Cablegate: Nigeria: Pol/Econ Updates for January 16-31, 2008

DE RUEHUJA #0217/01 0350930
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E.O. 12958: N/A

B. ABUJA 119
C. 07 LAGOS 780


1. (U) Following is a joint Embassy Abuja-ConGen Lagos
compilation of January 16-31, 2008 political/economic
highlights, which did not feature in our other reporting,
-- Elections: Tribunals, Reforms, Party Politics
-- Corruption
-- Niger Delta
-- Military Affairs
-- National Assembly
-- Human Rights, Labor, TIP
-- Economic News
-- Petroleum

Elections: Tribunals, Reforms, Party Politics
2. (U) At the Presidential Election Tribunal, Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chair Maurice Iwu
submitted written responses to 27 questions from Atiku
Abubakar's lawyers on January 30. Among his responses, Iwu
declared INEC had spent USD 70 million to print ballot papers
for the April 21 elections. Iwu denied claims INEC
contracted the printing to a South African firm, instead
saying a Nigerian company printed an adequate supply of
ballots in-country. Iwu also provided a cost and delivery
breakdown for the ballot papers according to the date and
location of individual elections, and claimed the Supreme
Court's late ruling on Abubakar's eligibility prevented the
ballot papers from having serial numbers. (Note: Should
Abubakar's lawyers find Iwu's responses unsatisfactory, they
have the right to ask the Tribunal to order Iwu to provide
additional information. The Tribunal adjourned to February
4, at which time a date for final judgment on the
Atiku/Buhari consolidated petition will be set. End Note.)
(See Ref A)

3. (U) The Supreme Court on January 29 struck out Andy Uba's
(PDP) suit seeking to reverse the Supreme Court's June 2007
decision to annul the April 2007 gubernatorial election
results in Anambra state and reinstate Peter Obi (of the All
Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA) as governor. Punch
newspaper reported the Supreme Court reproached adjoining
petitioner, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo (of the Nigeria Advance
Party), for continuing with his suit after he alleged Obi,s
lawyer had offered him a USD 85,000 bribe to drop his case.
(Note: Chris Ngige (PDP) was sworn-in as governor of Anambra
in 2003; however, the courts overturned Ngige's victory in
March 2006 and declared Peter Obi (APGA) governor. The
gubernatorial elections on April 14, 2007 brought Andy Uba
(PDP) to power. On June 14, 2007, the Supreme Court canceled
the April election results, on the grounds that no election
should have been held as Obi was legally entitled to a 4-year
tenure, despite his late installation in office. Obi,s
tenure expires March 2010. End Note.)

4. (U) Nigerian press report on January 18 the Electoral
Reform Panel, chaired by former Chief Justice Mohammed Uwais,
is set to receive USD 6 million to "execute its activities."
Uwais announced the Panel would begin public hearings in the
next three months to take stock of private citizens, views
across Nigeria on electoral reform (presumably following the
Presidential Election Tribunal's judgment on the Atiku/Buhari
case, which may be around mid-March). So far, the Panel has
received 200 memoranda and reached out to 30 of the nation's
50 political parties for recommendations on electoral reform.
Meanwhile, the GON has separately established four
sub-committees to be coordinated by Vice President Jonathan
to address issues related to elections conduct (See Ref B).

5. (U) The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the People's

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Democratic Party (PDP) fixed March 8 as the date for the
ruling party's national convention. Former President
Obasanjo retains his position as the Chair of the party's
Board of Trustees, despite attempts by the so-called "G-21"
to change the party's constitution and potentially remove
him. The G-21 is a newly formed pressure group that has
emerged within the PDP. Some of the G-21 members have ties
to the so-called Integrity Group in the National Assembly and
others are known opponents of the former President. Former
Senate President Ken Nnamani and former House Speaker Aminu
Bello-Masari are reportedly key figures in the G-21 group.
6. (U) Former governor (PDP) of Edo state, Lucky Igbinedion,
returned to Nigeria on January 20 and presented himself to
the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Lagos
State, following 147 counts of stealing public funds, money
laundering, and corruption brought against him by the EFCC,
according to press reports. Once in custody, the EFCC took
Igbinedion to the Enugu Federal High Court which will preside
over his case. Nigerian press reports the EFCC has lined up
23 witnesses to testify against Igbinedion.

7. (U) The Port Harcourt Federal High Court will render its
verdict on March 3 in former Rivers governor Peter Odili's
(PDP, 1999-2007) case seeking to inhibit the EFCC from
investigating him for corruption. As well, This Day
newspaper reports on January 28 a traditional leader in the
Niger Delta accused Odili of hiring Delta militant Tom Ateke
to rig the 1999 gubernatorial election, which brought Odili
to power.

