Cablegate: Nigeria: Ambassador and Interagency Team Visit

DE RUEHOS #0385/01 2760611
O 020611Z OCT 08 ZDK

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 LAGOS 000385



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/25/2016

LAGOS 00000385 001.2 OF 005


1. (C) Summary: During a September 27 interagency team visit
to Bayelsa State to discuss development and political issues,
Governor Timipre Silva told Ambassador (POL-ECON Lagos
notetaker) that he, the other Niger Delta Governors, as well
as the leadership in Abuja are growing impatient with
militants, and that he supports expanded military Joint Task
Force (JTF) actions into Bayelsa to prevent militants from
Rivers State from taking refuge there. Silva also plans a
stakeholders meeting with community members and civil society
to ensure that criminals will not be tolerated or allowed to
take refuge under the guise of militant freedom fighters. To
further combat militancy, the Governor has arranged training
for youths in internet and computer technology (ICT) in
India, has established state-sponsored graduate fellowships
for Bayelsa students who graduate from university with top
honors, is working with UNDP and reputable industry groups to
set up vocational training in skills needed by the oil
industry, and to combat militancy among secondary school
youths, only 13 percent of whom graduate with a minimally
adequate education, is seeking assistance to help improve
secondary education. To increase employment opportunities,
the Governor is seeking entrepreneurship training to assure
that micro-finance loans are appropriately used and noted
assistance he is receiving from China on fish farming and
from Vietnam on rice farming projects. The Governor welcomes
U.S. comments on Bayelsa's pending fiscal responsibility
legislation, which is on its way to second reading in the
State Assembly, and noted that he has draft anti-corruption
legislation which he is preparing to send forward to the
legislature. In response to these issues, the U.S.
interagency team, through USAID, offered to sponsor a
workshop to review both pieces of legislation and to provide
suggestions on best practices, including on public
procurement. Meanwhile the Office of Security Cooperation
(OSC) will review ways to assist with refurbishment of
vocational centers and schools. See septel on
Ambassador-Silva,s further discussion on militant leader
Joshua MacGyver's assistance to the JTF, and plans President
Yar,Adua may have on equity sharing on Delta Region oil
resources. End Summary

2. (U) As part of a pilot effort to engage pro-active States,
Ambassador, accompanied by an inter-agency team (POL-ECON
Lagos notetaker), met September 27, 2008, with Bayelsa
Governor Timipre Silva on a range of possible program options
through USAID, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), OSC,s
humanitarian assistance program, and public diplomacy
programs that could serve to help address issues on
development, particularly with youth. The Bayelsa Governor
will follow up and respond to the USG presentation as to
which of the existing USG programs presented could best
address current development needs in his state. Governor
Silva's comments to the U.S. team reflected his single-minded
focus on how best to remediate the problems plaguing his
state: militancy and its contributing factors; unemployment;
poor educational opportunities; lack of infrastructure,
inadequate health care; and perhaps most important;
misappropriation of public funds. Post believes partnerships
with this forward-looking State Governor not only could
advance our goals of working with proactive Governors, but
also make inroads on the USG objective of trying, where
possible, to assist more with development in the Delta

Bayelsa Priority Program Areas

3. (U) Governor Silva introduced eight program areas on which
his administration is currently concentrating, and for which
he would welcome support from the U.S. Government (USG):

