of recurring revenue from the NNPC. End
Comment.)

32. (U) A local business daily reports Russia's Gazprom is
seeking to enter the Nigerian sector market. According to
the report, Gazprom officials visited Abuja in mid-December
and made unspecified proposals in the natural gas sector. It
may also seek a role in the GON's plan to attract third party
financing in its joint ventures with international oil
companies. Local natural gas industry contacts claim they
were caught be surprise by the the news of Gazprom's interest
and remain skeptical about the veracity of the report,
questioning what competitive advantage Gazprom would bring to
operating in Nigeria.

33. (SBU) Shell's Forcados oil field has reportedly increased
production to 100,000 bpd. A senior Shell contact confirmed
the increase, and while he couldn't confirm the exact
production figure, he said 100,000 bpd sounded, "about
right". However, exports from the associated Forcados oil
terminal were cut off on January 11 after waste water and
export pipelines were sabotaged. Shell has not given an
estimated repair date.
PIASCIK

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