8. (U) According to numerous press reports, scandals continue
to plague the family of former President Obasanjo. His son
Gbenga, who is in the process of a messy divorce, alleged in
court documents that the former president slept with Gbenga's
wife, and in exchange granted her lucrative government
contracts. The former Chief Executive of the Petroleum
Technology Development Fund also alleged recently that the
former president did not comply with due process in running
the agency.

9. (SBU) On January 28, President Yar'Adua approved the
appointment of Professor Assisi Asobie as Chairman of the
National Stakeholder Working Group (NSWG) of the Nigerian
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). The
fourteen members of the NSWG were also announced, who include
Mr. Basil Omiyi (Shell Vice Chairman), Mr. Peter Esele
(Chairman of Nigerian petroleum workers union PENGASSAN), and
Engr. Abubakar Yar'Adua (GMD of the Nigerian National
Petroleum Corporation, no relation to the president).
Comment: Embassy officers have heard good things about
Asobie. The NEITI international support group, of which Team
Nigeria is a key component, expects to meet with Asobie and
his team in the coming weeks to discuss a strategy going
forward. End Comment.

10. (SBU) Gunshots were heard near Borokiri, Rivers State, on
January 29 around 0100 hours. Criminals/militants stole boat
engine parts and departed the scene while shooting at the
military Joint Task Force (JTF), according to security
sources. One civilian was reportedly shot in the arm.

11. (U) According to press reports, the leader of the Izon
Patriotic Front (IPF) threatened legal action against the
Bayelsa State Government for dumping waste. The government
was purportedly dumping human and other waste along the
Tombia-Amassoma road leading to the Niger Delta University.

12. (U) On January 18, at least ten people were killed in
clashes between rival ethnic groups over land ownership in
the Bakassi Peninsula. According to press reports, thousands
of people have been wounded and hundreds displaced in past

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decades, with locally-made weapons being used to enforce
competing claims to land.

13. (U) On January 22, the Senate passed a bill raising
salaries for the President, Vice President, Chief Justice,
and other public office holders by an average of 150%. The
President's official annual salary increased from USD 11,914
to USD 29,786. There has been subsequent outcry in the press
over the salary increases with commentary on funds being
better used for education and development.

14. (U) A disagreement surfaced January 22 between Senate
President David Mark and members of the Appropriations
Committee over the deadline for passage of the 2008
Appropriations Bill. Senators argued that due to the late
arrival of the revenue profile from the Ministry of Finance
they would have to begin the budgetary process again using
the updated and significantly different revenue projections.

15. (U) The Senate Committee on Public Accounts has decided
to invite the past heads of various federal ministries,
departments and agencies to explain how over USD 500 million
in taxes collected between 1999 and 2004 was never remitted
to federal coffers. Senators have suggested the revenue was
diverted for personal use by past officials, and the Federal
Inland Revenue Service has forwarded information to the EFCC
for investigation.

16. (U) On January 22, the Senate directed its Committee on
INEC to ascertain INEC's preparedness and ability to monitor
the redistricting of electoral wards and constituencies,
which must happen at least once every 10 years per the 1999
constitution. Concern was expressed by the Chairman of the
Committee on Public Accounts, who commented "we need to know
that any ward created was not just because somebody is in
INEC, but because it is justified."

17. (U) Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Jibril Aminu
angered some Senate colleagues, who have subsequently called
for his removal as chairman, by refusing to confirm the
ambassadorial appointments of former Lagos governor Buba
Marwa and former senator Polycarp Nwite due to both nominees'
unfavorable security reports.

18. (U) The Senate referred the Freedom of Information Bill
to its Committee on Information and Media with the directive
that the bill be given special attention. Senate President
David Mark said that the National Assembly is ready to pass
the legislation to encourage transparency and reduce
corruption. (Note: The Bill was passed by both the Senate
and House and sent to former President Obasanjo in March 2007
for approval; however, no action was taken before his
departure from office in May 2007. End Note.)

Military Affairs
19. (U) North Korean Ambassador to Nigeria Ri Chan Ho
announced January 30 Nigeria and North Korea are seeking to
create a military pact that will enhance both countries'
ability to project power globally. While details of said
pact were not revealed, Ri said North Korea could help
Nigeria with barracks improvement and boat building.

20. (U) On January 20, the GON announced a 15% salary
increase for all members of the Armed Forces. The pay hike
comes in the face of unrest in the barracks over a January
2007 salary increase that has not been consistently paid out
over the course of the year. Discontent has been so great
that, per the January 21 edition of This Day newspaper, the
general officer sent to speak to soldiers in both Abuja and
Lagos "on both occasions had to be smuggled out to safety."

