Cablegate: Nigeria: Scenesetter for Codel Berman (June 2008)

DE RUEHUJA #1227/01 1761506
P 241506Z JUN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) U.S. Mission Nigeria warmly welcomes Congressman
Howard Berman and his Congressional delegation to Abuja.
Your visit comes just after President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has
completed his first year in office. Though the President
came to power through deeply flawed elections in April 2007,
he has been praised by many Nigerians and the international
community for his pledges to reform Nigeria's political
system, improve the economy, and instill a culture of respect
for the rule of law. However, after one year of his
administration, observers are growing restless to see
Yar'Adua's positive rhetoric translate into tangible results.
A May 2008 opinion poll indicated that President Yar'Adua's
popularity dropped to approximately 48% from its high of over
70% in September 2007. The Yar'Adua government inherited
many serious challenges. Decades of unaccountable rule
suppressed Nigeria's democratic institutions, eroded health
and education infrastructure, failed to combat HIV/AIDS, and
impoverished the population. Revenues from crude oil,
virtually the country's only meaningful export, amount to
just a dollar a day for each of Nigeria's 145 million people,
and most of this has disappeared into the hands of a very
small, corrupt elite. An ongoing crisis in electricity
generation and delivery has crippled the relatively tiny
manufacturing sector. Despite successful macroeconomic
reforms in recent years, most Nigerians live in poverty.
Stability and security in the North (where most of Nigeria's
estimated 70 million Muslims live) and the oil and
gas-producing Niger Delta region are challenged by poor
governance, corruption, and communal conflict. The people of
Nigeria are starting to lose patience, and the Yar'Adua
administration is under significant pressure to make needed
reforms soon.

Politics of the Moment
2. (SBU) Nigeria had its third consecutive general election
in April 2007, and in May 2007 President Yar'Adua of the
ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) assumed office.
Despite major flaws in the April 2007 elections, the
transition from Olusegun Obasanjo to Umaru Yar'Adua was the
first successful civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in
Nigeria's history: a noteworthy achievement. However, most
independent foreign and domestic observers agreed that the
election which brought Yar'Adua to power was deeply flawed.
Two opposition candidates filed challenges to the outcome,
and although President Yar'Adua's election was upheld in
February 2008 by the Presidential Election Tribunal, his
challengers have appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.
It is not certain when the Supreme Court will rule on the
case, though many observers suggest it may be as soon as
August or as late as October 2008. Until the conclusion of
the electoral challenge, President Yar'Adua's tenure in
office is not truly secure, and this may be affecting his
government's performance.

3. (SBU) The President himself has admitted that his election
was flawed, and in August 2007 he established a 22-member
Electoral Reform Commission (ERC) which is charged with
making recommendations to improve future elections in
Nigeria. The USG as well as several other donor partners
have helped fund technical assistance workshops for the ERC.
The ERC was somewhat quiet during its first six months, but
has become more visible during the past two months as it
conducts a series of public hearings around the country. The
ERC is expected to present its findings in August 2008.
However, many observers believe that even if the President is
genuinely committed to electoral reform, he will not take any
significant actions on that front until the challenge to his
own election has concluded and his tenure is secured.

3. (SBU) President Yar'Adua is reportedly planning to
reshuffle his cabinet soon. Several key presidential
advisors resigned or retired recently, most of whom were
holdovers from the Obasanjo administration. It is not clear

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when the cabinet changes will be announced. It is possible
that this too is on hold until after the Supreme Court rules
on the validity of the presidential election.

4. (U) Both the National Assembly and the courts have enjoyed
greater freedom from executive interference under Yar'Adua
than his predecessor. The National Assembly has used this
freedom to hold hearings on areas of concern, including
suspicious sales of land by the government in the Federal
Capital Territory (FCT) and lack of improvement in the power
supply despite the previous government's allocation of
billions of dollars for power projects. The National
Assembly seems to be taking its oversight role more
seriously, though the institution is still quite weak in
comparison to the executive branch. The Assembly is very
interested in building relationships with the U.S. Congress
as it looks to develop institutional capacity. The Nigerian
judiciary has been lauded by the public for its increasing
independence. Courageous judges have overturned six
gubernatorial elections and dozens of National Assembly
seats. However, some cases are still before the courts, and
there are some credible allegations of bribery of certain
judges; in addition, all of Nigeria's criminal courts are
seriously backlogged.

5. (SBU) Part of President Yar'Adua's pledge to instill
respect for the rule of law is continuing Nigeria's
anti-corruption efforts, which are most visibly led by the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Though many
observers were pleased that the EFCC seemed invigorated in
the early days of the new administration, bringing charges
against six former governors and investigating many other
governors and high-ranking former public officials, progress
has slowed since early 2008. The government removed the
internationally recognized head of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, in
late December 2007. Since then, ongoing cases seem to have
stalled. The President appointed a new EFCC Chairwoman,
Farida Waziri, in May 2008, and we look forward to seeing how
the agency performs under her leadership. However, some
observers have expressed concerns about possible conflicts of
interest because Mrs. Waziri is reportedly close to some of
the accused governors currently under EFCC investigation.

