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Cablegate: Nigeria: A Close Look at the Gon's Anti-Corruption

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ABUJA 001533

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPT FOR AF AND INL
DOJ FOR OPDAT: JIM SILVERWOOD AND OIA: JASON CARTER


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KCRM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: A CLOSE LOOK AT THE GON'S ANTI-CORRUPTION
COMMISSION


REF: ABUJA 1305


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE HANDLE ACCORDINGLY


1. (U) Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan DeWitt visited Abuja
June 11
- 29 as part of an INL-funded U.S. Department of Justice
Overseas
Prosecution Development and Training (OPDAT) program to work
with
Nigeria,s fledgling Anti-Corruption Commission and design
possible training assistance to this important GON entity.
DeWitt,s visit came against the backdrop of Nigeria being
identified by respected international NGO "Transparency
International" as the world,s second most corrupt country.
The
following reflect DeWitt,s expert observations made during
her
three weeks spent with Commission prosecutors and its
management.


2. (SBU) The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related
Offenses Commission (ICPC) recently filed its first two cases
in
the High Court in Abuja. In both matters, the defendants
filed
motions challenging the constitutionality of the
anti-corruption
act, which the trial court denied. In both cases, the
defendants
also filed interlocutory appeals of the trial court,s denial
of
these motions, which the Court of Appeals also denied.


3. (SBU) The first case concerned an attempt by five
defendants
to bribe the Special Assistant to the Chairman of the ICPC
with
350,000 naira (approximately USD 3,000) to destroy two
petitions
that had been filed with the ICPC against some of the
defendants.
The action was filed in May and the trial started in early
June.
It is expected to be completed within the next week. The
second
case involves a 3,500,000 naira (approximately USD 35,000)
bribe
given to a member of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry for
the
investigation of the Management of Nigeria Airways Limited
and
other members of this commission to show "favour" to the head
of
a local company. The trial in this matter was scheduled to
start
on June 28, but a second motion to stay the trial was filed
and
is now pending before the trial court. The prior appeal of
this
matter was also appealed to the Supreme Court and a hearing
is
expected to take place in the next few days.


Crustacean Courtroom Pace
-------------------------


4. (SBU) Since there are no court reporters or recording
equipment in Nigerian courts, the proceedings are very slow.
Although the amount of notes of proceedings taken by judges
in
Nigeria apparently varies somewhat from judge-to-judge and
case-
to-case, the judge in these matters appears to be taking down
most of the proceeding almost verbatim to prepare the
"written
note" or record of the trial. The judge presiding over these
two
cases, who is one of two judges designated to hear all anti-
corruption matters in Abuja, seems very knowledgeable, even-
handed and fair. He made a good record on his rulings and
controlled the courtroom, but did not interfere with the
parties
presentation of their respective cases. He was clearly
trying to
push the case forward in a timely manner and was working very
hard to do so. Even so the proceedings were delayed by
numerous
motions and defense requests for adjournment. The prosecutor
also seemed well prepared and was able to effectively present
the
case.


5. (SBU) The Anti-Corruption Act requires that prosecutions
be
completed within 90 days from the date of arraignment, unless
there is "good reason" for it to take longer. The defense
attorneys in both of these matters appear to be testing the
limits of this requirement.


Commission Procedure and Structure
----------------------------------


6. (SBU) The ICPC has received more than 100 petitions, some
of
which have been referred to other agencies for appropriate
action
and some of which have been determined to be frivolous or
lacking
in prima facie evidence of an offense. The remaining
petitions
are being considered further. Several petitions have been
referred to ICPC investigators for further investigation and
it
is anticipated that they will result in additional
prosecutions.


7. (SBU) The ICPC has five prosecutors on loan from the
Ministry
of Justice, and ten investigators, also on loan. The ICPC
hopes
to hire its own staff, including investigators, starting in
the
next couple of months. The ICPC hired an outside consultant
to
prepare an applicant questionnaire so that applicants could
be
"objectively screened." After the screening, selected
applicants
will be interviewed for staff positions. An applicant
examination is scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 30,
2001, and approximately 27,000 people have applied for the
approximately 90 positions with the ICPC.


8. (SBU) As of this time, no attorneys have been hired in any
of
the States, but two anti-corruption judges have been selected
in
each of the 36 States and the ICPC is receiving petitions
from
various States, not just the Federal Capital Territory. No
offices have been set up in any of the 36 States or Six Zones
(except the FCT), so petitions must be delivered directly to
the
ICPC offices in Abuja.


