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Cablegate: Nigeria: State Secretary Explains Rivers State

VZCZCXRO9919
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0446/01 3181202
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131202Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0288
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9935
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH AFB UK
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000446

SIPDIS

DOC FOR 3317/ITA/OA/KBURRESS
DOC FOR 3130/USFC/OIO/ANESA/DHARRIS
STATE PASS USTR FOR USTR AGAMA
STATE PASS USAID FOR GWEYNAND AND SLAWAETZ
STATE PASS OPIC FOR ZHAN AND MSTUCKART
STATE PASS TDA FOR LFITT, PMARIN
STATE PASS EXIM FOR JRICHTER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER ECON KCOR NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: STATE SECRETARY EXPLAINS RIVERS STATE
STRATEGY FOR FIGHTING MILITANCY

1.(SBU) Summary: In an October 24 conversation with PolOffs,
Secretary to the State Government for Rivers State, Magnus
Abe, said Governor Rotimi Amaechi believes that the lack of
security in Rivers State is strangling the State's economy.
In consequence, Amaechi has strengthened security forces and
refuses to negotiate with "criminals." Amaechi's goal is to
establish security, enabling the State to start delivering
services and restore business confidence. Amaechi has
invested in better equipment for security forces, has made
education a top priority, has connected rural communities to
the power generation grid, and has plans to improve health
care. Despite Amechi's efforts, Rivers State remains
insecure. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On October 24 Secretary to the State Government for
Rivers State, Magnus Abe, told PolOffs that Governor Rotimi
Amaechi believed that the security situation in Rivers State
at the time he took office more than one year ago was
strangling the state. According to Abe, so-called "militants"
controlled large areas of Rivers State and the government
could not provide either security or basic social services to
the inhabitants. As a result, no development was taking
place. Abe argued that militants, regardless of their
origins, were increasingly economically motivated and
effectively "exploiting the total incapacity of the security
forces" to enrich themselves. Abe pointed out that crime
drives legitimate business out and produces unemployment and
poverty which in turn increases crime. In view of this
situation, Amaechi decided that the vicious cycle had to be
broken. The policy of negotiating and "settling" with
militants, according to Abe, simply allows them to retain
control over large territories from which they launch attacks
against businesses and persons in areas still under
government control. While the criminal leaders grow rich, the
State gets poorer.

Amaechi Invests in Security Equipment
-------------------------------------

3. (SBU) According to Abe, Rivers Governor Amaechi decided
that instead of paying off the so-called militants he was
going "to enforce the law." Amaechi has increased the
capabilities of security forces operating in Rivers State by
buying armored personnel carriers and modern communications
equipment as well as investing in unmanned surveillance
balloons, setting up cameras in public places and
establishing a control room to deal with reported incidents.
Asked about amnesty for militants, Abe argued that "a blanket
amnesty is not fair to the victims." Abe stressed that
"entire villages have ceased to exist." Thus as a result of
the activities of the militants, legitimate businesses have
been driven out of Rivers State, unemployment has become
widespread, and people have been held hostage, terrorized,
humiliated and even killed. "There has to be some form of
accountability," according to Abe.

4. (SBU) Abe denied that any of the persons attacked or
killed by the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in its
operations against militants are "truly innocent." Abe
insisted that the JTF only attacks in areas controlled by the
militants. (Note: PolOffs have heard from other reliable
sources that the JTF attacks the home villages, often located
far away from the militant camps, of persons known to
participate in militant activities. End Note.) Abe said
there had been instances where the JTF knew of the location
of hostages, but refrained from rescue attempts in order to
ensure that no innocent people were harmed. Abe admitted that
many militant camps had a "community character," with some
non-combatants, possibly including women, in them, but he
insisted that these non-combatants were dealing with
militants and knew what they were doing and who they were
dealing with.

Amaechi Addressing Education, Health Care, Electricity

LAGOS 00000446 002 OF 002


--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. (SBU) Abe claims that Amaechi recognizes that much of the
violence in the Niger Delta is an expression of the
frustration felt by young people with no options. This is why
Amaechi continues to advocate the payment of 50 per cent of
oil and gas revenues (derivation) to the oil-producing Niger
Delta States, rather than the current 13 per cent. On the
other hand, Abe pointed out, when Amaechi and he were growing
up in Rivers State, it did not have any oil revenues and
development was never a matter of "distributing the wealth."
Abe argued that the State seriously neglected education in
the past and is working to address the situation. He stressed
that education is now one of the Amaechi government's top
priorities and that Rivers State is building 250 primary
schools. In addition the State has reportedly invested 15
billion naira (roughly 125 million USD) in the electric power
system to ensure that all rural communities will be connected
to the grid by the end of 2009. The State is also building
150 health centers and trying to recruit medical personnel;
the emphasis, according to Abe, will be on preventive
medicine. Asked about potable water, Abe admitted that
providing potable water to all residents of Rivers State
would cost USD one billion, which he implied was beyond the
means of the State government. (Comment: Governance Watch
reports that the May 2007 to June 2008 revenue allocation to
Rivers Government amounted to over 234 billion naira (USD 2
billion). End Comment.)

EFCC Retaliates Against Amaechi
-------------------------------

6. In the week prior to his visit to the Consulate, Abe was
briefly detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission (EFCC) along with Amaechi's Chief of Staff, Chief
Nyesom Wike, for allegedly embezzling five million naira in
State funds. Abe told us that the charges against Wike are
completely spurious and nothing more than a means of
retaliating against Amaechi for claiming that he had been
offered bribes by the EFCC. (Note: Post has no further
information to support either the EFCC or Amaechi's claims.
End Note.)

Amaechi Funds Nonviolence Training
----------------------------------

7. (SBU) According to the National Chairman of the Foundation
for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN), Allen Onyema, the
Rivers State government has contracted FEHN to provide
non-violence training for at least 150 militant youths from
Rivers State starting in December. The program would include
vocational training at State expense as well.

8. (SBU) Comment: While Abe's claims of development and
improved security appear positive on the surface, there are
continuing reports of insecurity and Post will maintain its
travel warning for the area.

8. (U) This cable has been cleared by Embassy Abuja.

BLAIR

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