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Cablegate: Usaid Administrator Andrew S. Natsios Visit

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 003331

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPT FOR AF/W, DAN EPSTEIN
USAID/W FOR AFR/WA, ERNA KERST, MICHAEL KARBELING
LAGOS FOR CONSUL GENERAL


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AID
SUBJECT: USAID ADMINISTRATOR ANDREW S. NATSIOS VISIT
TO NIGERIA

---------------------
I. SUMMARY:
---------------------


1. (U) Mr. Andrew S. Natsios, Administrator, visited
Abuja, Nigeria, from November 18-21, 2002. Mr.
Natsios was accompanied by Ms. Kate Almquist, Special
Assistant and Mr. Greg Loos, Education Team Leader,
EGAT. The purpose of the Administrator's visit to
Nigeria was to attend the Global Education For All
Initiative (EFA) Second High-level Group Meeting,
chaired by the UNESCO Director-General and hosted by
President Olusegun Obasanjo. Mr. Natsios met the key
government and political leadership of Nigeria,
including President Obasanjo, National Security
Advisor, the Minister of Education, Chairman of the
Nigerian Action Committee on AIDS (NACA), Special
Advisor on Budgetary Matters, Representatives of
registered political parties, Representatives of
selected unregistered political associations, declared
and undeclared candidates contesting the upcoming
elections, Chairman of the Independent National
Electoral Commission, and non-governmental
organizations. He also met and briefed the press,
visited the USAID Nigeria office to meet and address
the staff, had talks over lunch with senior staff and
dinner with USDH and USPSC employees prior to
departure. We also managed to squeeze in a mini-tour
of Abuja.


2. (U) The original program included a visit to Kano,
the largest city in northern Nigeria to view USAID
activities in HIV/AIDS, Education, Democracy and
Governance and Agriculture. However, this segment of
his program was superceded by a request for the
Administrator to meet with key Nigerian officials on
elections related issues. In all of his meetings, the
Administrator stressed: 1) the need for an all parties
code of conduct denouncing electoral violence, 2) the
importance and expectation of conducting free, fair,
transparent and non-violent elections, 3) the 2003
elections represent a watershed, would set a precedent
for Africa and would influence how the USG and other
donors viewed Nigeria, Africa as a whole and
initiatives such as NEPAD, 4) Nigeria would maintain a
leadership role in Africa by a successful transition
from one civilian government to another. He also
voiced USG concern about election organizational
problems (perception that INEC is inadequately
prepared due to lack of funding and slow pace of
logistical planning. Finally, he inquired about what
assistance the USG could provide to enhance the
credibility of the electoral process and ensure
successful elections.


3. (U) This was Administrator Natisos? first trip to
Nigeria. Mr. Natsios? visit with the key political
players was productive and his meetings elicited
general support for a code of conduct, GON promise to
adequately fund INEC, and a promise from INEC to
reopen voter registration. Moreover, the visit
underscored for some key actors Washington's interest
in a fair, peaceful contest. He departed Abuja on
November 21, 2002, as scheduled and without incident.


--------------------------------------------- --------
II. Education For All (EFA) High-Level Group Meeting
--------------------------------------------- --------


4. (U) The EFA Second High-level Group Meeting was
held at the Congress Hall of the Abuja NICON Hilton
hotel from November 19-21. The meeting was opened by
President Olusegan Obasanjo and assisted by the
Nigerian Minister of Education. Mr. Koichiro
Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, delivered the
welcome address and video-taped goodwill messages from
James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, and
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, were
played. Participants at the meeting included Ministers
of Education from Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa
and the Middle East. United Nations organizations,
the EU, World Bank and USAID made up the list of
multilateral and bilateral organizations, as well as
the participation of several international non-
governmental organizations.


5. (U) The expected outcomes of the meeting were:


a) to assess the progress toward the achievement
of the Dakar goals including discussion on major
issues deriving from the global EFA monitoring report;
b) evaluate the extent to which national
policies, plans and programs are on track;
c) evalute the extent to which international
commitments made in Dakar are being met; and,
d) mobilize global political support and
resources for realizing EFA goals to eliminate gender
disparities in primary and secondary education by
2005.