Nigeria's Role on the World Stage
6. (U) Nigeria is a major contributor to African
peacekeeping initiatives. It currently has troops in Darfur
and has pledged to send a battalion to Somalia. You may wish
to offer condolences to government officials, as Nigeria lost
46 soldiers from one of its Darfur peacekeeping battalions in
a road accident (while the soldiers were back in Nigeria and
en route to their home base) in May 2008. Nigeria is the
major player in the Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS), and the headquarters of the regional organization
is in Abuja. Nigeria has the largest population in Africa
(reportedly 145 million) and rightly sees itself as a leader
not only in the continent but in world affairs. Nigeria has
campaigned for United Nations reform and believes it deserves
a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. President
Yar'Adua had a very successful visit to Washington in
December 2007, which included a White House meeting with
President Bush. He visited France and South Africa in June
2008. Both President Yar'Adua and Foreign Minister Maduekwe
will be in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for an African Union Summit
meeting during your delegation's visit to Abuja, but we
expect that you will be able to meet with the Vice President,
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Both the President and the Foreign
Minister have made public statements in June 2008 calling for
free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. Under direction from
Yar'Adua, the Foreign Minister has been in regular touch with
his counterparts on encouraging the GOZ to do the right thing
on elections. Former Nigerian Head of State General Yakubu
Gowon is scheduled to lead a 30-member ECOWAS delegation to
observe Zimbabwe's June 27th run-off poll. (Note: Given the
June 22 announcement that the opposition has pulled out of
the Zimbabwean election, it is unclear whether the ECOWAS
observer delegation will still proceed to Zimbabwe. End

ABUJA 00001227 003 OF 005

Niger Delta
7. (SBU) For several years, criminal gangs and militant
groups have attacked individuals and property in the volatile
Niger Delta region. Upon assuming office, President Yar'Adua
pledged to make resolving the Niger Delta crisis a top
priority. He acknowledged the need for greater security,
infrastructure development, and job creation in the
oil-producing region and pledged to hold a Niger Delta summit
early in his administration. One year later, that summit has
not yet happened, though plans are underway for a
"Consultative Steering Committee" to begin discussions on the
Niger Delta to be led by Ibrahim Gambari, a Nigerian citizen
who is scheduled to be on leave of absence from his position
as UN Undersecretary General for this purpose. However, many
Niger Delta stakeholders have decried Gambari's upcoming
role. This Committee may begin to meet in July or August
2008. In the mean time, attacks by criminals or militants
(some of whom claim to be part of an amorphous umbrella group
called MEND - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger
Delta) on pipelines, oil platforms, and other infrastructure
as well as kidnappings of both Nigerians and expatriates
continue to disrupt oil production. On June 19, a group of
militants attacked Shell's Bonga field 75 miles offshore of
Bayelsa state. The attack shut-in the field's production
(approximately 200,000 barrels per day); in a related
incident, the same group kidnapped an American citizen.
(Note: The American was released by his captors the next day.
End Note.) Another group of suspected militants blew up an
oil pipeline near Chevron's Escravos terminal on June 21,
temporarily halting 120,000 barrels per day of production.
Reports are that Nigeria is losing approximately USD 84
million per day on shut-in oil production. On June 23, a
spokesman claiming to represent the fractious MEND sent a
message to the press claiming it is ready to begin a
"unilateral cease fire" until further notice. (Note: MEND is
a term used loosely by a number of factional groups with both
political and criminal elements. End note.) The initial
patience shown by various militants to the new
administration in their first months in office is definitely
wearing thin.

The Economy/Global Food Crisis
8. (SBU) The Yar'Adua administration inherited solid
macroeconomic figures and over the last 12 months those
figures have stayed steady. According to the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), Nigeria's real GDP growth was 6% in
2006, and 6.3% in 2007, with 9% forecast for 2008. Inflation
remains in the (high) single digits (about 9.4%) and fiscal
restraint has been maintained in the 2008 budget. Despite the
strong macroeconomic figures, the trade regime and investment
climate have not improved. Nigeria has failed to uphold its
commitments to the World Trade Organization and continues to
have high tariffs and bans on a number of imports, including
agricultural products and packaging materials. Job creation
and new investment are still hampered by infrastructure
problems, legal barriers to market access, high interest
rates and lack of investor confidence in the rule of law.

