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Cablegate: Nigeria: Abia Governor's Convoy Attack Alleged

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHOS #0298 2131211
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311211Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0075
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9759
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0161
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEOMFD/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS LAGOS 000298

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/W,

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ABIA GOVERNOR'S CONVOY ATTACK ALLEGED
ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

1. (U) Summary: A July 22 attack on Abia Governor Theodore
Orji's (People's Progressive Alliance, PPA) convoy, alleged
by the Governor's office to have been an assassination
attempt, may have further widened the political divide in
Abia State. Tension has risen over the failure of the
appeals court to deliver judgment on Orji's appeal against
the electoral tribunal's February 25, 2008 overturning of his
election as Governor. Given the appeals court's failure to
give its ruling, Orji remains seated as governor until such
time as a final decision is reached. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Gunmen attacked Abia Governor Theodore Orji's convoy
July 22 on its way to Port Harcourt International Airport,
Rivers State, to pick up Governor Orji who was returning from
a trip to the United States. The attackers and Orji's
security officers exchanged gunfire for several minutes,
killing one bystander and damaging several vehicles.
Although initial police reports described the attack as a
robbery, Governor Orji alleged the shooting was proof of an
assassination plot. Orji cited a security report that
pointed blame for the attack at his political opponents.
Orji specifically accused the People's Democratic Party (PDP)
of wanting him killed before a federal appeals court rules on
his appeal of the February 25 election tribunal ruling
overturning his election. Mascot Uzor Kalu, Orji's Chief of
Staff (and former Governor Kalu's relative), told PolSpec
July 24 that the Abia government firmly believes there are
political motives behind the attack. (Note: The election
tribunal nullified Orji's April 2007 election on the grounds
that he breached electoral laws by not properly resigning his
previous government position and by belonging to a secret
cult. The tribunal ordered Orji to vacate the office and be
replaced by Onyema Ugochukwu, the PDP's gubernatorial
candidate. Orji's appeal is still pending, as the appeals
court declared a recess in June and has yet to announce a
date for its ruling. End Note.) The fact that the gunmen
stole nothing during the altercation further buttresses this
claim, Kalu argued.

PDP Denies Allegations
----------------------

3. (U) On July 23, the Abia PDP denied any involvement with
the attack on Orji's convoy. Publicity secretary Henry
Agbaeze issued a statement accusing a faction of the PPA of
planning the attack. He claimed that supporters of former
Governor Orji Uzor Kalu (for whom Theodore Orji worked as
Chief of Staff) have been at loggerheads with seated Governor
Theodore Orji following a disagreement over the sharing of
local council's budgetary allocations from the federal
account. Police Commissioner Edgar Nanakumo insisted to the
press that the attack was a robbery attempt, stating that a
commercial bus was robbed minutes earlier close to the site
of the convoy shootout. It is possible the governor's convoy
ran into an ongoing robbery, he said, stating that three men
have been arrested in connection with these attacks.

4. (SBU) Comment: Tensions continue to rise in Abia over the
failure of the appeals court to deliver judgment on Orji's
appeal; both Orji and Ugohukwu have traded accusations that
the other is bribing the appeals court judges. While
robberies in this part of the state are not uncommon, the
Governor's convoy is unmistakable in appearance. Whether the
convoy came across an ongoing robbery, was the target of a
robbery, or Orji was really the subject of an assassination
plot is unclear; what is clear is that all parties in the
state will continue trying to manipulate this event to their
advantage in the uncertain atmosphere before the appeals
court ruling. This is one of several recent claims by
politicians that they have been targeted for assassination
that further speak to the tension in the states. End comment.

This cable has been cleared by Embassy Abuja.
BLAIR

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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