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Cablegate: Nigeria: Pol/Econ Updates for Feb 15-29, 2008

VZCZCXYZ7943
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUJA #0408/01 0630959
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 030959Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2235
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0192
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 8854
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS ABUJA 000408

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, INR/AA
STATE PASS TO USTR-AGAMA
DOE FOR GPERSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON PHUM EPET ETRD KDEM ELAB KIRF NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: POL/ECON UPDATES FOR FEB 15-29, 2008

REF: A. ABUJA
B. LAGOS 70

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

1. (U) Following is a joint Embassy Abuja-ConGen Lagos
compilation of February 15-29, 2008 political/economic
highlights, which did not feature in our other reporting,
covering:
-- Elections: Tribunals, Reforms, Party Politics
-- Niger Delta
-- Human Rights, Labor, TIP
-- Economic News
-- Oil and Gas

---------------------------------------------
ELECTIONS: TRIBUNALS, REFORMS, PARTY POLITICS
---------------------------------------------
2. (U) Adamawa: On February 26 the Court of Appeals upheld
the decision of the Adamawa election tribunal and nullified
the election of Governor Nyako (PDP). The appellate court
ordered Nyako to vacate office; the Speaker of the State
House of Assembly has been sworn in as acting governor
pending a fresh election, now scheduled for April 12.

3. (SBU) Katsina: Although President Yar'Adua prevailed at
his own tribunal February 26, his son-in-law Badamasi Kabir,
who is a member of the House of Representatives, was not so
lucky. The election of Representative Kabir (PDP, Katsina)
was annulled February 27 by the Katsina election tribunal on
grounds that the election had not been carried out in
substantial compliance with the electoral act (another
Yar'Adua son-in-law had his election as Kebbi governor
annulled last October). However, Kabir told Polspecialist
that, in addition to exercising his right to appeal the
verdict, there were behind the scenes moves underway to
strike a "compromise" between him and the petitioners.

4. (U) After first winning at their state election tribunals,
Governors Mamman Ali (ANPP) of Yobe State and David Jang
(PDP) of Plateau State also had their elections upheld by the
Court of Appeals February 26. (Note: Gov. Ali still faces a
legal challenge from Al-Bishir, another ANPP governorship
aspirant who claims he rightfully won the party's nomination.
Al-Bishir has lost his case in lower courts, but has vowed
to appeal to the Supreme Court.)

5. (U) Benue: The ruling PDP has had a difficult time at the
state's Election Tribunal. The elections of all three of
Benue's Senators have now been overturned, including that of
Senate President David Mark (ref A) and five members of the
House of Representatives and many members of the Benue State
House of Assembly, including the Speaker, have also lost at
tribunal. The nullifications of the elections of all these
PDP officials were made on grounds of irregularities in the
April 2007 elections, but in each case the legislators have
appealed the verdicts.

6. (U) Akwa Ibom: The Court of Appeal on February 18 upheld
the state Election Tribunal's ruling in favor of the sitting
governor of Akwa Ibom state, Godswill Akpabio (PDP). The
Election Tribunal rejected the All Nigeria People's Party
(ANPP) petition on the grounds that the application was
incomplete and not signed by all petitioners.

7. (U) The Osun State Election Tribunal rejected Action
Congress (AC) governorship candidate Rauf Aregbesola's
request to call a forensic expert as one of his witnesses.
The tribunal held that the candidate's lawyer had not offered
the expert, who had reviewed the election materials, at the
time the materials were submitted to the tribunal by Governor
Oyinlola and INEC, nor did the candidate inform the court
during pre-trial motions of his intent to call the witness.
(Note: The Ekiti tribunal did allow the testimony of a
forensic expert. End note)

8. (U) An Oyo State High Court judge asked to be removed from
a 2006 case in which Oyo State godfather Lamidi Adedibu (PDP)
is alleged to have hired thugs to intimidate witnesses during
the impeachment proceedings against former governor Rashidi
Ladoja. The judge claimed that, because his brother is a
member of the PDP, he would not be able to remain objective
in judging the case.

9. (U) The same Lamidi Adedibu was selected as a delegate for
the upcoming People's Democratic Party convention by the
Ibadan South-West local council of the party. Parallel
congresses were held in Ibadan by the Adedibu faction and a
faction opposed to Adedibu's control of the party. Each
congress produced its own slate of candidates.

10. (U) A federal appeals court on February 19 set aside the
verdict of the Anambra State Election Tribunal which ruled in
favor of a petition filed by nine opposition candidates in
the matter of the election of former presidential advisor
Andy Uba (PDP) as governor. The court ruled that the
tribunal exceeded its authority by nullifying both the
election and inauguration of Uba on the basis of the Supreme
Court decision reinstating Governor Peter Obi. The appeals
court stated that the tribunal should have ruled on the
merits of the petition, then declare that their own ruling
had been overtaken by the Supreme Court ruling. The judgment
has set the stage for Uba's claim that he should take up the
position of Governor when Obi's tenure ends in March 2010.

-----------
NIGER DELTA
-----------
11. (U) Broadcast stations reported on February 27 the
kidnapping of the wife and children of an Elf-Total manager
in Port Harcourt. They were reportedly kidnapped while
departing church; the abductors are demanding naira 80
million ($700,000). The nationalities of the kidnap victims
are unknown.