Peace and Security

-- (C) The Governor told Ambassador that his well-publicized
program of engagement, empowerment and enforcement, is
working; the December 2007 peace accord struck with the
militants had held until recently. The longer term solution
to militancy, demobilization, entails seizure of arms and
granting of amnesty which are federal prerogatives; the state
is working closely with the federal government and the Joint
Task Force (JTF) on these issues. (Note: Ambassador and OSC
Chief Cook had an opportunity to be introduced to JTF Bayelsa
Commander Musa, and the District Head of the State Security
Service (SSS) for the State.) Silva said that Joshua
MacGyver, a militant located in Bayelsa for whom the Governor
is providing safe-haven, has been assisting the JTF in
locating other militant camps. (See septel on Silva,s
separate conversation with the Ambassador on MacGyver and
related issues). Nonetheless, he, other conflict state
governors, and the leadership in Abuja were growing
impatience with the militants. He said he had participated,
in Abuja with President Yar,Adua and others, in discussions
spurred by the JTF onslaught against militants in Rivers
State as to whether to expand the offensive to Bayelsa to
assure that militants cannot take refuge there. Law
enforcement is a federal responsibility; Bayelsa will have to
cooperate in this regard, the Governor told the Ambassador.
The Governor will convene a statewide stakeholders meeting in
the next month to discuss how best to demilitarize and reduce
violence in the state, but also to make clear that the state
will begin treating criminal behavior as such, and to warn
militants that they will no longer be able to cloak their
criminal behavior by calling themselves freedom fighters. An
NGO affiliated with the Church of England will train 100
Bayelsa religious leaders in peacekeeping skills over the
next couple of months.

Fiscal Responsibility

-- (U) The Governor has presented fiscal responsibility
legislation to the State Assembly, where it is about to begin
its second reading; the USG team offered technical
assistance, through USAID, to the Bayelsa Speaker on
assisting with reviewing the bill for best practices and
appropriate regulatory frameworks. The State has draft
anti-corruption legislation, which includes establishing a
Bayelsa Anti-Corruption Commission, which the USG team also
offered to review through technical assistance workshop.
(Note: The Federal Government has long encouraged states to
pass fiscal responsibility legislation. Some states have
produced drafts, but Bayelsa seems to be one of the few that
actually has its state legislature reviewing it with a view
to passing it. The Speaker told us that his goal was to have
the legislation pass prior to Christmas. End Note) The
Governor added that if the Federal Government were capable of
handling all anti-corruption matters, it would not have asked
the states to adopt state-level fiscal responsibility norms.


-- (U) The State has little arable land, but is rich in
creeks and waterways. One nearby creek, which will no longer
accommodate vessels because of massive hyacinth growth, flows
sufficiently swiftly that it can be converted into a pilot
fish farm. The state will invest in five million fingerlings
and if only 10 percent of them grow to salable size estimates
that the business has the potential to generate 50 billion
naira in income. If the business is successful, the Governor
plans to replicate it in other parts of the state. Fish
farming should be particularly well-suited to the Ijaw
people, traditional fishermen, who make up the majority of
the state's residents. The project will begin at the end of
2008. The State is also exploring rice farming.
Negotiations are ongoing with a commercial farmer from
Vietnam on a 600 hectare pilot project. The farmer would
manage the project, providing equipment, seedlings and
training, but the land would be worked in small, 5 hectare
plots by local people who would earn a salary from the
commercial farmer. At harvest, the commercial farmer would
harvest and sell the product. This project is scheduled to
begin in 2009.

Youth Development

-- (U) Youth development is a high priority. Already, 120
youths are participating in ICT training in India; upon
return to Bayelsa, they will form the core of what the
Governor envisions will be a cadre of highly trained ICT
professionals on whom the State and private sector will begin
to build knowledge-based industries. The Governor hopes to
attract call centers to the state. To give students the
incentive to work hard in school, the Governor has instituted
an automatic state-sponsored scholarship program for students
who graduate with a first-class degree. Seven students have
already qualified for the program and are currently enrolled
in universities in the United States and the EU. To train
students in skills needed by the oil and other industries,
the State has begun construction of vocational centers where
students will learn diving, underwater welding and other
skills. To assure that the centers match training with jobs
needed by the oil industry, the State is engaged in
consultations with the Oil and Petroleum Trade Section (OPTS)
of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce. UNDP is assisting the
state to develop the curriculum for the centers, but Bayelsa
would welcome partners on other aspects of the program. The
Governor's goal is to make the state a Center of Excellence
for the professional development of young people.