9. (U) Though there have not yet been major food shortages in
Nigeria, prices for staples such as rice, maize, and millet
have doubled since December 2007. High world prices for
commodities are compounded by shrinking production in Nigeria
due to lack of fertilizer and trade policies that either ban
outright the import of staple food items or impose high
import tariffs on agricultural products. However, in May
2008 the GON agreed to lift the duty on imported rice for a
six month period and released funds for the purchase of
500,000 metric tons of rice. As expected, this has improved
supply and at lQt temporarily reduced rice prices in the

PEPFAR Nigeria
10. (U) Nigeria is the third-largest focus country for the
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

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PEPFAR/Nigeria is jointly managed by USAID, CDC, and DOD and
the program is implemented by over 40 prime partners. In
2008, PEPFAR/Nigeria is receiving $450 million to increase
access to anti-retroviral therapy, prevention activities, and
HIV-related care throughout the country. As of April 2008,
USG-funded implementing partners are providing treatment to
150,000 Nigerians. Over the last 5 years, more than 2.5
million Nigerians have received HIV counseling and testing
services from PEPFAR-supported programs. The PEPFAR/Nigeria
team has put significant effort into building the capacity of
local NGOs and we are proud to have 10 Nigerian NGOs among
our 40 prime partners. We and our partners work in close
collaboration with the GON to implement PEPFAR and on the
upcoming submission of the country's Global Fund Round 8

11. (U) Nigeria's large population and ethnic diversity have
posed challenges to the PEPFAR program since the
characteristics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic can vary
substantially by region. In collaboration with the GON we
have worked to define Nigeria's epidemic more clearly with
research and surveillance activities, such as the 2007
Integrated Bio-Behavior Surveillance Survey and the Antenatal
Clinic Surveillance project, to better target our HIV
programming. Thus far, PEPFAR/Nigeria's reach has been
limited and we recognize the need to leverage resources from
the GON and other donors to achieve the GON's goal of
universal access to prevention, care, and treatment services.
In 2009, we hope to receive approval from the Office of the
Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) in the Department of State to
begin dialogue with our GON counterparts concerning the
development of a compact to facilitate the continued growth
of joint programs through the commitment of GON funds.

Other Foreign Assistance
Priorities and Activities
12. (U) The U.S. foreign assistance program in Nigeria is
crafted to meet the strategic goals of accountable
governance, economic growth and prosperity, a healthy and
well-educated population, and peace and security through best
practices development programs that enhance the image of the
United States. To establish firmer foundations for
democratic governance in Nigeria, the USG promotes
partnerships between state and local governments and civil
society to improve public expenditure management, public
procurement, and service delivery at the local level;
strengthen legislative institutions and build their capacity
to combat corruption; support the Electoral Reform Committee
to consult with Nigerian stakeholders and draft electoral
reform legislation; and increase the capacity of civil
society organizations and the media to press for targeted
policy reforms, focusing on extractive industries and
anti-corruption. To grow the economy and build livelihoods,
the USG program promotes Intellectual Property Rights and
strengthens the international framework that supports trade
and investment. We expand the pool of credit and investment
open to individuals and small enterprises; improve the policy
environment for agriculture; increase market-driven
agricultural productivity and rural incomes to reduce
dependence on food imports; and support policy reforms to
ensure that constraints affecting micro and small enterprise
operations and competitiveness are eased.

13. (U) Given the high child mortality rates, soaring
population, and poor educational quality, assisting Nigeria
to improve the lives of its people is central to the USG
program. Tuberculosis and malaria prevention and treatment,
routine immunization against childhood illnesses, including
polio, and increased access to maternal and newborn health
interventions help reduce the annual burden of a million or
more preventable young child deaths. (Note: Nigeria is one
of only four remaining countries with endemic polio, and this
is of particular concern because Nigeria's rate of infection
is growing, many transmissions are of the more virulent "type
1" strain, and Nigeria is exporting cases to other African
countries. President Yar'Adua and many other political and
traditional leaders are aware of the problems with polio

ABUJA 00001227 005 OF 005

eradication and are engaged on the issue. In addition to our
support for vaccination programs, the USG continues to engage
the government and traditional leaders to encourage Nigeria's
polio eradication efforts. End note.) USG programs expand
access to quality voluntary family planning services to
reduce population growth. USG assistance improves the
quality of basic education by training teachers, providing
instructional materials, and engaging community institutions
such as parent-teacher associations. We also address poor
enrollment and attendance rates for girls in Northern
Nigeria, and support the integration of secular subjects into
the curriculum of Qur'anic schools.

14. (U) Nigeria plays a significant role in African regional
affairs through its leadership in the African Union, ECOWAS,
and other regional efforts. USG investments in peace and
security help Nigeria sustain oil production, conduct
peacekeeping operations, and deal with potential and actual
threats from terrorism, narcotics, and money laundering
activities. Conflict mitigation and reconciliation
activities target vulnerable youth and provide for interfaith
mediation, focusing on the volatile Northern and Niger Delta
regions of the country.

15. (U) Partnership and collaboration with the GON, the
private sector, civil society, and the donor community is a
cornerstone of the USG approach. We will sign Memoranda of
Understanding with reform-minded states and will focus
development interventions primarily in those states,
integrating our efforts and our strategic approach with those
of the World Bank and the UK's Department for International
Development. Over the next five years, we expect to leverage
both private sector resources and host country contributions
to achieve our foreign assistance objectives in Nigeria.

© Scoop Media

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