6. (U) Administrator Natsios presented remarks during
the session on International Commitments and
Initiatives. He stated that there has been a 90%
increase for education at USAID over the past 3 years
($100 million to $195 million) and a 25% increase for
education in Africa. USAID will not invest in a
country if: a) it is not democratic, b) it is itself
not investing in education (as measured by the % of
national budget going to ed), c) the money will be
wasted (corruption), d) systems of quality control are
not in place, and e) the country is only focused on
inputs, not results. He also stated he was pleased
that the U.S. has rejoined UNCESO, and supports the
work UNESCO is doing in data collection and analysis.
Finally, he emphasized the importance of partnerships
with the private sector: religious (Mission Schools,
Koranic Schools), business, foundations, (i.e. the
Gates Foundation). In his final remarks, the
Administrator informed the audience about the Global
Development Alliance (GDA).


7. (U) In an informal one-on-one exchange with the
Nigerian Minister of Education, Professor Abraham
Babalola Borishade wanted to clarify that data
reported on Nigeria is not always accurate, or
reflects the whole picture. For example, the 7%
figure quoted as budgeted for education from the
national budget, does not take into consideration
state and local government inputs which are
substantial for primary education. The Minister also
explained the FGN has other important priorities (i.e.
provision of clean water, electricity and good road,
thus it could not devote more to education). The
Minister stressed that Nigeria has made progress in
the past few years on school construction and
implementation of UBE. Finally, the Minister wanted
to speak on behalf of other developing nations to
impress upon the donors the importance of their making
good on their promises made at the first HLG meeting
in Dakar. Administrator Natsios reiterated points made
above but made clear that Nigeria will not be
forgotten by the U.S. Mention was also made of the
new Presidential Initiative on Basic Education, and
that Nigeria is one of its first beneficiaries.


-------------------------------------
III. Meetings With Nigerian Officials
-------------------------------------


8. (SBU) Ambassador Jeter hosted a breakfast meeting
and invited Dr. Babatunde Oshotimehin, Chairman,
Nigerian Action Committee on AIDS and Mrs. Oby
Ezekwesili, Special Advisior to the President on
Budgetary Matters. Mrs. Ezekwesili stated that the
budget presented by the President to the National
Assembly has 45% shortfall, primarily due to reduction
of resources because of decrease in OPEC allocation.
Also funds were not being realized from the
privatization program. Mrs. Ezekwesili explained the
Nigerian budget process, provided other reasons for
the shortfall, and plans to monetize civil service
benefits.


9. (SBU) HIV/AIDS ? Dr. Babatunde Oshotimehin:
current national average HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is
5.6% with some states having a rate as high as 15%.
The aids budget is 20-30% of Ministry of Health's
total budget. Nigeria is participating in multi-
country World Bank fund (credit scheme) to address
prevention efforts and care and treatment, and
assistance to people already infected. Nigeria has
developed and is implementing its HIV/AIDS policy.


10. (SBU) Meetings were held with representatives of
the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the newly
registered National Democratic Party (NDP) and five
unregistered political associations awaiting
registration. Former Senator Safana, PDP Deputy
National Chairman said the political parties were
committed to non-violent elections. The other parties
echoed the same sentiment, but criticized the
Independent National Electoral Commission?s (INEC)
performance. On the issue of a code of conduct for
politicians, some party representatives commented that
enough enforcement laws have been enacted but
enforcement has been lax. All parties stated that they
would sign a code of conduct. However, some opposition
party members claimed that violence could spring from
the strong desire of unpopular incumbents to be
reelected at all costs, including rigging the vote
count, and using hired thugs to intimidate opponents
and voters. Each party stated they would renounce
violence, but admitted that violence was a
possibility. One opposition party member stated that
faced with the use of force by the incumbent
candidates and parties, the opposition would be
foolish to tie itself to a code of conduct. All groups
voiced concern that large segments of the population
were not able to register and they believed it was due
to INEC's lack of planning and also misconduct by INEC
officials and politicians. The AP and AD members felt
that since PDP was the majority party, PDP elected
officials had access to government resources that put
other parties at a disadvantage when it came to
campaigning.


11. (SBU) November 20, - meeting with President
Obasanjo. After a quick overview of USAID's programs
and presence in Nigeria, the Administrator raised the
USG's major concerns regarding the status of the
Nigerian electoral process, stressing the need for a
code of conduct and the need to adequately fund INEC.
The President responded positively on both issues. On
the matter of the code of conduct, the National
Assembly had failed to pass the anti-electoral
violence bill, but he would re-submit the legislation.
The President said that he had approved the entire 27
billion Naira election budget that INEC had presented
to conduct the elections. The Ministry of Finance has
been authorized to expedite the funds to INEC. The
President promised that he would work to ensure the
elections were credible and fair.