-- (U) Bayelsa students rank at the bottom of all Nigerian
and West African test score rating systems, according to the
Governor. The state's 13 per cent success rate means that 87
percent of all Bayelsa State students fail to get a minimally
adequate education. There is not one fully functioning
secondary school in Bayelsa State, the Governor underscored;
none of the Commissioners or Technical Team at the table has
a child in a Bayelsa State secondary school, he pointed out.
If students are unable to pass secondary school exams, they
cannot get into university, nor can they qualify for jobs.
At the same time, they have a little too much education to
want to return to their villages. This is a major driver of
militancy for 15-17 year olds, who are most susceptible to
the lure of the camps. To address this problem, the Governor
said, he will refocus the budget so as to improve education,
with a special emphasis on secondary education. The school
system needs everything from additional and refurbished
schools to school furniture and science equipment, the
Governor said. Even students who major in science never see
scientific instruments until after they leave school. The
governor plans to build three model secondary schools, each
with science laboratories and a library. Each school will
accommodate 2,500 students, and will allow the state to
provide an adequate education to fully half the 15,000
students in the state who are of secondary school age. The
State will renovate the remaining schools, and provide
science equipment.


-- (U) Months ago, the Governor's Executive Committee
recognized the importance of micro-credit to spurring
employment. However, the Governor told Ambassador, he
recognizes that loans alone are insufficient. People must
learn entrepreneurial skills in order to properly use the
loans as a way to start or grow their small businesses. The
Governor would welcome help in accessing entrepreneurial
training programs to meet this need. The USG team noted that
under its existing programs with Nigeria, it had implementing
partners that could assist with some of the educational
issues ranging from the USAID-funded multi-programmatic
Conflict Mitigation and Management (CALM) program to projects
under public diplomacy.

Health Care

-- (U) Nigeria ranks 191 out of 197 countries in provision of
adequate health care, the Governor said, and Bayelsa State is
a major reason for the low ranking. People who live in small
villages must travel over water for hours to get medical
care. In consultation with the national health system, the
Governor has decided to build a 500 bed hospital to provide
quality health care. The governor believes the hospital will
act as a magnet, increasing the urbanization of the state,
creating jobs and spurring the growth of hotels. To provide
better health care in rural areas, the State is also building
health centers to combat the high infant and maternal
mortality rates.


-- (U) Bayelsa, which will be 12 years old as a state on
October 1, 2008, is one of Nigeria's newest states. Even a
quick drive through the city, the Governor said, shows that
only some minimal elements of a state capital have been
established in what is otherwise a rural setting. (Note: The
USG team,s observations confirmed the Governor's remarks;
the state government compound, a few outlying ministry
buildings and several religious buildings dotted a landscape
laced with creeks and waterways. Ambassador and U.S. Mission
members observed that a new hotel and a series of apartment
buildings for civil servants were under construction. End
Note) Despite the high cost of building in the lowland areas,
the State Government is committed to providing the
infrastructure needed to develop the state. Any help that
might be provided would relieve pressure on the State's

USG Pilot Program

5. (U) Ambassador introduced members of her team for their
presentations of programs that may prove suitable for a pilot
program that would address existing development issues raised
by the Governor. The ideas for this pilot program, the
Ambassador said, were in line with existing USG objectives
for Nigeria, with the goal of trying to expand some of these
projects into Bayelsa.

-- (U) Peace and Security: OSC Chief Cook highlighted
humanitarian assistance programs that could provide
civil-military training workshops to help build back
relationships between law enforcement and the community, and
to improve civilian oversight of the military. He also
highlighted opportunities for school and vocational center
refurbishment, and the construction of 3-5 bore holes to
assist with clean water issues. USAID Mission Director
described the Conflict Mitigation and Management (CALM)
program currently operating in Delta and Rivers States, which
could be expanded to Bayelsa as it provides conflict early
warning and response capabilities as well as provides
alternatives to violence through structured sports programs
for youths.

