Cablegate: Nigeria: Congressmen Discuss Possible

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




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. This is an action message. Please see para 12.

2. Summary. Three Members of Congress visiting Nigeria
under the auspices of a public diplomacy program met July 4
with the Minister and Deputy Minister of Agriculture. They
expressed interest in pursuing collaborative ventures with
Nigeria in the agricultural sector, particularly in post
harvest management and processing. Minister Bello welcomed
the interest and promised to provide the Congressmen with a
written description of Nigeria's problems, such as crop loss.
Bello looked forward to his visit to the U.S. where he hopes
to meet with the Secretary of Agriculture, land grant
colleges, and private sector representatives. The
Agriculture Minister's meeting with the Congressmen was
brokered by President Obasanjo to revitalize bilateral
cooperation and assistance from the United States. End

3. At a sidebar during the Embassy's Independence Day
reception, Congressmen James Clyburn (D, SC), Bennie Thompson
(D, MS), and Earl Hilliard (D, AL) met with Minister of
Agriculture Adamu Bello and the Minister of State for
Agriculture. The Congressional meeting with the Minister was
actually brokered by President Obasanjo who met with the
Congressmen during a breakfast meeting earlier that day.
Ambassador Jeter, USAID Mission Director Hobgood, Public
Affairs Counselor Bishop and EconOff (notetaker) also
attended. The three Members of Congress were in Nigeria
under the auspices of a public diplomacy speaker series, a
program intended to strengthen linkages between the National
Assembly and U.S. Congress.

4. Thompson opened the meeting by explaining to Minister of
Agriculture Adamu Bello that all three of the Congressmen
came from rural areas with land grant colleges. Thompson
explained that land grant colleges receive federal funds to
conduct research and teach in the agricultural sciences.
Thompson encouraged Nigeria to focus on the agricultural
sector in its efforts to diversify the economy into non-oil
sectors. Thompson related to the Minister that his visit to
farms in Kaduna State impressed upon him the extreme
disorganization that pervades Nigeria's agricultural sector,
exacerbated by the lack of processing or preservation
facilities. The Congressman stated that the colleges in his
district would be pleased to work with the Ministry on
rectifying these deficiencies.

5. Hilliard said that all three Congressmen were members of
the Congressional Black Caucus, which was interested in
establishing stronger relationships with West Africa.
Hilliard compared Nigeria's importance in Africa with the
United States' importance in the Americas. Clyburn agreed
and noted that in his district (Florence, South Carolina)
there is a mango processing company that might be interested
in a collaborative venture with a Nigerian company.

6. Minister Bello stressed the relevance of agriculture to
the lives of most Nigerians; 70 percent of Nigerians are
occupied with agriculture production, he said. He agreed
with Thompson's observation that the system is deficient; up
to 50 percent of every crop is lost because of the lack of
preservation techniques and processing. The Minister
commented that seasonal variations have an adverse impact on
price stability. Mangoes, for example, will sell for 10 to
the dollar part of the year and only 2 to the dollar the rest
of the year. He said that the agricultural situation is so
bad that "it would have been declared a national emergency,
but it has been with us all the while." Bello agreed that
what Nigeria needed was processing capacity to prevent these
tremendous post-harvest losses. He welcomed foreign
expertise in this area.

7. The Minister moved directly into a discussion of how to
put these ideas into action. He mentioned his upcoming visit
to the United States (Reftel) and asked whether he might meet
with the Congressmen again in Washington. The Minister also
expressed interest in meeting with the land grant colleges
and private sector companies; the Congressmen committed to
try to set up meetings with some of the former.

8. Deputy Minister of Agriculture Chief Chris Agbodu
commented that the Ministry has had years of discussion on
ways to improve agricultural production and profits. What is
needed now, he said, is action on specific things, such as
those the Congressmen were suggesting. He pointed to
opportunities in cassava, of which 35 million metric tons are
produced annually, where nearly 50 percent is lost due to the
absence of preservation technologies.

9. USAID Director Hobgood noted that his agency would be
able to offer assistance in bringing companies to Nigeria and
introducing them to interested private sector companies and
farmers. He stressed the important role of the GON to create
an appropriate policy environment without involving itself
directly in private sector collaborations.

10. Thompson asked the Minister to put in writing the
problems Nigeria is experiencing with post harvest
management, seasonal variations, and cattle. Ambassador
Jeter summarized what Minister Bello's interests appeared to
be for his visit to Washington: a meeting with the Secretary
of Agriculture (per reftel), visit with land grant college
representatives, private sector producers and processors, and
sellers of agricultural technology, especially in the areas
of post harvest preservation. The Congressmen suggested the
Minister visit Tuskegee University, Alcorn State University,
South Carolina State, Morehouse College and ABCUS.
11. Comment. In their meeting with Minister Bello, the
Congressmen were alluding to the Agriculture Bill, which has
passed the House and Senate (in different versions) and will
soon go to conference committee. Congressman Clyburn said
that he intended to insert wording in the bill to provide
money for the "1890 Colleges" (the historically black land
grant colleges, created in the 1890 amendment to the Morrill
Act of 1863) for developing cooperative extension programs in
West Africa ("or just for Nigeria, if we can"). Clyburn
averred, therefore, that money for ties between the 1890
Colleges and Nigeria can be funded through the Agriculture
Bill, rather than through Education or Foreign Operations.
The Congressman's intent appeared to be to provide funding
for the 1890 Colleges to set up exchange programs with
counterpart schools in Nigeria, aiming to enhance farmer
extension services. End Comment.

12. Action request: Embassy requests the Department, in
collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and
appropriate Congressional staffers, to prepare meetings as
suggested above in Para 10. Ambassador Jeter received a
letter from Minister Bello on July 9 requesting meetings for
the dates of July 23-27.

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