21. (SBU) In a private meeting with PolOff, a special

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assistant to Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe revealed the MFA
is starting to do outreach to civil society groups on the
benefits of Nigerian co-operation with AfriCom. In addition,
on January 18, FM Maduekwe was quoted as saying "greater
realism and mature diplomacy dictated the GON's action to
partner with the U.S. (on AfriCom)," in response to a group
of former Nigerian ambassadors' calling for the rejection of
working with the new command.

22. (U) The Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) has joined other
civil society groups in praising the "progressive rulings" of
the election tribunals and called on the National Assembly to
remove INEC Chair Maurice Iwu. In a communique released at
the end of its meeting held January 24 in Yenagoa, (Bayelsa
state), the NLC said it would soon spearhead a "national
campaign for the removal or resignation of the INEC
23. (U) According to Senator Chris Anyanwu, a Sexual Offences
Bill is slated for presentation before the Senate. The bill
focuses on prohibiting child pornography, incest, child
prostitution, indecent exposure, and sexual harassment as
well as implementing stiffer punishment for such crimes as
rape to act as a deterrent. The bill would also criminalize
the deliberate transmission of HIV or any other life
threatening sexually transmitted disease.

24. (U) Despite criticism from the Civil Liberties
Organization (CLO) and the Women Unity Forum, Chairman of the
Senate Committee on Women and Youth, Senator Eme Ekaette,
will soon present a bill to the Upper House that would outlaw
indecent dressing. The CLO cited that possible harassment of
women by police could result if this bill passes.

25. (U) Security agents in Uyo (Akwa Ibom state), arrested
Sam Asowata, the chairman of the editorial board of Fresh
Facts, a weekly newspaper, along with Mr. Asowata's daughter,
and Essien Asuquo Owoh, a distributor of the newspaper. Owo
was charged with "conspiracy to distribute copies of Fresh
Facts newspaper with the intent to bring hatred or contempt
to the governor of the state." The newspaper was allegedly
prepared to publish a story titled "Corruption: Akpabio in N5
Billion Housing Scam," which accuses Akwa Ibom Governor
Godswill Akpabio of involvement. All three were released
several days later without a trial date announced. (Note:
This is not the first time Governor Akpabio has been accused
of using intimidation against the press. In June 2007,
security agents raided the offices of the weekly magazine
Events and seized 5,000 copies of an issue that accused
Akpabio of involvement with illegal business transactions.
In October 2007, the SSS arrested the editor of Events and
held him in detention for three weeks on charges of sedition.
End Note.)

26. (U) On January 17, police arrested four men for allegedly
trafficking 105 boys, aged five to 15 years old, from Kuru
village south of Kano to Suleja (Niger state). The police
discovered the children when they stopped the vehicle at a
checkpoint. The four accused said they were transporting the
children to a school in Suleja to study the Koran. Head of
the NAPTIP zonal office in Kano, Ahmed Mohamed Bello, said
the parents sent their children away with the belief that
they would receive an education and a better life; and did
not realize the children would most likely become street
beggars or forced into domestic labor. All 105 children have
been returned to their families.

27. (SBU) Post has approved Avian Influenza Tripwires and
Response Plan that will now be included in the Crisis and
Emergency Planning Application (CEPA). The new tripwires had
to take into consideration the one confirmed case from last
year as well as entering the high season of outbreaks.

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28. (U) Dr. Newton Jibunoh a 70 year old Nigerian and retired
CEO/Chairman of Costain/West Africa, international
engineering and construction firm, will be leading an
expedition across the Sahara to raise awareness of the
effects desertification, drought, climate change, and
environmental degradation in Africa. The expedition is
scheduled to depart from Lagos on 24 February and last 60
days. His expedition will be documenting and broadcasting
the trip. Dr. Jibunoh, his publicist and publisher have been
accepted into the Voluntary Visitors Program and plan on
traveling to the United States shortly after their trip to
share their experience.

29. (SBU) A senior Chevron executive told the Lagos Consul
General that he "has no idea" when gas from Chevron's western
oilfields will flow into the West African Gas Pipeline
(WAGP). The executive discounted press reports that gas
would begin flowing in January, saying the pipeline may be
technically operational by then, but it "won't have any gas."
The issue remains the integrity of the Escravos to Lagos
Pipeline (ELP) that connects Nigeria's western oilfields with
the WAGP (REF C). According to Chevron, Ascot Offshore
Nigeria Ltd, the contractor working to repair the gas
pipeline, is in financial distress and could face bankruptcy
within days. (Note: Ascot bought the pipeline construction
business from American firm Willbros, when that company
exited the Nigerian market in 2007. End Note.) The executive
was very pessimistic that ELP would ever be a reliable input
into WAGP. He remarked that Chevron had initially wanted to
build an offshore connection from its western oilfields to

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