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Cablegate: Nigeria: Codel Berman Visits House Of

VZCZCXRO9108
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1287/01 1851038
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031038Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3284
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 9533
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001287

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCOR KDEM OREP NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: CODEL BERMAN VISITS HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES

REF: ABUJA 0077 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On June 28, a CODEL, led by House Foreign
Affairs Committee (HFAC) Chairman Howard Berman and the
Ambassador visited the Nigerian National Assembly to meet
with members of the Nigerian House of Representatives.
Discussions included the progress and challenges of electoral
reform, growing concern over the Niger Delta, the removal of
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman Nuhu
Ribadu (ref A), and misperceptions about AFRICOM. The
Nigerian Representatives asked for additional legislative
capacity-building assistance, as well as the opportunity to
be considered for a House Democracy Assistance Commission
(HDAC) program. CODEL addressed continued US concerns over
EFCC, and worries on the need to have more stakeholder input
on Niger Delta. Ambassador pushed back on National Assembly
negativity on AFRICOM. END SUMMARY.

ELECTORAL REFORM
----------------
2. (SBU) In response to HFAC Chairman Berman's inquiry about
electoral reform progress, Representative Habeeb Adekunle
Fasinro, Chairman of the Committee on Electoral Matters, said
the National Assembly is looking carefully at the electoral
laws, which, though created with good intentions, are at
times deficient or impractical. Fasinro praised President
Yar'Adua for creating the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC)
which is to compile a report on the 2007 elections and make
recommendations on reforming the electoral system. However,
Fasinro noted that whatever recommendations the ERC proposes
will ultimately require the National Assembly to enact them
into law. Fasinro also praised the judiciary. He pointed
out that election tribunals have overturned some elections,
upheld others, and ordered new polls in some cases, all of
which, he maintained, should reassure the Nigerian people and
the USG of judicial independence. Fasinro acknowledged that
having so many legislators still in limbo one year after the
election was a challenge. Those still awaiting a verdict are
continuously distracted, making it difficult to get work
done. Fasinro concluded by highlighting the electoral reform
component of the Assembly's Constitutional Review, which he
noted legislators are taking very seriously.

3. (SBU) Minority Whip Olufemi Gbajabiamila, noted that
making the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
truly independent, and with a Chairman who is not beholden to
whomever appoints him, were keys to successful electoral
reform. Fasinro added that the INEC Chair is the first
person who should be "sacked" whenever elections appear
fraudulent, to which Gbajabiamila added that leaving the same
flawed INEC team in charge of the rerun elections is
pointless. Fasinro also highlighted the importance of
internal party democracy, noting that when the process is
ignored or circumvented people leave to create additional
parties; there is even a risk of violence.

NIGER DELTA
-----------
4. (SBU) Rep. George Miller raised the international
community's growing concern over the Niger Delta situation,
noting the worldwide repercussions of the increased
lawlessness and cessation of oil production. In response,
Gbenga Oduwaiye, Chairman of the Nigerian House Committee on
Foreign Affairs, assured the CODEL that the GON is "as
worried" as the USG about the situation. Oduwaiye maintained
that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan's effort to broker a
deal is making progress, and added that the initiative for
the proposed Niger Delta Summit actually started with the
National Assembly. Oduwaiye commended Jonathan for
differentiating between the people who are suffering in the
Delta and the criminals supposedly fighting for the people.
Rep. Ed Royce compared the situation to Chicago in the
1930's, and suggested that in such a situation, the federal
government must step in to restore law and order, eliminate
weapons and strengthening economic growth. Gbajabiamila
agreed with Royce, but countered that the situation in the
Niger Delta is different than that of Chicago, in that the
people in the Delta truly believe they are fighting for a
cause, which is more difficult to suppress. Fasinro added
that high energy prices are an additional concern and claimed

ABUJA 00001287 002 OF 003


that Nigeria is losing approximately 400,000 - 500,000
barrels of crude oil a day due to criminality in the Niger
Delta.