-- (U) Fiscal Responsibility: Ambassador noted that USAID
could be available to provide technical assistance to the
State Assembly as it reviews fiscal responsibility and
anti-corruption legislation and to help create regulatory
policies to implement the legislation. USAID Director added
that this offer would be focused on capacity building and
best practices, training staff of the fiscal responsibility
office, and possibly setting up training in government
procurement and fiscal responsibility at Bayelsa,s state
university to assure that there are well-trained personnel
available to fill these governmental functions in the future.

-- (U) Agriculture: Given the RSO limit, for security
reasons, on the number of U.S. Mission personnel who can
travel to the region at any one time, Ambassador herself
described the USDA's Cochran and Norman Borlaug Agricultural
Fellowships, study programs which could be custom-designed to
meet the agricultural focus of one or two individuals from
Bayelsa State. USAID Director described the Cassava
Enterprise Development Program (CEPD) currently operating in
Bayelsa State, and noted that it could be expanded to further
improve cassava varieties, increase farmers' access to
processors, and link farmers with regional markets. The
Governor asked the Commissioner of Agriculture to provide him
with reports about the results of the current CEPD. The
Commissioner of Agriculture noted that cassava was not
necessarily the State,s best commodity for competitive
advantage, and wondered whether other commodities like rice
and fisheries could be considered. The USG team promised to
discuss the issues of CEPD further with the Governor,s team.

-- (U) Youth Development and Education: The USG team, through
OSC, noted that it could possibly assist with school and
vocational center refurbishment under its humanitarian
assistance programs. In addition, the Excess Defense Articles
(EDA) program has the potential to provide, on an
as-available basis, books and school equipment. Ambassador
was careful to underscore that EDA requires that the State
pay for any in-country transportation to desired locations.
PAS Officer described the USG Student Leader Exchange Program
which provides three weeks of study in the United States for
university students. Through the NGO Students In Free
Enterprise (SIFE), a PAS partner in the past,
entrepreneurship training could be provided to unemployed
youths in Bayelsa. Pol-Econ provided information on another
NGO, Students for the Advancement of Global Enterprise
(SAGE), a program which helps secondary students learn
entrepreneurial skills through teamwork on a small business.
PAS described the International Visitor Leadership (IVLP)
Program, Educational Advising Centers in Abuja and Lagos, and
the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship as opportunities through
which Bayelsa could promote youth development. PAS also
highlighted possible USG assistance through the Information
Resource Center to help Bayelsa set up its libraries with the
best on-line services and software. Ambassador also noted
that Iowa State University places Nigerian secondary school
students in a junior year in the United States through its
IRIS program and that, if of interest to the Governor, the
U.S. Mission could assist with making that linkage.

6. (SBU) Comment: Governor Silva's businesslike presentation
reflected his single-minded focus on how best to remediate
the problems of the Niger Delta: militancy and its
contributing factors, unemployment, poor educational
opportunities, lack of infrastructure, inadequate health
care, and perhaps most important, misappropriation of public
funds. While the U.S. Government cannot solve all of these
problems for the State of Bayelsa or for Nigeria, Post
believes this pilot program of selected projects with this
forward-looking State offers the prospect of making a
substantial contribution to the State's efforts to resolve
these challenges and offers the opportunity to meet USG goals
and objectives for economic and youth development in the
Niger Delta Region.

U.S. Participants:
Ambassador Robin R. Sanders
Office of Security Cooperation LTC Tom Cook
USAID Mission Director Sharon Cromer
Lagos Pol-Econ Section Chief Helen C. Hudson
Lagos Cultural Affairs Officer Mary Lou Johnson-Pizarro

Bayelsa State Participants:
Governor Timipre Silva
Deputy Governor
Special Assistant to the Governor
Speaker of Bayelsa State Assembly
Attorney General
Commissioner of Agriculture
Commissioner of Education
Chair Technical Committee (Strategic Planning)
Chair, Peace Committee (civil society umbrella group)

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