12. (SBU) The Special Assistant to former Rivers Governor
Peter Odili was reportedly kidnapped on February 24. He was
abducted outside his church in Port Harcourt, Rivers,
according to security sources. Press reports suggest his
kidnappers demanded naira 50 million ($425,000) for his
release.

13. (SBU) Security sources claim an AGIP manager kidnapped
outside his residence in Port Harcourt on February 20 was
released the following day.

14. (U) The release of Mrs. Lulu-Briggs, wife of a PDP
chieftain and business mogul, on February 7 was immediately
followed by the kidnapping of Professor Anah, former Provost
of the College of Health and Sciences, University of Port
Harcourt, in Rivers State.

15. (SBU) Comment: These kidnappings remind us of the rampant
criminality in Rivers State and, despite Governor Amaechi's
purported efforts to improve security (ref B), unrest
continues. However, the frequency and number of these
kidnappings may bring pressure to bear on the Governor. End
Comment.

---------------------------------
HUMAN RIGHTS, LABOR, AND REFUGEES
---------------------------------
16. (U) According to media reports, between 15 and 50 people
may have been killed by policemen in Adavi Local Government
Area, Kogi State between Feb. 24 and Feb. 27. The violence
reportedly started Feb. 24 when during an industrial dispute
"local hoodlums" attacked the police, killing two officers,
injuring three others, and abducting a police corporal. The
police combed the area on Feb. 25 to search for their
abducted colleague, but they reportedly also committed
reprisal attacks on the local community, burning houses and
vehicles and allegedly killing members of the community.

17. (U) In a report released February 25, Amnesty
International called Nigeria's prisons a "national scandal."
The human rights group explained that only 35% of Nigerian
inmates have been convicted in court and that many prisoners
wait decades to face trial. Poor prison conditions and
severe overcrowding exacerbate the situation. Amnesty says
that there are about 700 prisoners on death row in Nigeria,
some of whom were convicted by the Sharia courts. More than
200 of the death row inmates have been awaiting death for
over ten years.

18. (SBU) The head of the Islamic Network for Development
(IND), Lai Olurode, told Poloffs that his group seeks to
empower women, provide microfinance opportunities, and boost
employment and community well-being throughout the Southwest.
IND offers assistance and works through local NGOs helping
IND secure the communities' trust in their activities.
Olurode has worked with NGOs to improve employment options
through cottage industries.

19. (SBU) Olurode warned religious inequality could be a
problem for Nigeria, especially as it relates to access to
education and employment. He claims he knows of a Muslim
doctor refused a job (after having been approved on paper)
because she showed up to work veiled. Olurode thought
inter-religious issues, especially at private universities,
could "explode."

-------------
ECONOMIC NEWS
-------------
20. (U) A Chinese shipping company has expressed interest in
building a $12 billion seaport at the Olokola free trade zone
between Ondo and Ogun states. Chinese Oversea Shipping
Company (COSCO) is to build the port on a Build Own Operate
and Transfer (BOOT) basis with a 40 year lease. A Memorandum
of Understanding (MoU) between the two states and a
consortium of the African Finance Corporation and Western
Metal Product Company was signed in Hong Kong in December
2007. If the project proceeds, it would be one of the
largest port and trade investments in western Africa.

21. (U) Minister of Health, Prof. Adenike Grange, said
Nigeria has an alarming rate of 800 to 1500 maternal deaths
per 100,000 live births as well as neonatal deaths of 48 to
1000. She stated that lives of many children could be saved
each year if they were reached by preventive and curative
interventions. The Minister noted that it is important to
focus on the importance of girl-child education to reduce
maternal and neonatal deaths and to ensure optimal health for
mothers and newborns. She added that a comprehensive
home-grown mother and child care incentive must be
articulated and driven by public-private partnership.

22. (U) The Lagos State government has withdrawn a 2.7
trillion naira (approximately $23 billion) lawsuit against
six tobacco companies, filed to recoup costs associated with
treating tobacco-related illnesses. Defendants included
Phillip Morris and British American Tobacco. The suit was
claiming costs for 40 years' worth of "injuries and losses
resulting from the defendants' negligence or breach of duty."
Several of the companies named still face federal level
suits, as well as suits in two other states.

---------
PETROLEUM
---------
23. (U) The Senate Committee on Petroleum asked that an
arrest warrant be issued for the Group Managing Director of
the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Engineer Abubakar
Yar,Adua (no relation to the President) for allegedly
frustrating the committee in carrying out its oversight
functions. Chairman of the committee, Senator Lee Ledogo
Maeba, in a letter to the Inspector General of Police Mike
Okiro, requested that the IG compel Yar,Adua to appear
before the committee.

24. (SBU) The truck drivers strike against contractors
employed by Chevron Oil Nigeria continues. Chevron reports
that 244 of its 360 retail gas stations are without fuel.
The company is trying to find a work around to resume
deliveries. The strike began after Chevron suspended a
trucking contractor for unsafe practices. Almost all of
Chevron's refined supplies are trucked across the country
from its import terminal in Lagos.
SANDERS

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