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Cablegate: Meeting with Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 000526

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED


DEPT FOR INL/AAE, AF/W AND PM


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR KCRM PGOV EAID NI MMAR
SUBJECT: MEETING WITH ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION CHAIRMAN


1. (U) On March 6, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, Chairman of the
Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offenses
Commission, (ICPC) paid a courtesy call on Ambassador
Jeter. Akanbi thanked the Embassy for supporting the ICPC
and briefed us on the Senate proceedings underway to amend
the law that created the ICPC.


2. Justice Akanbi told the Ambassador that the Senate's
effort to weaken the ICPC by legislative amendment was "not
an unforeseen problem." He recalled that the legitimacy
and constitutionality of the Commission were challenged
when the Commission opened its first investigation against
a Member of the National Assembly. The Commission
encountered numerous obstacles after this investigation was
launched. The National Assembly accused the Commissioners
of being pawns of the Executive Branch and called them to
account for all of the Commission's funds and presented
other distractions. Justice Akanbi stated that most
investigations against National Assembly Members were
requested by other Assembly Members who presented
documentary evidence to the Commission.


3. (U) Akanbi contended that the ICPC was not ignoring
corruption in the Executive Branch. According to Akanbi,
investigations have been initiated against at least two
mid-level officials in the Executive. He challenged the
Senate to send evidence against any Minister, promising to
commence an immediate investigation upon receipt of
credible evidence.


4. (SBU) The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other
Offenses Commission (ICPC) Act 2000 was a key weapon in
President Obasanjo's avowed crusade against corruption in
Nigeria. Although heavily debated, the Act was eventually
supported by both houses of the legislature and currently
enjoys wide public support. There were credible reports
that numerous lawmakers accepted payments to secure their
support for the passage of the Anti-Corruption Bill. This
rates as one of the greatest ironies of this lackluster
legislative session. Despite these original difficulties,
the ICPC steadily began to show progress. However, when it
opened investigations into House Speaker Na Abba and Senate
President Anyim, the ICPC provoked the ere of the National
Assembly leadership. The Assembly leadership again
suspected the Commission of doing the bidding of the
Executive. (At that time, the Presidency was under an
impeachment threat) Consequently, Assembly Members
proposed an amendment to the ICPC legislation that would
reduce Executive Branch control over the Commission. While
the case against Speaker Na Abba seems to have been placed
on the backburner, the case against Anyim has remained
active thus the Senate has taken the lead in proposing the
amendment.


5. (U) There are provisions in the amended bill to grant
immunity to Members of the Legislature, even after they
leave office. Several interest groups including the
National Labor Congress, the National Bar Association and
student associations have publicly opposed the new
amendment contending that it would weaken the ICPC and
undermine the national effort against corruption.


6. (U) Akanbi has publicly threatened to resign if the
current amendment becomes law. A key change in the
proposed amendment allows the Chief Justice of the
Federation to appoint a serving judge as head of the
Commission, albeit with the advice and consent of the
Senate. This would remove Akanbi, a retired jurist, from
his position as Chairman. Justice Akanbi stated that he
did not question the integrity of the Chief Justice and no
problem being removed as Chair of the Commission. However,
he said, "the new law is designed to frustrate anti-
corruption efforts and seeks to subjugate the Commission",
and he would not serve if the law were passed.


7. (U) Justice Akanbi said that he "aims to set a solid
foundation" for the Commission. The Commission staff of 23
prosecutors, 26 investigators, and six advisors from the
security service, is currently pursuing 17 cases involving
39 individuals. Among others, there are 14 Governors under
investigation. Akanbi listed UNDP, GTZ, DFID and USAID in
addition to INL among its supporters and stated that the
Commission could use more staff and vehicles.


8. (U) After Justice Akanbi again thanked the Ambassador
for US support, the Ambassador told Akanbi that "given the
level of support from various interest groups, and the fact
that four members of the House have gone to court against
the amendment, the legislation may never see the light of
day." The Ambassador added, "if the Commission is being
made ineffective for the narrow interest of some
legislators to protect themselves, it is doubtful that the
US can continue to
support the ICPC."


JETER

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