12. (SBU) November 20, 14:00 - during a meeting with
INEC Chairman Guobadia, and Secretary General Baba-
Ahmed, Administrator Natsios focused on voter
registration, and INEC's budget and logistic
preparations. INEC officials disagreed with the
claims that voter registration missed up to half of
the eligible voters, but did admit that there were
flaws in the exercise including the theft of
registrations forms. INEC said they would reopen the
registration. With the approval of the election
budget, INEC hoped to begin to order essential
material and further its logistical planning. On the
matter of additional assistance, the Secretary General
presented USAID a letter outlining INEC assistance
needs for the elections. INEC was supportive of a
code of conduct, but said the onus was with the
parties. However, INEC would encourage the process.


13. (SBU) Meeting with the National Security Advisor,
Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, he believed that a code of
conduct would have minimal impact since various party
constitutions incorporate similar statements. He hoped
INEC could accelerate its logistical planning and
acquisition of needed electoral materials. On the
question of violence and the impact on a visit by the
U.S. President, he was confident that there would be
no reason for the President not to come.


14. (SBU) Meeting with PDP Board of Trustee Chairman
and Former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme. Mr. Alex
Ekwueme was mildly supportive of a code of conduct, as
it was only as good as the commitment of those who
signed it. He believed the key to reducing political
tension and the potential for violence was to convince
unpopular incumbents not to seek re-election. When
asked if he planned to contest, he answered, "he had
not made up his mind." (Note: since the meeting, Mr.
Ekwueme has declared himself to be a candidate for
President on the PDP ticket. End note).


15. (SBU) Meeting with PDP hopeful Senator Nwachukwu.
Senator Nwachukwu blamed the violence on the
determination of incumbents to succeed themselves. He
was non-committal on a public signing of a code of
conduct and suggested that the USG could be most
helpful by ensuring sufficient numbers of
international election monitors during the caucus and
elections.


16. (SBU) In a meeting with former President Yakubu
Gowon, Administrator Natsios asked about the
performance of INEC. The former President cited the
experience of family members? inability to register
during the September voter registration exercise due
to lack of materials. On the issue of a code of
conduct, he responded that the most important thing is
for government and politicians to play by the rules.


17. (U) Meeting with USAID partners: Pastor James
Wuye and Imam Mohammed Nuralyn Ashafa, of the
Muslim/Christian Dialogue Forum. The meeting, held at
USAID, centered on how the two began working together,
their religious background, and a description of
conflict prevention activities they are actively
engaged in now. The Administrator provided
information on conflict activities that USAID is
implementing in Europe and in Africa. He said that
the mission should take a look at the Bosnia and South
Africa Sesame Street activities to determine if these
kinds of programs might be modified for use in
Nigeria. The Administrator said that the mission
should work closely with the Agency's Conflict office
to: (1) design an activity that would allow us to air
a weekly radio program hosted by the Pastor and the
Imam; (2) do a case study on the Pastor and Imam
because he believed that the lessons learned would be
useful to other missions in conflict areas and (3)
locate a school where the Pastor and Imam could
upgrade their conflict/peace building skills.
Following the meeting, the Administrator stressed that
this had been one of his best meetings in Nigeria
because he had the opportunity to meet ordinary people
who were trying to bring peace to their country.


18. (U) During dinner discussions the USDH staff
Administrator Natsios was advised that USAID/Nigeria
had received funding for three (3) GDA activities.
The Administrator asked whether the GDA manual was
useful in designing activities. The response was
while it was useful in clarifying some issues, the
mission still needed more guidance from USAID/W on the
contractual and legal aspects of implementing the
program. A list of the issues not covered in the
manual will be sent to USAID/W for possible inclusion
into the GDA manual. Another topic discussed was the
leveraging funds from the Nigerian diaspora.
Leveraging of funds is currently being done in the E&E
bureau and within the Asian community.


19. (U) At the same dinner meeting, Ambassador Jeter
informed Administrator Natsios that he believed that
the mission needs to bring in additional help for the
elections. He said that a "domestic monitor" expert
is needed for about a month to work with our
international partners and other donors to get this
process on track. The ambassador also said that there
is a need to bring in someone with "elections" skills
who could dedicate 100% of his or her time to working
on the elections with the donors and INEC. The
Administrator informed Ambassador Jeter that USAID
would consider such a request and explore ways to be
responsive. USAID will ascertain from Ambassador Jeter
specifics on timing and other relevant information
before contacting the Administrator. In the interim,
the mission is contacting the DG center to determine
the availability of USDH staff with the requisite
skills, or if outside assistance must be procured.


20. (U) For your information, the embassy is drafting
classified cables of the meetings held with GON
officials. As soon as they are transmitted I will
advise you of the date and number.
Jeter

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