9. (SBU) Recently, the ICPC set up three subcommittees: (1) a
legal review committee, which is tasked with reviewing the
petitions filed with the ICPC and deciding which cases to
further
investigate and prosecute; (2) a public outreach and
education
committee, which is tasked with both public education on anti-
corruption issues and also public relations for the ICPC; and
(3)
a government procedures and policies committee, which is
tasked
with examining the practices, systems and procedures of
public
bodies and to make proposed changes on ways to reduce and
prevent
corruption and fraud in those bodies. Each member of the
ICPC is
on at least one sub-committee, and each subcommittee has at
least
four members.


Looking for Good Targets
------------------------


10. (SBU) Professor Uche Modum, one of the ICPC members,
asked
AUSA DeWitt informally for advise on how to get information
regarding corrupt individuals that she reads about in the
paper.
DeWitt explained to her the concept of "pro-active
investigations," and how these are conducted in the United
States, often taking months or even years to investigate.
(Comment: Modum appeared to be attempting to find out how
the
ICPC could get access to U.S. intelligence on corrupt
officials
in Nigeria. End Comment.)


11. (SBU) When meeting with the ICPC as a group, DeWitt
raised
the concept of pro-active investigations. Chairman Akanbi
advised that all investigations must start with a written
petition to the ICPC, or an oral report to the ICPC that is
then
reduced to writing. He seemed very resistant to the concept
of
pro-active investigations. Although the Anti-Corruption Act
does
contain a provision that indicates that investigations start
from
written petitions, this interpretation places serious
limitation
on the work of the ICPC. Also, other provisions in the Act
appear to give the ICPC broader investigatory powers.


Future USG Assistance
---------------------


12. (SBU) The ICPC currently appears overwhelmed by foreign
visitors and offers of assistance. U.S. efforts should be
coordinated in some manner to avoid over-load. Also, to some
extent, the ICPC has to and wants to work through their
issues on
their own, so that should be taken into consideration in
connection with U.S. offers of assistance. Assistance aimed
at
staff capacity-building, rather than policy advice, will
likely
be more readily accepted and could be timed to correspond to
the
hiring of permanent staff. On the legal side, the
investigators
could benefit from further training by U.S. investigators,
and
more importantly, the ICPC would use an advisor on how to
train
their own investigators and how to develop standards and
codes of
conduct for both prosecutors and investigators.


13. (SBU) The ICPC could use specialized outside assistance
during this developmental phase, especially when they get
staff
hired. Specifically, AUSA DeWitt recommends that we find
professionals with expertise in each of the areas for which
the
Commission has formed sub-committees. An expert in civil
service
reform could work with staff and members of the corruption
prevention sub-committee on model civil service processes and
procedures. Similarly, an expert on community outreach and
public relations could provide invaluable assistance to the
public outreach sub-committee and its staff. In addition,
the
AUSA believes that the ICPC would use assistance in setting
up
administrative and accounting procedures.


14. (SBU) Help could also be offered to members of the
ICPC in making contacts with counterparts on anti-
corruption commissions in other countries that have
succeeded, such as Botswana, Hong Kong and Singapore, and,
if possible, to even pair members of these others
commissions with the heads of the three sub-committees set-
up within the ICPC.


Comment
-------


15. (SBU) The ICPC continues to move extremely slow in
getting itself established. It has a grossly inadequate
budget for the task at hand, and still does not have a full
and/or permanent staff. The prosecutors assigned to the
ICPC are a mixed group in term of experience and
capabilities. Some have several years of prosecution
experience while others have little prosecution experience
but have experience with civil litigation. All five
prosecutors seem diligent and dedicated to their work,
although five prosecutors will not be able to handle the
work of the Commission in 36 States. Until it get its own
prosecutors, the ICPC plans to use the five prosecutors
loaned to them while hiring attorneys in different States,
temporarily and as needed.


16. (SBU) There are several possible reasons the Commission
is moving slowly. First, setting up this type of
Commission anew is a slow and difficult process under the
best of circumstances. Second, the ICPC simply does not
have a sufficient budget. Third, up to now, it does not
appear that Chairman Akanbi has delegated much
responsibility to other Commission members. He appears by
nature to be a careful and methodical person and the
possible threat of corruption within the ICPC is probably
in the forefront of his concerns, particularly at this
early stage of the ICPC,s history.


17. (SBU) These concerns are magnified by the fact that
most of the current ICPC staffing (and all of the
investigators and prosecutors) are on loan from other
offices and are not controlled or selected by the ICPC.
The Chairman is slowly making changes and introducing new
ideas to the other Commission members, in part because he
is not sure whom he can trust on the Commission and in part
to maintain the quality of the process. These factors,
combined with the usual logistical problems in Nigeria,
mean that it will probably take a couple of years for the
ICPC to be fully functioning.
Jeter

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