EFCC
----
5. (SBU) Congressman Donald Payne inquired about the GON's
commitment to transparency, sharing his disappointment with
the removal of EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu, who had traveled to
the U.S. to testify before Congress about alleged corruption.
Payne relayed the general perception that Ribadu was removed
just as he was beginning to make progress on reforms and
investigations into corruption. Fasinro replied that the GON
did not handle the situation of Ribadu's removal well with
regard to international and public opinion, but reminded the
CODEL of the importance of supporting institutions rather
than individual leaders, as the USG had done with Ribadu. He
then noted GON sovereignty to put in place whomever the
President appointed, but restated that the Ribadu issue was
badly handled.

AFRICOM
-------
6. (SBU) Umar M. Bature, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on
Defense, shared his opposition to AFRICOM, sharing his
impression that it was the USG's attempt to militarize Africa
in the name of combating terrorism. The Ambassador chimed in
to clear up his misperceptions about AFRICOM, stressing that
it was only an attempt to make our existing military
cooperation with the continent more efficient, not militarize
Africa. She stressed that press claims about creating a US
military base in Africa were simply false. Oduwaiye said the
biggest challenge the USG has in terms of AFRICOM is selling
it to Africa. He agreed that people, including according to
his estimates more than 85% of the legislators in the current
National Assembly, misunderstand what AFRICOM is. He
strongly urged the USG to be proactive in sharing information
on such issues with parliamentarians, so as to avoid
confusion. In turn, Bature urged the USG to build a closer
bilateral military relationship with Nigeria, noting that
Nigeria has the potential to be the USG's strongest partner
in Africa.

ASSISTANCE
----------
7. (SBU) Chief Whip Nkem Ihedioha noted that "support to
Nigeria is support to Africa," and requested additional
capacity building assistance for the National Assembly.
Ihedioha also asked that Nigeria be considered for a U.S.
House Democracy Assistance Commission (HDAC) program.
Chairman Berman agreed that it would be beneficial to both
U.S. and Nigerian legislatures and said he would bring the
request back to the members of HDAC.

PARTICIPANTS
------------
8. (U) GON Participants:
-- Rep. Nkem Ihedioha, Chief Whip
-- Rep. Olufemi Gbajabiamila, Minority Whip
-- Rep. Gbenga Oduwaiye, Chairman, Committee on Foreign
Affairs
-- Rep. Habeeb Adekunle Fasinro, Chairman, Committee on
Electoral Matters
-- Rep. Umar M. Bature, Deputy Chairman, Committee on Defense
-- Maurice Ekpenyong, Professional Staff Member, Office of
the Speaker of the House of Representatives
-- Peter Peter, Protocol Officer for the Office of the
Speaker of the House of Representatives
-- Umar Kamba, Protocol Officer for the Office of the Speaker
of the House of Representatives

9. (U) USG Participants:
-- Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman, Committee on Foreign
Affairs
-- Congressman George Miller, Chairman, House Education and
Labor Committee
-- Congressman Ed Royce, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on
Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade
-- Congressman Tom Davis, Ranking Member, Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform

ABUJA 00001287 003 OF 003


-- Congressman Donald Payne, Chairman, Subcommittee on Africa
and Global Health
-- Congresswoman, Linda Sanchez, Member, Committee on Foreign
Affairs
-- Bob King, Staff Director, House Committee on Foreign
Affairs
-- Pearl-Alice Marsh, PSM, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
-- Tom Sheehy, PSM, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
-- Doug Campbell, PSM House Committee on Foreign Affairs
-- Colonel Michael Fleck
-- Colonel Ceasar Junker
-- Mrs. Jeanne Marie Davis
-- Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders
-- Terry Pflaumer, Political Counselor
-- Nyree Tripptree

10. (U) This message was cleared by CODEL Berman staff.
SANDERS

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